As Jama Software’s customer base continues its rapid growth and our solution becomes more mission critical for our customers, it was clear I needed to bring on a rockstar to lead our engineering efforts going forward. One who has experience with large-scale enterprise software, critical business processes and workflows, as well as big data and analytics. Plus, this person would need to have empathy for companies building products in regulated industries.
I found all that in John Gasper, our new Vice President of Engineering.
John is a seasoned technology leader with more than 25 years of experience building state-of-the-art software solutions in Silicon Valley and Portland, Oregon. He was most recently Vice President of Engineering at Skyward IO in Portland, where he built applications for commercial drone operators. Previously, he ran engineering teams for industry leaders such as PeopleSoft, Intuit, ADP, Serena Software, and Thomson Reuters, in multiple domains including financials, payroll, taxation, healthcare, and requirements management.
John is also passionate about the thriving technology culture in Portland, and serves as co-chair of the Technology Association of Oregon’s Development and Engineering Community.
At Jama Software, our mission is to modernize, digitize, and transform product development so it becomes a competitive advantage for our customers.
The No. 1 job for John, and our engineering organization overall, is to continue building for the reliability and quality of our software and hosted solutions so our customers can always count on us being there when they need it most. John’s second priority will be to continue our heritage of bringing cutting edge solutions to product development teams, so we can make it easier for them to build the innovative products of the future.
I’m thrilled to welcome John as a Jamanian, and am excited for our employees, customers, and partners to get the chance to work together with him. To kick things off, John was kind enough to answer some questions from our team about his new role at Jama Software.
Jama Software: What attracted you to Jama Software?
John Gasper: Jama Software has a great reputation in town, so I thought I needed to check out this company. Once I met Scott and several other employees, I could easily see the reason for the reputation! Jama has assembled an amazing team. Couple this with a strong business model and incredible customers, and you get an unbeatable combination. I’m looking forward to working with the Jama team to write software that is used every day by companies around the world to add real business value.
JS: What do you see as the biggest opportunity for the Jama Software engineering team?
JG: The Jama Software engineering team is doing an amazing job. There are obviously opportunities to build more features and leverage the ever-changing technology. We need to do both.
I would also like the engineering team to continue to be a a model for others in Portland. The tech community here is fairly close-knit. Jama Software can participate in meetups, the Technology Association of Oregon, Tech Talks, internships, and more. This will not only let us showcase some of the cool things we are doing, but also help to grow the overall technology community in Portland which, in turn, helps recruit and retain the very best talent.
JS: Our customers count on us to deliver a reliable product development platform. What’s your approach to ensuring product quality?
JG: Quality is the single most important aspect in software. Great features that don’t work create frustration for customers quickly. This means quality needs to be in every step of the development process. Everyone has a role: the requirements need to be reviewed to make sure they are clear and meeting the business needs, the code needs to be unit tested by the engineers before it goes to QA, and then QA needs time and tools to be thorough.
I also like to engage others in the quality process, including those in the company and customers, where it is possible. This also includes using our product ourselves. If we find it hard to use, imagine how much more difficult our customers will find it! Understanding how customers really use the software often empowers the team to drive quality at each step.
JS: How do you plan to foster innovation that enables teams to make product development a competitive advantage?
JG: I’m a big fan of carving out time for “experimental” engineering. This could be a few hours a week or even a day each month, when the team is working on their innovation projects. Innovation is often a team sport, so I like to see small teams working together on these projects. I also like them to be demoed to a wide audience, since that might spark someone else’s innovation.
Since most of the best software out there started as someone’s innovative idea, it’s important to support these projects early on. It’s also important to recognize that not all ideas will turn out great. This means celebrating the “failures” is just as important as celebrating the successes.
To help inspire innovation on our product, I hope to have the engineering team engage with customers to see how they are using it. Watching people do their job with our product is an amazing way to inspire the team to build a highly competitive solution that our customers will love.
JS: Every Friday, our engineers take turns creating music playlists for the team to enjoy. If you were tasked with being the guest DJ one afternoon for the Engineering department, what artists would be on your playlist?
JG: This is the hardest question! My music tastes tend to be very eclectic, so I pick my own playlist based on what I’m doing and my mood at the time.
I could see a playlist running the gauntlet from the golden age of jazz with Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong up to modern jazz like Diana Krall and Norah Jones. I’d have to through in some Sting as well. I could also see some classic 70s rock in there like Queen and Styx.
I also like to support local bands, so expect to see some Pink Martini, The Decemberists, and Portugal The Man. Since I’m always looking for new bands, I’m sure there will be a few other surprises in the list!