Hi, I’m Al Newkirk!
I’m a senior software architect and API engineering expert, aspiring to be better, i.e. a better technologist, educator, public speaker, blogger, podcaster, outspoken contrarian, and Internet antihero.
I’m not a writer but I’m old now with lots of opinions, so I have lots to say about pretty much everything. I’m not a blogger but I’m going to try to write about my love for technology, philosophy, and futurism. I’m somewhat unique in that I’ve been engineering for the web since the late 90s which is how (and why) I came to love Perl programming and can really appreciate CI/CD given that I come from a time when scripts had to be manually FTP’d onto servers, and chmod’d as to avoid leaking your source code to the public.
I’ve been involved in many (many) software engineering projects, many of which have failed, and some of which have failed because of me. I’m intimately familiar with all the things that can (and will) go wrong and now I have wisdom (from experience) which guides how I plan, execute, and advise. The dynamic nature of each software engineering project is why software engineering will never be as predictable as other engineering disciplines (e.g. building engineering).
This is precisely what led me to specialize in application programmable interfaces (or APIs) and later service-oriented architectures. APIs are necessarily contractual and the rise of specification formats seemed like a potential solution to the aforementioned problem of dynamicism in software engineering projects. Now, 20+ years later it seems like I bet on the right horse.
Raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, also known as Philly, I discovered my passion for computers and engineering early in my childhood at age 13 or so. One day, randomly, my father came home with a computer whose brand I can’t recall but which was running Windows 3.1. I remember having to install (or maybe reinstall) the software from a set of about 30 separate 3.5" floppy disks.
Once installed, I poked around by clicking and dragging and opening and closing and tiling applications, oh, and playing solitaire (obviously), and eventually I found the “run” application. The run application had a GUI which required a command (a program name and arguments, I found out later) and executed the command. I would occasionally try the run application but not knowing the magical incantations made it less exciting than all the rest.
Somehow I stumbled upon an obscure program called “Task Scheduler” which allows you to “run commands” at specific times, intervals, and events (e.g. “on logon”). I managed to configure a task to play a “welcome.wav” file every time I logged on, and that’s when it happened, in my mind I must’ve thought “you mean I can make the computer do stuff automatically”. That spark led me to RTFM, which led me to discover the DOS prompt, and the rest is history.
I’ve worked a variety of roles in the technology industry, from software engineering to CTO, for major tech companies and start-ups alike, typically helping them transition from monolith to service-oriented architectures. I’ve witnessed what works, and what doesn’t. I understand what makes software development teams great, and how to architect solutions that make software product development agile.
Back in 2012, I took a job as a senior software engineer, helping a company called Rent.com to transition their monolith to service-oriented. That’s when and where I decided to make API engineering my niche (specialty). Shortly thereafter, circa 2013, a friend invited me to join him in helping to build one of the first crowdfunding platforms, Tilt, which I did and had a lot of fun doing so. That company unfortunately went the way of many startups and was succeeded by companies like GoFundMe and Kickstarter.
Afterward, I meandered about for a year or so, eventually stumbling upon an opportunity to yet again participate in an API (monolith to microservice) engineering initiative at Weebly in 2017, though it was short-lived because they were acquired by Square later in late 2018. Again, I found myself operating as an independent consultant but this time with a renewed vigor. Things were going well, for a time, and then, COVID.
I’m not ready to write an autobiography just yet, so instead, I’ll try to describe myself through my interests (as a list of bullet points):
- Always on
- Loves learning
- Everything, always
- Information, science, and technology
- Addicted to coffee (no joke)
- Prefers sci-fi (but only if it’s realistic)
- Currently watching “Raised by Wolves”
- Interstellar was amazing (imho)
- My life is a compilation of scores by Hans Zimmer
- Perpetually in search of work/life balance
- Will go to war with zealotry