Fitbot is growing and we couldn’t be more excited. This the first in a series of posts where you’ll get to know a little bit more about the newest members of the Fitbot team. We’ll kick this off with Jack Forrest, Senior Web Developer and Fitbot’s resident bashtronaut.
How did you first get into software development?
Building MySpace layouts for friends was my gateway drug. After that I found a few people on Craigslist paying for blog layouts, so I fired up photoshop, read some tutorials and made my first buck. I started pursuing deeper skills like PHP coding pretty hard after that since programming was by far the best job I could find as a kid.
I owe a lot to random strangers on the forums and IRC channels that were keen to help a novice in way over his head. I had a really bad habit of greatly overestimating my skills and taking on projects I wasn’t capable of delivering on without some help. That sink or swim approach got me up to speed in a hurry but I owe a great deal to the heroes that patiently answered my hilariously naive questions at 3AM the night before a project was due.
Where are you from originally? What brought you to Boulder?
I was born and raised around Seattle, WA. I flew the coop as soon as I could manage and headed down to San Francisco for a taste of Silicon Valley. I realized pretty quickly though that as much as I love my work, it was nothing but a grind without the other things in life that bring inspiration. I like being outside, and I like doing things with my body. Boulder as a place to live and work makes those sort of pursuits much more accessible than anywhere else I’ve been.
What role does fitness play in your life?
Combat sports, along with rowing and powerlifting were vital experiences in my early life. Today, I relish the challenge that biking the bigass hill in the middle of my commute or busting out that lunch-break superset brings. Fitbot’s unique office situation keeps me physically active all day long, which invariably improves the mental work I’m here to do. A lot of professional environments discourage physical activity, so I consider myself pretty lucky to be at a place where a 3 PM ring session is not only logistically possible but culturally encouraged.
What technologies are you most excited about right now?
The Rust language brings me constant joy and is crucial to the success of some of my recent projects. For the first time I write GC free code that can run in my browser as well as my microcontrollers, and feels almost like writing Haskell while performing like C. For UI work, Vue.js has taken a lot of what makes React productive, but made it much more fun. For the first time in a long time I’m building web, rather than just command-line interfaces for my toy projects.
Do you think technology is having a positive or negative impact on people’s health and fitness?
Definitely positive. If I felt otherwise I wouldn’t be building fitness apps! Technology brings a remarkable ability to help people get as active as they want to be. Sometimes the difference between a nap on the couch and lacing up your shoes for a run is your phone going off to remind you of your goals. Apps, trackers and social media will never be a substitute for discipline, but they help a lot of folks build it.
What’s one tool or technology that’s greatly improved your quality of life in the past 5 years?
One tool I always try to draw some inspiration from is the humble torque wrench. I’ve done a lot of rebuilding old motorcycles, and spent too much of that time cursing at fasteners I’d wrenched on a year ago and suddenly couldn’t get off, or worse, tightened to the point I damaged their receiver. Torque was a pretty abstract concept in my head at the time I discovered this tool, but suddenly, here was something just like the wrench I was already used to, that had only one additional control on it. Despite the surface simplicity though, intricate internals solved a calculation of a complex physical relationship and signaled to my overbearing wrist that my oil plug was tight enough to stay in, but not stripping anything yet. It does one thing, and does it very well. I’ll be a happy guy if I ever design anything half as globally useful!
What’s your favorite part about working at Fitbot so far?
Founders that have an appreciation and understanding of software development while maintaining the trust and confidence in their engineers that lets them get their job done is a pretty rare thing that I’m grateful for just about every day. They’re also pretty easy to make fun of, which is great for morale.
What do you hope to accomplish while at Fitbot?
I want to make sending people to the gym better for trainers, and I want to make going to the gym better for the rest of us. We have a product that does that pretty well already, and now we have a team together that can do it even better I think.
What’s your go-to text editor or IDE? Tabs or spaces?
I was told that mastering VIM would help me grow a beard (I’ll settle for a neck one) so I mostly stick to that. Tabs for Makefiles, spaces for anything that doesn’t make me want to drink my hand sanitizer.
What does your ideal work setup look like?
Anything quicker than a malnourished mouse on a hamster wheel, running Debian with an XFCE desktop, hooked up to enough screen real estate to keep a bigass terminal up alongside a web browser is enough for me to do my job on. Most of my self-worth is attached to having the loudest keyboard in the room though, so I’ve also got to have something with cherry blues to type on. Being able to stand at my desk makes a huge difference, and a good spot to take a notebook outside where my only good ideas tend to happen is a necessity. Really though, none of that counts for much without the right team. I’m lucky to work with folks that are easy to collaborate with, while respectful of my focus when I need it.