Getting to know CRäKN's CTO

Posted January 19, 2016

4 min read

This is part two in our “Get to know the CRäKN team” Q&A series. Read our first Q&A session with CRäKN Founder and CEO, Scott Mindrum.

Q: What’s your role with CRäKN?

Clifford Campbell: My title is Chief Technology Officer. I oversee the technical team for CRäKN. I review our application for quality and security. I’m responsible for making sure the software works every time and in the way that a customer needs it to.

Q: What was your background before CRäKN?

Clifford Campbell: I attended the University of Cincinnati for Information Systems. I’ve worked in software all my life - in death care, financial, digital agency, and aerospace. I met Scott Mindrum while working at Making Everlasting Memories. We enjoyed working together, so when he asked me to join CRäKN, I was excited to build a company with him again.

Q: What are some of the tools or apps you can’t live or work without right now?

Clifford Campbell: As a long time Windows developer in .NET/C# it pains me to admit it - but my Macbook Pro is something I’d hate to work without. I fought the change for a long time, but once I embraced the tools and the ecosystem I find myself more productive on a Mac.

As for software, Slack is a communication tool we use at CRäKN. It integrates with all of our external tools and makes collaboration much easier. Just being aware of everything that’s going on helps us craft better product.

We use another software called Code Climate. It analyzes changes in our code, letting us know if there are any security issues, syntax errors, or style violations. That’s really, really handy because it has made the process of reviewing code, as it’s being completed, a lot easier. It catches issues immediately. It’s like establishing a baseline of quality automatically.

Q: What else might interest readers to learn about you?

Clifford Campbell: I’m a dog person. I have three dogs: two Poodle mixes and a Husky mix. I enjoy gaming, reading, and I’m a movie fanatic. My wife and I see a movie almost every week.

I also play pen and paper games - Dungeons and Dragons, Shadowrun, Numenera. I do that on the weekends. I play with a group of high school friends still. I’m almost 30 now and staying connected to long time friends can be difficult. Using these games as an excuse to get together and keep talking has been helpful.

Q: What’s your favorite genre of movie?

Clifford Campbell: Sci-fi, but I’m kind of open to anything. We just saw The Big Short, loved that. I found that we are kind of exceptional in how often we go to see movies. Most people we know only see a film once every three months, while we go at least twice monthly. It’s something we started in college and we just never stopped doing.

Q: Given your role, what’s your advice for listening to customers and incorporating their feedback into what you’re building?

Clifford Campbell: Being a software developer for as long as I’ve been, the one kernel of truth that my career has ultimately boiled down to is that usually people don’t know the problem they’re actually trying to solve.

What I’ve tried to do in a lot of communication is listen, but then ask questions. You want to understand the real issue, and not the potential solution for that issue. The most important question is why?

It’s like the Henry Ford quote that says, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” It is similar in software: you don’t necessarily want to take what the solution is at face value. You want to find the real problem or pain point and solve that.

Q: Last question: what excites you right now about the work you’re doing at CRäKN?

Clifford Campbell: We’re currently working with neural networks and machine learning as a means to save our clients time and effort. Software developers don’t often get the opportunity to innovate much in their day-to-day jobs and being able to do so here really energizes me.

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