Engineering students at HackUpstate, photo by Dan Viau.

Join us Upstate to build the future

The point of the work we do is to build up more engineering in Syracuse, Rochester, Ithaca, Rome, and anywhere else that is Upstate. That’s all. It’s that simple.

It doesn’t matter to us all that much how long it will take, and it will not happen overnight, it only matters to us that it gets done.

It’s our distinct advantage at Upstate Interactive to have so many connections to the community — HackUpstate, WomenInCoding, AllPartsInterchangeable. These are groups we’ve founded. But it doesn’t stop there. As a company we have sponsored and collaborated with the library on their HTML/CSS course. As attendees we are a part of OpenHack and Syr(js). As organizers and planners we set into motion in support of what the great Mike Vormwald is doing. By being a part of the fabric of the community we know from the ground up what engineering challenges the future of Upstate faces.

Let me take an aside to talk about those challenges.

Upstate, NY has a deep attachment to the past engineering marvels. The Vice Presidents that we speak to and C-Suite execs, all with gray hair but great success, are envisioning a future that brings up great new engineering companies in the shape of Eastman Kodak or Carrier in the region between Albany and Buffalo that we call Upstate, NY. Their vision of the future is about large companies growing large employee bases, singularly.

We, the community of upcoming engineers, see the future completely differently. First, we’re not comparing ourselves and our efforts to any great companies from the past. Second, we’re not comparing ourselves to any great companies in the distant land of Silicon Valley. Third, we’re not anticipating any success coming as a result of capital D, Disruption.

We see the future of engineering in Syracuse as vital to the fabric of our lives in every capacity. For us, engineering extends into our social lives. For example, in’s Slack, we share ideas and problems that we have with our projects. It’s technical, but to us, that’s being social. And that digital conversation is secondary to our face-to-face meetings that are now, after years of effort, happening on at least a weekly basis. In our evenings we eat dinner together and discuss the future of commerce — we discuss Bitcoin and Blockchain — not as abstract financial concepts, but as technology that we can build and be a part of. By building our systems of commerce, we are finding ways to actively and actually build in our financial futures. (We may even build futures contracts.)

And when it comes to engineering as professionals, we work together. When one of us wants to learn something new that we can use in our jobs, we ask. We ask with not the blind hope that someone will provide a lesson, but with the sincere faith that someone will be their to answer. With faith grounded in past experience. To make that more real, let me share with you how I was treated as a newcomer to engineering in Syracuse. I sent out emails to any software-focussed company in the city that I could find. I asked for internships and junior positions. I had little skill to offer. But I got a reply from Brian Weinreich, a partner at an agency called Rounded. He invited me in for a chat. I sat down with Brian and another partner, Rob Grazioli. They said they didn’t have any internships or jobs at the moment. They didn’t reject me though, they said they had an open table and that they would gladly allow me the space to freelance. But it was more than that, Rounded’s employees — John Shanley especially — became the most helpful people to me at that time in my life. They shared their wisdom about JavaScript, application building, and how to be a software engineer. And that wisdom is now proving invaluable at Upstate Interactive. Then consider the great people at The Tech Garden. The individuals who run The Tech Garden are some of the most collaborative and giving members of the Syracuse tech community. I do not know anyone who has come to them asking for help that has ever been turned away. They have given office space, knowledge gained from years of experience, and more, all for free. All to anyone with a sincere need. In Upstate, NY we work together.

We see the programming language of the future as JavaScript. It is unquestionably the most popular language among the community. As a result, it is used in every company represented at our groups. JavaScript is popular at Density and at Raymor and Flanagan. It is the choice of Upstate Interactive. Imajion uses JavaScript in significant applications. Yes, python and ruby and even Java have their place inside our shops. Yet, none of us are working with dotnet. And that matters because we see a lot of local companies that we don’t want to work for that use dotnet. We see a small (very small) number of local companies that we do want to work for that use dotnet, however, we will never apply because we will not learn the technology.

We see the successful future of engineering Upstate far beyond the professional realm. That’s the point for anyone who is reading. If you’re in business in Upstate, NY and you’re ghettoizing engineering to the world of making money, you’re in the wrong region. Here, it’s about social interaction and doing good for our neighbors at least as much as it is a means of making a living, if not more.

In conclusion, as a merry band of misfits so far as the rest of the software engineering world is concerned, we Upstate engineers are primed for a successful future. A future that is born from community. A future that is grown by long winter nights. A future that is built by men and women working as partners side-by-side. A future that is uniquely Upstate.

So join us Upstate to build the future.

Correction: Joe Buczek at Raymour and Flanagan reminds me that they are primarily a .NET shop. (Despite that, I like them.)