July’s Big Nerd of the Month really knows his stuff. iOS developer and instructor John Gallagher embodies what it means to be a Big Nerd Ranch expert. John guides his students along the path to Nerdvana at our Beginning iOS Bootcamp and Fast Track iOS Bootcamp.
Plus, he’s diving headfirst into Swift to make sure his team shares a wealth of expertise! We were able to pick John’s brain for a few questions below.
Big Nerd Ranch: Congratulations on being awarded Big Nerd of the Month, John. You’ve been part of the team leading our charge into Swift. What do you find most compelling or exciting about Swift so far?
John Gallagher: I’m excited that we’re going to be able to lean on the compiler more. Objective-C’s dynamic nature can be very powerful, but it can also be dangerous - there are a lot of things that are left up to the programmer to make sure things are wired up correctly. Because Swift has a more advanced type system, we’ll be able to eliminate the possibility for some bugs entirely, and build libraries that build on top of Swift’s strengths to make code more expressive (while still remaining safe).
BNR: Rumor has it that you wanted to be a professional football player when you grew up. What happened? What made you decide to become a developer instead?
JG: I was a total football nerd when I was a kid - I could tell you who had won every Super Bowl, who I thought the best players were throughout history, the whole works. When I was 10 or 11, I finally got the chance to play football in one of the pee-wee leagues, but after being tackled a few times, I realized I liked watching more than playing. I switched over to computers in high school and haven’t looked back.
BNR: Your fellow Nerds describe you as someone who truly embodies Big Nerd Ranch’s core values: kind, hard-working and brilliant. How do you maintain these values? Tell us your secret!
JG: No secrets here. I think the thing that matters most is that you’re passionate about what you do. It’s easy to come in and do good work when you look forward to it, and when you get to work with all of the kind, hard-working, brilliant nerds we have at the Ranch.
BNR: In your bio, it’s mentioned that you’ve improved apps for the Department of Defense. That’s an intimidating responsibility, but you managed to achieve great things. What’s your strategy when it comes to working under pressure?
JG: I try not to think about the pressure. I tend to focus in on the specific thing that needs to be done, and try to do whatever that is as well as I can. Concern about deadlines or how things fit together comes later.
BNR: It seems you’re a proud dad, John! Have you learned anything from your time as a developer that’s applicable to parenting?
JG: I wish! One of the things I like most about computers is that they always do exactly what you tell them to do. For some reason, I don’t seem to have that kind of relationship with my kids…
BNR: Speaking of learning, you’ve spent a lot of time teaching at our iOS bootcamps and regularly participate in our Cocoa Teaching Club. What’s some wisdom you’ve received from students on their path to Nerdvana?
JG: It’s always interesting to see things through the eyes of a beginner. Students who come in with little-to-no programming experience tend to ask questions that someone who has been around software development a while would never think to ask. I’d like to try to keep that sort of open mind when tackling new concepts. E.g., as we work in Swift, it’s very tempting to write “Objective-C style” Swift, but that’s probably not going to be the most effective use of the language.
BNR: We ask each Big Nerd of the Month to add something to the official Big Nerd Trophy. What will be your addition, John?
JG: Great question - I wish I knew! Probably something with Lego blocks - they’re a big hit around my house at the moment.
BNR: That’s great! We can’t wait to see it. Lastly, what advice would you offer to someone who wants to become a software developer?
JG: Never stop learning. There is far more “stuff” in the software developer world than any one person could master in a lifetime. Even if you don’t expect to use some esoteric programming language or technique, odds are good learning it will make you better at the things you do use.
Think you’ve got what it takes to become a Nerd? Check out our open positions and apply to join the team.
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