November 24th, 2020
Introducing Rowan Weismiller
LimaCharlie is on a mission to change the way that information security tools and infrastructure is delivered in order to create a better and more accessible security posture for all. We are lucky enough to have some very exceptional people on our team and thought you might be interested in learning a little more about them. For this first instalment we will be talking to Rowan Weismiller who has joined the ranks to lead frontend development for the next generation of the LimaCharlie web application.
Introduce yourself. My name is Rowan Weismiller and I live in Vancouver as a descendant of settlers on unceded Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish land. My dad, Norman Weismiller, is descended from the early German settlers of Quw’utsun, where Duncan BC is now. My mom, Linda Weismiller, came here from Trinidad & Tobago as a first generation settler.
I grew up listening to bands like: The Who, Genesis, Spyro Gyra; playing video games like: Chip’s Challenge, Red Alert (what a soundtrack), Goldeneye, and Super Smash Bros; watching Brit comedy like: Fawlty Towers, Mr. Bean, and Monty Python.
I wasn’t a particularly cool kid, but I like to think my parents helped me formulate decent taste.
What do you do with your spare time?
These days I’m big on woodworking. Picked it up as COVID hobby after being disappointed by the quality of the desks I bought for our home office. Now my goal is to make all the gifts for Christmas this year. Picture frames, boxes, etc. Aside from woodworking, I like to bake bread and play video games. I’ve been playing Dota 2 for about 15 years! I still suck at it though, haha. If I could make a game recommendation right now though, it’d have to be Hades. The way the narrative & gameplay loop interact with each other is really clever and engaging, plus all the art and music is top tier. It’s a masterpiece. Nice job Supergiant Games!
What do you do at LimaCharlie? Tell us a little about your technical focus.
I lead front-end engineering here at LimaCharlie (and also product design - startup life!). It’s not a large operation yet, but as an engineer I’ve grown accustomed to taking responsibility for the future. In this case, it means thinking further ahead to how the technology decisions we make will scale to allow for the contributions of many hands. We’re currently building a new product that’s going to be a great test of modern front-end approaches and technologies that I’ve accumulated.
In short, I’m excited to do what I hope will be the best work of my career!
How did you come to a career in technology?
When I was 12 I played a shit-ton of Starcraft, and I got into using a special map (level) editor to program behaviours into custom maps, basically making games within Starcraft. You could make whatever you like, as long as it was made of assets in Starcraft. I’d create obstacle courses using certain units’ death (explosion) animations and programmed the levels so that waves of enemies would be spawned and killed instantaneously in a pattern along the terrain, and players would have to navigate a little zergling to the end. I also tried making a Tower Defense game back when they were popular on Starcraft but hadn’t gotten as widely known as they are now. I often made these maps with friends online and I learned that not only could I create experiences for other people, but the experience of creating something with others is in and of itself rewarding. Whether I realized it or not at the time, making things became a big part of my identity.
Eventually, I went to college to study computer science. Absolutely hated it. It was so dry and disconnected from real human experiences, so I switched schools and studied design at SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) instead. The program was broad and gave me a love of design in all its facets -- there were even moments I thought I might even become an architect, but I always came back to digital UIs. Eventually, I began to itch. I wanted to build things, not just design them! So I opened up the text editor (Notepad++ at the time), started learning HTML and CSS to build prototypes and never looked back.
With those skills I ended up getting lucky and landed a first job as a designer at a company called Mobify. They held a philosophy that designers should code, and so I got to learn all about web design & development from some incredible people. That set me pretty straight down the path leading to where I am now. Most of my knowledge of software development principles came after school, a lot of it from Bench owing to the amazing colleagues I had there.
Do you use any philosophies to guide the work that you do?
Oh god, this is one of those questions that really makes you dig into the unconscious to bring it forward. I don’t know if I can bring all of them or even the most helpful ones out of my unconscious mind, but there are a couple philosophies that come to mind that have served me well.
Patterns. I try to identify and devise patterns wherever possible - repeatable building blocks are the foundation of good software projects. They benefit both the ones making the software as well as the ones interacting with it. We all strive to see patterns and how the pieces fit together to create greater meaning, and in few professions do we have such an opportunity to manifest patterns directly. I’m reading a book called A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander which embodies this philosophy beautifully in the context of building towns, homes, and construction methods.
Ethics. As a person who builds software, I feel as though I’ve got an inherent arrogance I’ve gotta be responsible for: I have the audacity to believe that what I’m making is worth being used by an untold number of people. If I were to meet those people face to face, I would not claim to have a better way of life for them, but that’s exactly what I’m attempting to do with software. In that pursuit it’s important to remember: First, do no harm. By 2020, we’ve all hopefully learned that software is not inherently benign.
Do you have any predictions about the future?
Simple: we’re all gonna die. If I get this wrong and Jeff Bezos somehow unlocks immortality for himself, I’m gonna be so pissed. But I’ll probably be dead, so no worries.
Do you have any pets?
Yep! 2 cats and 1 dog: Chip, Frank, and Beans, respectively. We had the cats first and they’re brothers, so that’s pretty fun and cute. After 4 years of cat life, during the summer of COVID, we decided to get Beans and we’ve had our hands full since. We’re outnumbered now.
The vaccine is a huge success and the LimaCharlie team is coming over to your house for dinner… what are you making?
Hell yeah! To start, we’re making negronis to enjoy with a meat & cheese plate. The main course will be tagliatelle alla bolognese made fresh, served with a caesar salad. For dessert we’re busting out a salted caramel cheesecake we picked up from Small Victory over on South Granville.
Basically the lyrics of the entire song Battle Against Time by Wintersun.
“Oh time... you cut my heart and soul
You carve my will and passion of life
'Cause the days of emptiness are piercing through me
It’s inspired by Jari Mäenpää’s brush with death after contracting tuberculosis and having part of his lung removed. The lyrics seem sad, but the music and energy of the song is badass and makes the song more of a battle cry for the life he still has.
First and foremost I try to remember things my mentors have said to me. They’ve helped contribute to who I am today and so I try not to forget them. In particular the folks from SIAT, Mobify, and Bench.
But there is one person in particular whose work and ponderings have resonated and stayed with me: Bret Victor. His talk, The Humane Representation of Thought made me realize that the medium in which I work, 2D software UIs, has severe limitations which constrain human thought and relies heavily on symbol recognition. In particular, our ability to think spatially is greatly hindered by screens.
Famous person you share a birthday with? I don’t share my birthday with Chuck Norris - Chuck Norris shares his birthday with me.