Brian is the Engineering Manager and Lead Engineer for the Quantrix team and has been with the company for over ten years. He has actively participated in the design, production and testing phases of each of the releases of Quantrix since version 1.0. He currently manages the engineering team and is the lead engineer on the various projects for Quantrix Modeler and the Qloud.
What is involved in your role as lead developer for the Quantrix Modeler desktop product, and how has it changed over the years?
As Engineering Manager, I help manage the prioritization of issues and run the projects from an engineering standpoint, as well as other typical managerial duties. I also do a lot of coding of features, which I enjoy. I’ve been with Quantrix since 2003 and from an engineering perspective, a lot has changed. Java, the base language we code in, has improved. User interface design principles have changed, particularly in terms of migration to mobile devices. In that period, we’ve moved from being a desktop only application to the web, launching the Qloud, and continuing to move to mobile device. And we have had a lot of fun.
What is most important focus from an engineering standpoint?
Two things: usability and stability.
Talk about usability.
In the 1990s, usability meant, “Can you do it?” Today, it’s “How easy is it to do it?” That is a big shift. We want to make new users more comfortable using Quantrix. Power users love it, but we are working on making it more usable for more people. That means making things easy to find and easy to do.
Some recent examples of our work on usability include the recently improved launch panel and the major changes to the Dependency Inspector. Before, it was hard to understand what was happening in the cell. Now there are a lot of clues as to how it calculates, including the ability to hover over the formula in the dependency inspector to see the calculations. Another change is that when a user starts to edit a formula, it gets a green background. You know exactly what you’re editing. We plan to do more usability improvements like this as well as revamping some other tools.
How important is user feedback?
We have a great user base, and they provide great feedback. We also track when people call support. If they have a hard time doing things, we try to fix that in development. We try to be as responsive as possible. At one of our Seminar by the Sea events, a power user told us that it would be great to be able to select a range of cells and filter on them immediately. One of our programmers went home that night and coded up a proof of concept. We included that feature in our next release.
Have you always been a software engineer?
I served in the Navy on submarines. Then I became a high school math and science teacher. I went for a masters in computer science, and learned about Quantrix. I pestered the company founder until he gave me a job.
What do you do when you’re not coding for Quantrix?
I have a lovely wife and two young children. We love to go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. I also love to read – I’m currently reading a fascinating history of Maine called The Lobster Coast.