Careers: Interviews
International Development Expert

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with international development expert Paul Kimmel.

Paul has written a number of books in diverse areas as Visual Basic.net programming, Access programming, Advanced C# programming, .NET Mobile development, and Delphi applications. He is a regular contributor to CodeGuru's VB Tech Notes and a monthly columnist for Windows Developer Magazine.

Paul Kimmel is the founder of Software Conceptions, Inc., which helps organizations implement object-oriented solutions to problems in point of sales, telecommunications, finance, and insurance. Software Conceptions provides software development and consulting services to small, medium, and large companies worldwide.

Discussion:
Q: You have such a long and distinguished career in computing. Thank you for agreeing to this interview and sharing your insights and years of experience with the audience.

A: You’re welcome. I am happy to do it. I have read about your experiences, which seem to be equally fascinating.


Q: Can you describe the telephony applications you developed used by Lucent Technologies at Bell Lab and useful tips you can share from the work?

A: The application was called Windows SPM (code named Spam, which we had quite a bit of fun with). The application was designed to manage and program phones connected to Lucent’s Merlin Legend switches. The best lessons always seem to be to have fun, modeling is well worth the effort, and even reasonably good OOP designs yield good results.


Q: What lessons did you learn from building back office systems for e-commerce for the Citibank Development Center in Los Angeles?

A: One of the most interesting aspects of working at Citi was being immersed in the huge task of managing colossal volumes of data. Citibank provides an invaluable service to individuals, businesses and even government. For companies as big as Citibank problems aren’t always as easy as buy more software or hardware. There is a tremendous collaborative effort with other companies that must occur, and these efforts take more planning and coordination. Again, as a single developer this does not necessarily equate to an environment that is not creative. Citibank is doing great things and the Marina Del Rey offices are a great place to work.


Q: You have spoken at DevDays (developer conferences) before, what tips would you provide when you present this year?

A: If I am fortunate enough to be invited back then I have a lot of information to share about things learned since last year. One of the best benefits of speaking at DevDays is all of the opportunities I have to learn from other developers.

I look at my participation as a protoganist. I make an effort to keep the dialogue and exchange of ideas going.


Q: You have been developing business solutions in Microsoft Access for more than 10 years. Can you share two stories from your projects and pass on useful knowledge you picked up during this time?

A: I don’t really have Access stories, but I have a general impression about productivity tools like Access and other tools like it. Office tools offer a tremendous value to both consumers and developers. Access can help individuals be much more productive and organized, and Access is an excellent database for a whole class of applications for small to medium sized endeavors. When solving problems for companies I prefer to take all of the possible tools into consideration, without prejudging or pre-excluding any resources that may be available.


Q: What are some of the titles you have written, and what books are you planning for the future?

A: I got started writing in the early 90s with a self-published book on MS-DOS. In conjunction with magazine articles and co-authoring books, I got an opportunity to author my first book “Using Borland C++ 5” in 1994. That was a big book, and I had some good co-authors help me. Since then I have stuck to object oriented languages and programming topics. I am currently finishing “The Visual Basic .NET Developer’s Book” from Addison-Wesley and “.NET Mobile Application Development” for Wiley. These books add great value to the general dialogue, but I am also interested in writing books that marry entertainment with information (“infotainment”). I have a couple of titles that I have always wanted to do because they would be fun for me to do as well as entertaining, these include: “Mechanically Separated Chicken” and “Drive-by SourceSafe”. These books are formulated to add story value and humor to the business we work in.


Q: What would you do different if you started again, having gone through this authoring experience over the years?

A: I have been very fortunate over the years, which makes this a tough question. The editors and publishers I have worked with have been considerate and professional, and I have a continuous stream of exciting book opportunities. I think I would probably play it the same way again.


Q: What specific tips can you provide from your book .NET Mobile Application Development?

A: Microsoft’s Mobile Internet Toolkit (MMIT) is great technology. If you want to build applications for the Web and mobile devices then you need to be looking at MMIT.


Q: What useful tips can you share from your work with the newsletter Code Guru Visual Basic Tech Notes from Internet.com?

A: Brad Jones is the editor at codeguru, and I have known Brad for years (since his days at Sams). If you want excellent, timely, informative content, then codeguru.com is a great place to go. Jupiter media just purchased codeguru.com and has a continued commitment to excellence.

One of the best things about codeguru and VB Today is that when developers write, I answer almost every letter and many of these letters turn into future articles. In this collaborative spirit a lot of good idea exchanging occurs. People who don’t subscribe to codeguru.com probably aren’t aware of this; it is too good a secret to keep.


Q: How do you like it in Okemos, Michigan?

A: Okemos is a nice sleepy, bedroom community and is a great place to raise a family. Michigan State University is just a few minutes away, so we get some of the same qualitative aspects of life in the big city with none of the hassles. Concerts, sports, theater, and some excellent restaurants all make Okemos a great place to live. Michigan is also very high up on the list of technology spending states. As a result we have access to technology goods and services that allow me to work from Okemos for any client in the world. Fortunately I am able to combine effective onsite and telecommuting into my word schedule.


Q: What does your wife Lori and your children Trevor, Douglas, Alex, and Noah, think about your work? Can they share some insights living with a famous developer?

A: I am just dad. One of the nicest things my daughter asked a year ago or so was “how did all of these books by daddy get in the store?” when she saw Visual Basic .NET Unleashed at the local Schuler’s bookstore. The kids seem to really like having the whole house wired. They take advantage of Internet games, chat rooms, and educational benefits of being online.

The downside is I travel quite a bit, but they seem to accept that as part of the normal cost of doing business. To reward them I try to provide them with an opportunity to see where I go and what I do there.


Q: Can you share some insights from your articles:

  • Managing Session State for ASP.NET
  • Creating Project Templates in .NET
  • Creating Custom Attributes in Visual Basic .NET
  • Asynchronous Web Services
  • Inheritance and Polymorphism in VB.NET
  • Serializing Objects to a .NET DataSet
  • Implementing the Strongly Typed Collection in C#
  • Emitting MSIL with Reflection
  • Programming with Regular Expressions in C#
  • 5 Questions with .NET Expert Paul Kimmel
  • Creating Visual Studio .NET Add-Ins
  • Understanding Delegates in Visual Basic .NET
  • Working with New Abstract Data Types in Visual Basic .NET
  • Creating Data-Enabled Web Pages using the DataList
  • Lightweight Threading with Thread Pools in Visual Basic .NET
  • Storing Your Access Data
  • Adding Data to Web Pages

A: That would take all of the fun out of reading them. I encourage people to find publishers, authors, and forums they like and then participate. There are many excellent media forums for technologists, including InformIT.com, Windows Developer Magazine, Software Development, Delphi Informant, codeguru.com, McGraw-Hill/Osborne, Wiley, Sams, Addison-Wesley, and tons of user’s groups.


Q: Your experiences as a respected and widely known guru would be of benefit to many veterans. Can you detail your personal history and how you came to write? What personally prompted you to enter the computing field? What led you to becoming a noted expert on application development?

A: I joined the Army right after high school to take a break from school. After that experience I needed to pay the bills while attending college. I started off as a business major but got a job in a DP department at a great company, Underwriters, Safety and Claims. Mike Groher and Don Gardner at US&C really fostered my interest by providing me with plenty of opportunities and answering all of my questions. After that I was hooked. I switched majors and have never looked back. For me writing was a natural outgrowth of my curiosity about computers and technology.


Q: What are your personal goals 1, 3, and 5 years into the future?

A: My intermediate term goals include learning to play the guitar, getting my instrument rating for flying, having a screen play made into a film, and bootstrapping my company into a larger format by collaborating with other entrepreneurs. I still work long hours but am trying to balance hard work with a lot of fun.


Q: What ten career pointers would you provide specifically to people who wish to enter the computing field?

A: I am not sure I have ten, but I can tell you what has helped me.

  • Get a university or trade school education, never stop learning.
  • Do something you really enjoy doing, which engages and challenges you.
  • Participate in a public dialogue about what you do. This could be writing, speaking, attending conferences, or all three.
  • Read. Read. Read.
  • Be as courteous and professional as you can be without compromising your values.
  • Find real mentors that help build self-esteem and provide professional guidance.
  • Keep fit.
  • Balance hard work with a good family life.



Q: Can you comment on the open source movement and where it’s heading?

A: Open source is a bit of a counter culture movement. It is part of the yin and yang of just about everything. I think some good ideas have come from Open Source and many more will. Some proponents think it answers all of the questions, but it really contributes to the dialogue.


Q: You have your finger on the pulse of future trends. For those who have long established careers in computing but wish to change, what ten computing areas would you recommend that they should focus on? What do your forecast as hot topic areas to start researching now?

A: I wish I could predict the future. I think telecom, distributed computing, smart software, and a marriage of biological, computer, and nanotechnologies are likely to yield the next great frontier. Most of the people alive today will probably benefit from things like genetic engineering and perhaps to a lesser degree nanotechnology.


Q: What are the hottest topics that all IT professionals must know to be successful in the short term and long term?

A: Like everything else it seems to start with good fundamental principles. If you really know OOP then you will be prepared as OOP languages evolve. If you can read designs then as engineering patterns evolve you will be able to take advantage of these new ideas. In the next five years .NET is going to rule. Microsoft has done an excellent job with this product line, and it will help propel information technology along.


Q: What would be your recommended top ten references for the serious developer?

A: There are so many great books that it is hard to pick ten. However, I think serious programmers, technical writers, and entrepreneurs will get a lot of timeless value out of some of these:

  • Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code by Martin Fowler
  • Design Patterns by Erich Gamma et. al.
  • Object-Oriented Design and Analysis by Grady Booch
  • The C++ Programming Language by Bjarne Stroustrop
  • The C Programming Language by Kernighan and Ritchie
  • Algorithms in C++ by Sedgewick
  • The Deadline by Tom DeMarco
  • Software Project Survival Guide by McConnell
  • Business @ the Speed of Thought by Bill Gates
  • The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
  • On Writing by Stephen King


Q: You have done extensive research in a number of high-tech areas. Can you describe the results of your research and tips you can pass onto the audience? What is the next killer app?

A: Its funny you should ask, but the next killer application really is Visual Studio .NET. Right now the newest and coolest ideas are in software development tools. As far as general commercial applications go nothing seems to be looming on the horizon. I think we need new ways to think about problem solving to begin discovering new killer apps. I think .NET will help us do that.


Q: Can you comment on the integration of mainframe, Unix, and Windows-based technologies and how they all fit in large, complex, enterprise environments?

A: There are a lot of good solutions in existence. It is a smart decision for Microsoft to facilitate integrating legacy systems and software. Each has a role, and it will be beneficial for everyone involved for these technologies behave well in the same connected playpen.


Q: What changes do you see for the future of computing, conducting business, and the use of the Internet?

A: The Internet will be a staple commodity that will fuel the next big thing. Richard Feynman suggested that “There is plenty of room at the bottom”, which started us on the road to nanotechnology. Feynman, a physicist, is probably a much better prognosticator than I am. When I look to the future, that’s where I am looking: at small things that solve big problems.


Q: If you were doing this interview, what five questions would you ask of someone in your position and what would be your answers?

A: I think you have asked some insightful questions. Perhaps any five from the group you have asked would be invaluable. For me, I like to know what people are reading. If you know that then you know what is on there minds. What’s left to do is gain insight into the “why”. A good interviewer will get answers to that question.


Q: It’s a blank slate, what added comments would you like to give to enterprise corporations and organizations?

A: I am pretty good at answering questions to pointed technological questions, but enterprise corporations and organizations know much more about there businesses then I ever will. The only comment, although an obvious one, is that technology and price lead out of the gate but it always comes back to service. Take care of your customers and they will take care of you.


Q: Thank you for sharing your valuable insights with us today and we look forward to reading your books, and articles.

A: You’re welcome. It has been a pleasure.

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