Gunslinger interview: William Rodriguez
At the heart of everything we do here at Gun.io are our incredible Gunslingers. They’re the talent we send out to tackle the big ideas and help brands build and scale. And we want to share their stories with you in a new series called the Gunslinger Interviews.
This week, Cal Evans talks with William Rodriguez about accidentally becoming a dev, modernizing 100-year-old tech, and jamming out at the end of a long day.
Cal: Welcome to The Frontier, the podcast by Gun.io. Thank you for joining us. Today I’m talking with a Gun.io developer, William Rodriguez. Say hi to everybody, William.
William: Hey. Hello, everybody.
Cal: Now, William, you’ve been on the Gun platform for a while, and you’ve been working with clients. I just wanted people to get to know you a little better. So the first question I have is: How did you get into programming?
William: Sure, absolutely. Well, it wasn’t the initial thing I thought I would do, honestly. At a young age, I actually had no interest in technology at all, but I was very interested in aerospace engineering. And it just so happened that at the time, when I was contemplating my future and my career, it turns out that at that time, a large defense manufacturer had just laid off 5,000 engineers. And I started thinking about the prospects of how soon would that recover, and when would I get a job?
So with that in mind, I somehow got interested and I–in maybe starting business, something different, and I wound up getting a job at the university in the university computing center, and I was completely fascinated. And so I pivoted from my initial start to technology, computer science…and I look back now and I think about it–it was almost like a hobby.
It wasn’t even a job anymore. It was that interesting to me. So I easily immersed myself there and have enjoyed it since. I marvel at some of the things that we see now, which, you know–initially back then, at that point, I imagined that we would see things like we see today–but to actually be here and watch the technology reach this level, it’s amazing to see how it’s changed so many lives and changed the world, even. So it’s been great. Not what I started out to do, but here I am, and I’m glad I did.
Cal: I agree with you. It has been a great time to be alive. And unlike you, I knew from the time I was 14 years old–computers is what I wanted to do. It took a couple detours to get me to doing this full time, but–my wife actually hates me because she still hasn’t figured out what she wants to do, but I’ve known since I was a kid. Hey, um, you’ve obviously in your career, you’ve worked on several very interesting projects. Tell us about your most interesting project or your favorite project.
William: I’d have to say–and you’re right, I’ve worked on a lot of different, interesting projects, some of them just because they were [what] I would call bleeding edge technology, you know, doing things that just were really cutting edge. But probably the most interesting one, I would say, was the one that started about two years ago, taking something that had been invented over a hundred years ago and transforming that into something using today’s technology.
It’s a real testament to how far we’ve come with technology, to know that we took something that was very secure, tamper-proof, all this federal compliance thing with security and all that. And we’re able to take that and virtualize it and provide the same level of security, and even more robust and more tamper-proof, in that sense.And so that was a very interesting project because it was sort of like closing the gap, almost what you hear a lot of today–virtual environments, metaverse, all this, but actually closing that gap between what has to be physical and what can actually be virtualized.
And that was probably a good leap forward. And then to watch that actually conceived–the proof of concept–and then actually delivered to market within a year, and watch that to start getting used, although here in our country, it’s taking a little bit more to go through that certification process. But the fact that you could take something as cutting edge as that and bring it to the market was also an amazing thing. Typically, and you might know this, especially if you’ve been around for a while; some products just take a while to bake and mature and actually penetrate the market.
This one took off pretty quick, so it’s one of those things I really enjoyed for that reason, and more so for the collaboration across–whenever you do something like this, you’re dealing with people with different domain expertise, and you really start having an appreciation for your colleagues and the people you’re working with, because you start realizing, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you knew that.’ And that’s amazing, so that was a lot of fun. That’s one of my more enjoyable ones, I would say.
Cal: Now, I know what you’re talking about, because you and I have talked about this, but you kept saying doing this and this project. Describe to us a little bit about the project. You said you took something that was a process that was a hundred years old and modified it. What was that process?
William: Absolutely. So this is a case where you’re dealing with generating an indicia, right? An indicia is a way to fingerprint something and encode it in a way graphically. So it’s hard for somebody to copy it or make a copy of it. And there’s a lot to be said about what goes on behind the scenes with that.
So even how you seed the–how you generate, everything is about entropy when you’re talking about encryption. It’s about your ability to basically seed something in a way that’s difficult for somebody who might be a bad actor, try to seed it and trying to crack the code. So right from the beginning there, how you seed it, how you do that, it’s virtualized, but yet the seeding mechanism is dedicated and isolated.
And then how you do secure channel communication in such a way that again, that you don’t allow anybody, even the execution environment is constantly audited as it runs real time. So that just brings a level of, how can I say, resilience and durability. These devices used to be actual devices–hardware. So if you try to break them or tamper with them, they will self-destruct. So they were like that, and this is very simple, it’s the same thing.
And also one of the key things about this particular project, it was using blockchain technology. So what we were doing was this immutable ledger while we were recording things on one hand, and then the thing that was actually doling out the keys that were being used was also being audited, and that information was being collected and passed around.
And then there was a backend process that would compare the two to make sure that there was still integrity in the process. So separate, right? It’s sort of like a real time audit continuously happening. And then there was actually measures put in place to make sure if there was any kind of variance or something happened there we would get into the process. But again, you take an idea that’s hardware, and then you say, well, how do I bring the same level of security, make it that robust, make it tamper-proof, but use new technology.
And what does that mean? It means that you go from transacting, maybe at a rate of two digits per, you know, second, to maybe thousands per second. So when you think about scaling and things like that, it’s just amazing. As you know, obviously in today’s world, blockchain seems to be something that’s become very popular, but there are a lot of interesting uses for it. This was one, so that made it interesting.
Cal: That’s fascinating. Like I said, you and I have talked about it and, but I knew that the listeners were gonna be really interested in knowing about what that project was. And blockchain is the new shiny, but it sounds like you’ve come up with–a lot of the uses I see for blockchain are trivial, but you seem to have come up with one that actually really is using the blockchain for what is designed. So kudos to you for that. Hey, before we go, one last question: Tell me about one hobby you enjoy outside of tech.
William: Yeah, sure. So I’ll tell you, I’ve had several in life and, and they come and go, and I could rattle them off, you know. There was a time where I was a real athlete. I would love anything athletic. I was doing triathlons for a bit, things like that. But then I was in equestrian for a short bit, maybe five or six years, but the one thing that has stuck with me right through beginning to end was just music, playing music. It is just something that I just don’t let go, and it’s a way for me to relax. I used to tell people it’s almost like I compare it to my swimming. When I swim. I kind of zone everybody out. And when I’m playing an instrument, I kind of do the same thing, and I’m in my own world, and it’s a very relaxing thing. So it’s a hobby that at one point in time challenged my career. But I knew better. I wasn’t really going to do well as a starving artist, so I opted for the technology, which I enjoy immensely.
Cal: There’s a real tie between software development and music. I see a lot of developers that are also musicians. Matter of fact, one of my early languages was Foxborough. And back before Microsoft bought it and Dr. Dave Fulton was still running the show over there, whenever we would have conferences, they would rent out the bar in the hotel, set up a stage and just put instruments up on the stage. And every night, a different group would come up, and we just have a pickup band, and they’d sit there and jam while the rest of us were sitting there talking shop. And so that’s always stuck with me. There just seems to be a tie between musicians and software developers.
Hey, William, I wanna thank you for joining us here today on The Frontier. Audience, thank you for joining us. And I hope you’ve enjoyed this, hope you found it interesting. If you are a developer and you want to get involved with the Gun.io platform, and find work with some of the most interesting clients, click the link below. We’d love to get you on the platform and start showing you off to clients, just like I’m showing William off now. Thank you. Talk to you next time. Bye.