Interview With Web Developer Andres Spagarino by Rob Snyder

Andres Spagarino has been a web developer for over a decade. He currently works for California Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego California, where he provides online solutions for meeting the needs of the non-profit company. Andres has a deep appreciation for open source solutions and the open source community. He believes that it is a great way to collaborate with other people and re-use some of the development efforts for the good of the community.

My wife worked with Andres for two years while we were stationed in California, and she introduced us this evening over e-mail. I sent him a few general questions to get a web developer’s perspective on my own areas of interest on the subject.

What is your favorite site online today?

I am a little green/solar-geek, so I like and My favorite part is not too much the design aspect but rather the content and functionalities (mobile ready, smart newsletters, etc).

How are you inspired by other web developers, and how does that show in your work?

I admire open-source solutions and the community behind it, I have used heavily a CMS open source called Joomla and we just recently switched to Drupal, we also are very involved with a CRM open-source called CiviCRM… I do get actually inspired by a few developers in these community since they are willing to help other developers like me in their spare time… In my work I am a strong advocate for open source solutions and I use them whenever possible and try to support them by contributing (both by donations and development support).

Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years, as web development and web design continue to evolve?

I believe the online media is shifting from computer base to mobile/cloud storage base. My challenge in the next 5-10 years is to keep myself ahead of the curve in implementing new technologies. I believe that I will always be in the open source development environment and that soon corporations will be moving into this format… many companies are already doing so.  For example our local utility company is using open source Drupal, the next generation of mobile devices and seamless data integration will be a lot easier when we will use open-source and not proprietary software… I believe this technology evolution is happening right now.

What advice would you give to a new web developer today?

Get involved into any project that you are interested and use the community to not only master your skills but also to give back by helping other developers. This is a great way to learn, network, and stay updated with whatever software you get involved.


I am glad to be getting done with this class because it is the natural progression of things; to move forward we have to move on from where we are. But I will miss the class because I have found the learning to be, all at the same time, fun, fast, frustrating, and fulfilling. The thing I have found most exciting is the fact that I know I will use this class in the future. I cannot say that of my other classes. I really enjoyed both Covering Capitol Hill and Crime Reporting, but the odds of being a journalist in both of those fields is slim (with the exception that many Capitol Hill stories are about corrupt politicians…).

I interviewed Patty Tompkins, who has worked for numerous companies as a contractor, consultant, and developer. She is one of a small number of women who started programming early in the computer era. She started in the late ’70s and has kept up on the cutting edge of the industry all of these years. She now owns her own company that contracts out to other companies. I met her during my trip to New Hampshire, which is where she is based out of. She was really funny and nice, and I could tell that she is someone who is able to get things done, no matter what. I think she summed it up best when she told me that she doesn’t see it as work, but rather an enjoyable hobby.

She has also found a way to be a ski instructor for over 20 years, and it really made me think about how I want to have my career path go. I want to make sure that I don’t get stuck in a rut doing work that I don’t enjoy, when I could be out doing fun things that I could make a career. This course has shown me that I could find that combination with writing and programming. I want to make sure that I keep my head up and look for the latest in technology and stay at the forefront. Once you get stuck in a certain technology, you can stay there for a long time, and I want to be always adapting.

Web Developer Patty Tompkins

Jennings Web Developer Profile

Patty Tompkins, 58

President, Autumn Software, Inc

Applications Developer/Web Developer

Patty Tompkins started at University of Bridgeport, graduated pre-med three schools later, went to intern at a programming company, took a left turn as a ski instructor, and then worked her way up to building her own company that she runs today. Her career has seen the beginnings of client-servers, PCs, and the internet, and she has had to change along with the technology.

Tompkins feels that only certain people can be good programmers, and that it is a state of mind rather than a simple learned skill. “I don’t want to stereotype men or women either. I have met many men who were terrible developers, and I have met many women who were terrible developer,” she said, “I think that it is a matter of how they think; how they solve problems that makes them good.”

Owning a company puts Tompkins in a position where she has to be the PR representative as well as the president. She is always thinking about how she is showcasing herself and her company to possible clients.

Being a woman in a male-dominated profession has not been lost on Tompkins, as she has felt the need to prove herself to men who haven’t seen her work. “They were like, ‘She can’t do that,’ and I think they pre-judged me before they even met me,” she said. She has made significant contributions to the programming community, leading multiple seminars a year to give developers experience in many different languages or skills, teaching at New Hampshire Technical Institute, and helping those developers in her employ to gain new skills that will help them be more marketable.

Tompkins wonders what effect the next generation of developers will have in the programming careers. “They have grown up with the internet always being there, and we have gone from having nothing, to having all of this,” she said, “They might be great or they might not understand.” She thinks that a lot of the things that are hard for someone older will come more naturally to a younger developer, but that they might not have the experience of how it all came to be, and why things are put together the way they are.

Many people go to college with no experience and little idea of what they want to do as a career. Tompkins was in that boat. She was a pre-med student who got disillusioned with the university, took a year off and then took classes out of the University of New Hampshire, Notre Dame, and Saint Anselm’s, ultimately graduating as pre-med but finding an internship programming for a database company.

Once she started programming, she found that the work was more fun than simple work, and she wanted to continue in that career path. “The guy asked me at the end of the six-month internship if I wanted to make some money at it,” she said, “I was like, ‘YES!’ and from then on I’ve been doing this.” After a few years, she started a team for her company that was based out of New Hampshire, and when the company got sold to Lockheed Martin the owners wanted her team to move to Texas. Since no one on the team was willing to do that, they started their own company, Chestnut Hill Software, with Tompkins as their president, and worked on in artificial intelligence for six years, until the company finally folded and she rebooted with her current company, Autumn Software.

Tompkins finds the freedom of having her own company to be its greatest asset. “I’m not becoming a millionaire with my own company,” she said, “But I am able to stay on the cutting edge of technology because I can decide which direction to take the company.” She enjoys the work because it is always changing. “In a company with a lot of employees, you can get bogged down in maintenance, where the development is all done,” she said. It’s easy to find developers in situations where they aren’t doing anything new, just maintaining the status quo, and she doesn’t like that. She prefers to find the projects that test the boundaries and challenge her company to keep up with the current trends of technology.

The Wrap Up!

Class Overall

I was not sure what to expect from the Web Development going in to the class, but I was definitely excited about the opportunity to learn. Maybe too excited. I feel like i should have run with the rest of the people who dropped week two, but I remember thinking, I am a Consultant in the IT industry, this class should be easy. Was I wrong. Not only was the subject matter difficult to understand, but the non-structured  approach for the class made it a challenge to follow. On a more positive side, now that the course has come to an end I can appreciate all that Greg worked hard to teach us. Greg, I really appreciate your commitment to exposing us to a well-rounded set of Web Development concepts.  It was a lot of information for such a short period of time, but it was worth it.

What I Learned

Throughout this semester I learned a lot, and had some personal breakthroughs. I decided that I am not cut out for Web Development. It is fun and I know that I can make progress and possibly become an okay developer, but it is just not for me. Development requires patience and complete commitment. It is a lifestyle which drives me crazy and which I do not find rewarding.  The course definitely helped me learn a lot about myself  such as sometimes we just have to walk away.  If something is not gratifying walk away and find someone does enjoy it. This way you both win.

Why What I learned Matters

What I learned will save me time and headaches in the long-term. I have accepted that yes JavaScript, CSS, and HTML are amazing and important to this era. Expectations for myself going in were very high so I am currently dealing with disappointment; however, the bits that I did grasp such as how to make updates to WordPress sites from a child template, creating taxonomies, and making design modifications to a page will help me make an impact.  In fact, earlier today, I started showing my 17-year-old brother David how to update the template files for my site and talked to him about sublime, and cyber-duck.  I could have not done this three months ago.

What you’ll do with the new knowledge and skills

My plans are to leverage what I learned to help small business obtain an online presence. The knowledge which I have will help me get Clients started and will enable me to orient them in the right direction. I may not be extremely savvy on web development, but I am passionate about people and seeing them fulfill their goals.

Thoughts on re-reading the initial readings

These readings were a great way to closeout the semester.  They helped reinforce some of the concepts learned through the semester, specially about troubleshooting and thinking. they also refreshed my memory on the key concepts and practices which must be applied not only to be a great developer and/or developer journalist, but to have a great impact on life. My favorite pragmatic approach being:

Be a Catalyst for Change – You can’t force change on people. Instead, show them how the future might be and help them participate in creating it.

This approach definitely works, I use to kill myself trying to fix situation and was not getting anywhere. Today, I find myself taking a different approach – showing and action and it is really helping me make breakthroughs. We can never assume people understand what we are saying. We all speak a different language, by doing and being an example, we rid ambiguity.

What you want to learn after the class ends

Websites are extremely important to a business. For my message of health and fitness to have the impact which I seek my Web-site can be nothing other than SOLID. As a result, I will be looking for someone to help me recreate the GroceryCoach site. I do however plan to take on other development projects which are independent of my business site. Developing interests me and it is always good to have the knowledge so I will continue practicing the fundamentals on my spare time and will hopefully learn how to create drop down menus cause they make websites handy, I also want to learn about advertising and e-commerce sites as well as incorporating Amazon pages like the one Luis’s site. So much to learn and do, so little time.


In closing, each experience in my life has made me realize that everything is much more similar than it appears. Foundational principles listed below apply regardless if coding, serving in the military, or Consulting for the Federal Government and/or Commercial companies

  1. When faced with a wall walk away, re-strategize and try again,
  2. Your thinking has a lot to do with results
  3. Thinking through the process before attacking is much more effective.

Cheers to Web Development and all its quirks! And remember to eat your veggies, get your sleep and reward your body with cardio!

It’s not over yet!

The class overall

In some ways, I’ve learned more than I expected to in this class, and in some areas, I’ve learned less. The local server/FTP setup was way, WAY more complicated than I expected it to be, and I still feel in the dark about the whole process, and surprised every time it works the way it’s supposed to. Part of me just thinks that, with legions of programmers, designers and UX experts using the system, somebody would have been able to devise a more intuitive way to make the interwebs happen. Still, I feel like I’ve internalized the WordPress editing process/taxonomies/codex far more than I thought I would. I feel confident going ahead with editing the CSS of my site, at least, and at least I know I’m capable of learning this stuff.

What I learned

I learned a great deal of CSS stuff that I’d never been exposed to before. I also learned the basic structures that make up the JavaScript and jQuery languages, so if I look at some script, I can probably figure out what it’s doing. I learned how to open the hood of WordPress and edit stuff outside the admin. I learned a lot about how computers and the interwebs work with each other.

Why what I learned matters

It matters not just because I’ll be able to do more and better web projects, but because a person who is web-literate is better able to find and distribute information – an integral skill in a democratic society.

What I’ll do with the new knowledge and skills

I’ll be able to make and edit websites without simply settling for the default options WordPress offers. I’ll be able to better communicate with the developers on my team at work and suggest new solutions to the problems we face. I’ll also be able to offer informed opinions on the quality and effectiveness of our web projects.

Thoughts on re-reading the initial readings

When I first read these a couple of months ago, I enjoyed them on a philosophical level, but still got the sense that I was on the outside looking in on something I didn’t quite understand. Now, I feel like I count as the target audience for these readings, like part of the “in-crowd.” It feels great.

What I want to learn after the class ends — either new skills/tools/platforms, strengthening current ones, a mix of both, a list of problems you want to solve, etc.

I want to continue learning jQuery, improve my CSS literacy, and look into Ruby on Rails at the suggestion of the developer I profiled. I also want to make a more complicated site on WordPress, try to emulate some cool online projects I’ve seen and try using some social media APIs.