Ten Years Nerding it Up at CQL

Chad at CQL

I showed up to my interview at CQL as a snot-nosed little punk in my last year of college at Grand Valley State University wearing a hand-me-down suit and carrying a lavish resume.

Seven heads popped up like prairie dogs above monitors as I came through the door, and I immediately realized I was overdressed. The standard attire seemed more appropriate for an afternoon of disc golf than for a day making the internet go ‘round.

The foosball table was a nice touch and the lack of cubicles was very appealing.

The interview process involved a minute or two of small-talk and a casual, “I think we’ll give you a shot.” The hard work I poured into my resume was all for naught. They slaughtered me in the foosball portion of the interview, but despite my poor performance, they stuck with me.

That was all back in 2001, when I came on board working part-time during my last year of school. After graduating in 2002, they offered me a full time position, and here I am, coming up on my ten year anniversary of cranking out code at CQL.

I’ve been involved in all sorts of projects in all sorts of fields, and that’s one of the things I love about working at CQL, the diversity of projects and our willingness to become experts in any field.

I spent a lot of time in the medical industry, writing software for doctors’ daily medical rounds and labored several years building a hospital inventory system. I’ve read up enough on HIPAA to make me want to gouge my eyes out.

I wrote for mobile devices before it was cool. We targeted an enormous "Pocket" PC with a built in scanner and wrote software which let the hospital techs run around untethered, taking realtime inventory on a bulky handheld device wirelessly.

We built university event calendars and at one point when I visited my own alma mater, I noticed that our event calendar app was set as the home page on every public computer. I felt pretty cool. We also worked out a scheduling app for the school’s busy gym and weight room. It let people allocate time slots on workout machines and showed the schedule on huge flat screens hanging on the walls.

I’ve worked on a Flash-based app that was used to give prospective patients more information on breast augmentation and reduction surgeries. After having gone through the vivid tutorials at length, I can sum up the procedures in one word: Ouch.

The list goes on. There have been florists and funeral homes, churches and lawyers, seafood movers and yacht manufacturers, religious video catalogs and social networks, freight movers and book sellers. There was some guy who sold frozen burgers online; his specialty was ground beef mixed with cherries. He used to give us each a case of cherry burgers at Christmas. I’m not above bribery, as my bosses have come to realize (more beer please).

We’ve tracked tethered criminals via GPS and trained workers on how to spot defects in breakfast pastries. We’ve helped sell furniture, clocks, jewelry, shoes, and apparel. We’ve built software to ease the pain of managing investments and we’ve kept your neighborhood little league teams in matching uniforms.

To tell you the truth, I'm a little lost in the whirlwind of projects we've got going on a daily basis. We've got a good-sized development team and eager sales folk always taking us around new corners. It's hard to keep up with all the irons in the fire.

With everything CQL has accomplished over the years, I often take pride in, much to the chagrin of my wife, running across companies we've built apps for during my tenure. It'll happen on the road and I'll see a sign with a company name whose website we've built, or I'll be walking down the street next to a footwear shop and see several brands whose website I've helped create.

Just the other week, my wife was trying on some sandals and the salesman told us we could now go online and customize exactly how we wanted the sandal to look. Perhaps I was a little pompous, but I bragged that, yea, I had a large part in building that. There are a lot of public facing apps we've built over the years, such that it's hard to go a week without noticing one of them in daily life.

Behind it all, we’ve built loads of management tools to run everything, from blogs to content management systems, from international ecommerce catalogs to product configurators. There’s always some new field to dive into; some new skill set to learn.

A lot has changed in these past ten years, but that's one of the joys of this line of work. You get to keep learning and growing. When I started, Classic ASP was state of the art and our source control methodology involved shouting across the room to find out who last worked on a file. We have certainly matured since then, and we’ve grown an aggressively curious pack of nerds committed to doing things right while learning new ways to solve problems.

Things are constantly changing around here in order to keep up with, and ahead of, the ever-changing web. I love that part of the job. You’re constantly challenged to learn and to grow. It’s what has kept me here these past ten years and it’s what keeps me coming in, day after day.


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