Rocket Science: Brandon White
Brandon is Team Lead & Senior Software Engineer, Domains for Squarespace.
What’s a tech buzzword you wish would go away?
You know, one that really bothers me is “cloud” because I think it’s a marketing term for people who aren’t necessarily in tech. Something being “in the cloud” really just means it exists on the internet, on a server somewhere.
Buzzwords sell. But really, you’re just paying for space. You’re paying for someone to store your photos or your artifacts. For me, it’s just a bunch of servers. But I understand that you can’t just say, “Hey, we’re storing it on a bunch of servers.”
If you’re saying you’re storing it in the cloud, it sort of helps people understand and think, “Hey, it’s up there somewhere. Don’t worry about it. We’ll make sure it gets to you when you need it.”
Give me your hot take on NFTs.
Short-term, it’s a quick cash grab. Long-term, TBD.
I’ve talked to friends. They’re like, “Oh, I bought this James Harden NFT.” What does that actually give you? What do you have now? What value is this providing? It just seems like another revenue source. I’m unclear about the long-term viability of it.
I’m sure there are other use cases, but the value doesn’t seem to be there for me. It kinda does come off as solving a problem that the consumers don’t know exists.
You’ve just been appointed athletic director for the University of Maryland. Congratulations. What’s your first official act?
Oh boy. So, right now, we have a job opening for men’s head basketball coach. And as Maryland is a basketball school, my top priority is bringing in a coach that will return Maryland back to the prominence that it has historically been used to. I would involve the necessary boosters and alumni in that decision.
I’m an alumnus and I follow Maryland sports very closely. It’s actually the 20thanniversary of the national championship this year. Making voices feel heard in the hiring process, while putting a priority on bringing in a top coach that can return us to that level of success, that’s priority one.
You’re going to Coachella for the first time this year. Who are you most excited to see?
I have mixed feelings, but I’m excited to see Kanye — or I guess he goes by Ye. I really like older Kanye. So, if he plays that music, then that’d be a great concert. His newer stuff, I’m not the biggest fan of, and it’s been a little bit sad to watch what’s been going on with him in his personal life. But I still look forward to seeing him.
What would you like to see more of in computer development over the next decade?
I would like to see a larger emphasis on the ethics of how we use technology that we’re providing to the general public.
Historically, technology has been a vehicle, and people would choose how they used it. I think we are realizing that it can be used for malicious reasons. I want more engineers and product managers to say, “What could go wrong here? What would be the net impact of these things that we’re developing in the product or software development process?”
If the capability exists to do something and a company chooses not to do it, some other company will choose to do it. Are you willing to take a hit on market share for the ethical decision? I’d like for that to be a clearer, if not easier, decision.
What’s your go-to cocktail this winter?
I haven’t come up with a name for it yet, but it’s a cocktail that I crafted a few months ago with one of my friends. It’s a gin-based cocktail, specifically using Brooklyn Gin, with a bitter liqueur similar to Campari, with lemon, St-Germaine, which is elderflower liqueur, falernum, and pineapple. It’s kind of a refreshing tropical cocktail, but it has that bitter liqueur similar to Campari that adds some complexity to it beyond just a Tiki drink.
You have been learning to bartend and be a mixologist. What’s been the most vexing challenge in that quest?
Finding ways to diversify my cocktail types. I can make Manhattans, Old Fashioneds … but when it comes to experimenting and trying out different flavors, I’m hitting a ceiling.
How do I take the next step of creating all these different complex syrups? What unique liqueurs can I use? What different garnishes can I create on my own? How do I take a cocktail from just a simple idea to a bar-ready product?
I’m actually planning on taking a bartending class at the end of this year which will hopefully provide some fundamentals of mixology that I can use to be more creative.
There’s a correlation between mixology and engineering, because you have to bring art and science together. There’s a mountain of data you have to match with a personal experience, and the combination has to encompass the social and seasonal and chemical.
I never really thought of it that way. But that’s a valid point. Perhaps that’s why I’m interested, because I think like an engineer.
I started going to cocktail bars because I didn’t want another basic gin and tonic, and over time, I started talking to the bartenders, asking questions about why they’re doing this, how they do that. Once you get interested, it’s easy to get more advanced … buying the cocktail glasses and the different tools.
If you could start a podcast tomorrow, what would it be about?
Ok, you actually inspired an idea just from this conversation! I think I would make it around something related to mixology and software engineering, and how these two seemingly different worlds relate to each other.
I’d compare the parallels. How to release something into production, for example. I’ve tested this cocktail, I’ve measured it out precisely, done all the QA, but how do I know that it is ready to be on the menu?
This could be a very short podcast! But maybe not. We could bring in the ethics too: because you can make something doesn’t mean you should.
What’s your favorite thing about being an engineer?
I like solving problems. I like seeing how our customers are using things, resolving issues for our customers, providing solutions for the issue that they have.
I also like helping other engineers. I participate in a lot of mentorship programs. I like helping other junior engineers at my current job and past jobs. It helps me solve problems I’m working on, too. I feel most accomplished when I feel like I solved the problem on any given day. As I transition to more of a manager, I’ll be solving less technical problems day to day, but solving larger, more widespread problems within the team or for customers.
What’s a non-digital thing you own that you think has really great design?
Can it be a plant?
It totally can.
I have a bird of paradise that I really love looking at. It’s just very peaceful looking. Also, it grows relatively quickly, so you can really get a sense of fulfillment from watching it grow. I got into plants during the pandemic, now I have 13 and counting. It escalated very quickly from one simple plant to owning borderline tropical plants in New York City.
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