Greg Collins, Former CIO of EarthLink

The developer that I interviewed was Greg Collins, previous Chief Information Officer at EarthLink. He developed an interest in coding during high school, began his career in web development and later switched into more of an app developer role for EarthLink. As an app developer, Greg’s main focus as a freelancer now is to create easy to use, goal-oriented apps for his clients.

(Q): How did you initially get into coding? Were you taught by a class/teacher or did you self-teach?

(A): Growing up in suburban Tennessee, there was not real push for kids to learn coding growing up. However, my sophomore year of high school, a new teacher came in with a web development background. He created a coding club at our school, and I went once just to check it out with no real intention of becoming part of the club. I was instantly drawn to the idea that you can create your own website through writing a new language in a certain way. Needless to say, I quickly became a very active member of the club.

We initially began with BASIC and FORTAN, throughout my sophomore and junior year. My senior year we were introduced to HTML, CSS, and Javascript. After high school I focused on self-teaching through online courses and after college was formally trained by my employer.

(Q): What was the hardest coding language for you to learn?

(A): At first, it all seems very different and foreign. With that said, I think that the hardest language for me to learn and self-teach myself was Machine Language. I also think that it was the most interesting to learn since it is really writing commands directly into the CPU.

(Q): What project are you most proud of?

(A): The coding project that I am most proud of probably has to be my first own version of BASIC in machine language. It was the most difficult project I had been a part of at that time. It took me weeks to finish and I was very proud of my efforts and happy when the coding finally worked. It was extremely interesting to me to write a higher level language in the most base language there was.

(Q): What is your favorite site online today?

(A): This changes a lot, but as a technologist I spend a fair amount of time looking at various technologies and therefore enjoy TechRepublic lately. With technology constantly changing and improving, it is very important to stay current with the newest trends either in coding, or just technology as a whole. New types of technologies can change the way a developer writes their code, for instance, with increased usage in mobile phones, we have to make sure our code is cross functional and optimized throughout different platforms. I try and stay as current as possible through techrepublic.com and other online tech publications. 

(Q): What has shaped your work?

(A): In the beginning of my career I was always interested in looking at the coding behind websites that drive a lot of visitors. For instance websites like the Washington Post, Amazon, ESPN, among others. I wanted to see which websites had the best layout and processes and tried to replicate that for my clients in order to create a user-friendly page that would drive traffic like those of such large capacity.

As my role has changed into app development, I am inspired by apps that create simplified actions. Some apps try and have too many options, but I am motivated and drawn to those that narrow down their functions to a few, very basic actions. Users don’t want to be spending time searching for through an app to find what they need or want. The best apps are those that have extremely simplified clear and concise functions.

I spend many hours with my clients to evaluate their core functions in order to create a simplistic app that has functions that are so simplified, a fourth grader could figure out how to navigate it.

(Q): What advice would you give to coding beginners?

(A): The advice that I would give beginning coders would be to dip your feet in all types of coding languages and truly find out what really interests you. When I first began coding, there were hardly any tutorials online, and about half of the languages and functions there are today. Luckily, as technology has grown, so has the need for IT, tech, and coding specialists. With that has come the increase in learning opportunities. There are online tutorials and coding program websites for just about any type of coding someone would want to learn. But I would just recommend truly finding the language that implements the functions you are trying to create. Play around with a few of them, I bet you would be surprised at what might interest you.

(Q): What are some best practices you can share regarding web and app development?

(A): When it comes to best practices for both web development and app development, I would recommend keeping your code clean and keeping up on new development in languages and techniques. If you fail to do so, your website or app may end up with problems like slow loading, bugs, and others. You want to ensure that your website or app is as up to date as possible and ultimately optimized for visitors.

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