As the director of technology at Dev9, a Kirkland, Wash.-based software development consulting firm, Nimret Sandhu has his hands full with his daily responsibilities. But that hasn’t stopped him from taking on a host of extracurricular activities, while also juggling family life.
Sandhu has been chair of the Seattle Java Users Group (SeaJUG) for 10 years. The group has monthly meet-ups on technologies related to Java/JVM that provide further opportunities to learn about technical topics as well as networking and socializing outside of work.
“I also help organize the local Docker meet-up which provides similar networking and educational opportunities for local technologists,” Sandhu said. “In fact, we hosted a Docker meet-up [in the spring] for the technology community that was focused on women and minorities.”
Sandhu is also on multiple advisory boards with the University of Washington Professional & Continuing Education program, where he helps set direction and content in technology, ensuring that the programs stay up to date.
It’s a busy life for Sandhu, a husband and father who immigrated to the United States from India when he was a senior in high school. “I came from New Delhi, a city of 20 million, to Ferndale, Wash., which was a city of 5,000,” Sandhu said. “Now that was culture shock!”
After high school, Sandhu joined the US Air Force and attended Eastern Washington University where he obtained a B.S. in Computer Science with minors in Math and Physics.
“In joining the Air Force I was carrying a proud tradition of Air Force military service in that my father was in the Indian Air Force while my grandfather served in the Royal Air Force,” Sandhu said.
Learn more about Sandhu, what he does and how he does it, in this week’s Geek of the Week questionnaire:
What do you do, and why do you do it? “As the Director of Technology for Dev9, I lead teams of software developers and am responsible for the projects we have in the Seattle area. Most of the projects are server-side, client-side and mobile. There is a mix of replatforming to bring antiquated enterprise systems up to date and greenfield development projects to create custom software platforms. We employ modern software development techniques such as Agile methodologies and Continuous Delivery for various industries in the information technology domain.
“I help assemble teams, assist business development efforts, conduct up-front assessments for clients, hire and retain staff, and manage projects to ensure customer satisfaction and best practices in modern software development techniques.
Read more about Dev9 on the company’s website.
What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “Technology is not just about technology, it’s about the people. You can find smart people, but unless they know how to work well together as a team, you won’t be successful. You have to have people who can support each other at different levels of expertise — bringing the less-experienced up to speed, so they can run together as a team. It’s a lesson I learned well in the military where a large emphasis is placed on working together as a team, sometimes in stressful situations to deliver results.”
Where do you find your inspiration? “Working with really great people. Smart people bring the level of the whole team up. When I’m working with good quality people who have a good game, that ups my game, too.”
What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “I stay organized using a software I crafted for my own needs to help me stay focused and on track with everything I’ve got going on. I always have a prioritized backlog of things that have to get done. I take care of the quick things first and continuously re-prioritize the backlog, ensuring that I am multi-tasking effectively to manage the complexity of modern life. I also use the tool to track important ideas, pieces of information and useful items to follow up on in my spare time. The information in this tool can be accessed in multiple ways and it has a pretty good search feature. It helps me deal with chaos and complexity in my professional and personal life very well.”
What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “I have a pretty mobile office because I meet with clients very frequently, but I do have a great space at Dev9’s HQ in downtown Kirkland. We moved into new offices recently and have an awesome view of Lake Washington. We’re all looking forward to the summer and hanging out on the big deck overlooking the lake.”
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life? (Help us out, we need it.) “Always mix it up and get very good at context switching and prioritizing (it’s amazing what getting married and having kids will teach you!). The software industry is not like manufacturing where the brain turns off when one goes home. Sometimes inspiration and ideas can hit anywhere. At the same time, it’s important to get away from it all every once in awhile and focus on other priorities in life.”
Mac, Windows or Linux? “Preferably *nix, usually linux or bsd, though I’ve used all kinds of systems over the years.”
Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Han Solo :)”
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “Time Machine. It would be interesting to test the Grandfather paradox.”
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “work on trying out some of my ideas to see if they can get traction. I’m particularly interested in IoT and infotainment. It would be fun to explore some of the ideas I have to see if I could get market interest. I am more of a believer in bootstrapping or taking on as little external financing as possible, unless it makes sense to have a partner for strategic reasons.”
I once waited in line for … “3 days of back and forth to the airport in the Bahamas when the MD-80 fleet was grounded (unbeknownst to us). Finally, the missus lost her patience with me (sometimes I am too laid back :) and then with the airline which got a piece of her mind. We flew back first class.”
Your role models: “My parents — and, going back further, my ancestors. I admire that they endured so much adversity and hardship, and were still successful. In a way, I can identify with what is going on in Syria these days since a few generations ago my ancestors escaped with their lives during the partition of India and Pakistan. I have a huge interest in history – because I’m curious about history and ancestry, I did the National Geographic Genographic Project DNA test to identify my DNA markers. It turns out that my ancestors have roamed all over the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe in the past and I actually share a little 50% of my DNA with Slavs. Folks may not be aware of this, but there is a common ancestor of all human languages called Proto-Indo-European which was noticed due to similarities between Sanskrit, Ancient Greek and Latin (kind of like how computer programming languages evolve over time and show ancestry over the decades). How’s that for a geek fact? :)”
Greatest game in history “Netrek. I wasted wayyyyy too much of my student and unmarried years on it. It’s a good thing it’s pretty much dead these days so I can spend time on more productive pursuits, such as my family!”
Best gadget ever: “Paper and pencil. Portable, efficient, never runs out of battery and easy to use.”
First computer: “Atari 2600.”
Current phone: “Nexus 6.”
Favorite app: “tmux + vim, sometimes Eclipse: tools of the trade.”
Favorite cause: “Diversity in Technology.”
Most important technology of 2015 “Docker.”
Most important technology of 2017: “IoT.”
Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
LinkedIn: Nimret Sandhu