Meet The Talented Developer Advocate At Google, Colt McAnlis
Our interview series continues, and this time we get the chance to interview Colt McAnlis, a Developer Advocate at Google. He is from Austin, Texas and has worked with some big companies in the past including Blizzard, Microsoft and Petroglyph. He loves to work on diverse projects including the ones which don’t require him to sit in front of the computer. His core work revolves around making dry content engaging and helping people learn without getting bored. We also share the same thinking and value what he is trying to do. Our LiveEdu campaign attempts to make content more engaging by asking learners for project suggestions and allowing them to choose their own learning path.
So, without any delay, let’s get started with the interview.
Real Name: Colt McAnlis
Alter ego: Colt “MainRoach” McAnlis
Location: Austin, Tx
Profession: Developer Advocate
1. Hello Colt McAnlis, it is a pleasure to have you here. Can you tell us more about yourself?
I’m currently a Developer Advocate at Google focusing on Performance and Data Compression.
I’ve had a great chance to work with the Chrome team, Android team, and I’m now focusing my efforts on Google Cloud Platform. Before that, I worked in the games industry at a number of great places (Blizzard, Microsoft (Ensemble), and Petroglyph). And I was lucky enough to be an Adjunct Professor at SMU Guildhall, and UDACITY instructor (twice). When I’m not helping developers understand their tools and platform, I spend an unhealthy amount of time talking about compression and writing books.
2. What motivated you to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science?
Early in my life (age 12?), I developed a passion for making video games. During that time, the only path forward to a career in game development required traditional schooling for Computer Science degrees.
Thankfully, things have changed since then, and folks who want to get into technical fields may not have to follow that same path. With the birth of mobile platforms and the emergence of distributed online learning, I think there are lots of new ways for folks to pursue similar passions.
3. You do almost everything including programming, writing research papers, making videos and so on. Which part of your work do you love the most? Also, tell us about the working environment at Google.
That’s a very large question!
I view my role as a Developer Advocate as one that focuses on helping people learn and become experts in the tools and platforms they work on. Sometimes, this means absorbing the very very dry subject matter. Quite frankly, that’s just boring. It’s boring to read, it’s boring to watch, and quite frankly, it’s boring to write 😉 My goal in creation of this content is to find ways to make that extremely dry subject matter more accessible to individuals by making it just a tad more entertaining, and explaining it in ways that make it more accessible to a larger audience.
The reason I make content in so many areas (blogs, videos, books, live talks) is to try my best to make these topics more interesting and accessible for other developers. Not everyone learns the same way or values the same way to learn, so you have to do the extra work to reach out to people.
4. Can you tell us more about your past experience? Any specific project that comes to your mind?
Oh wow. I’ve worked on so many projects in my career so far; each one comes with some special memory or experience that just can’t be replicated, so it’s hard to pick out one.
I think one of the best memories I have thus far was at Google IO 2016. I was walking the halls between my talks, and had someone stop me, and thank me for all the videos and content I’ve made. It turns out, this person had a very difficult past, and due to all the MOOCs and training, was able to turn things around, and get an amazing job as a Web/ Mobile developer. I sat and talked with them for an hour or so. It was an amazing, humbling, insightful experience, and helps remind me that the work we do in this role actually helps real people. That’s important to help me keep perspective on things.
5. We see you also have some teaching and developer experience, can you briefly tell us about your experience as an instructor and as a developer?
As far as I can remember, I’ve always had the tendency to be a developer/educator hybrid. Even while in the trenches of deep GPU code, I was always trying to research and publish new content to help others, and push the craft forward. I view my current role as just an extension of the work and passion I’ve already had for years.
6. Tell us more about your personal projects.
I’ve been spending a lot of my time lately trying to work with my hands. Get off the computer, disconnect, and do more physical projects. Which means lots of home improvement, woodworking, metalworking, and building talking BB8 hats.
7. What do you aim to do in the future? Continue what you are doing or change course?
8. Game Development is a big industry. Do you think that crowdfunding plays a significant role in its overall growth?
I’ve had a difficult time getting on board the crowdfunding train; I think it’s mainly due to my existing mental model about how big, $60 million games get made and distributed. Good games are made through a very iterative process. You have to try-and-fail hundreds of time to find the winning success strategy. As such, it’s really difficult to make early-level promises (that crowdfunding requires) since 80% of those may need to change for the game to be successful.
That being said, I’ve seen really, really good success in these areas. But with the AR/VR gaming evolution on the horizon, I’m estimating that the costs to develop good AAA content are just going to get higher, and may price itself out of levels that crowdfunding can support.
9. What is your career advice to intermediates on LiveEdu.tv who are interested in improving their practical general app performance and game development skills?
There’s a single piece of advice I give all people I get a chance to mentor and work with: Find what you want to do, find someone/some company who is doing it really well, and emulate them.
For example, if you want to make games for a living, go re-write Angry birds, or some other successful game. But do it all. The login, download, sound, input, leaderboards, monetization. See the entire spectrum of work that goes into a thing.
Something amazing happens when people focus on emulation early in their career. You see their focus sharpen, their skills take a huge spike, and their knowledge seems to quadruple overnight.
It’s like power leveling your skillsets.
10. Last, but not least, what do you think is the future of cloud computing and Android platform?
I can’t see where the future is, but there are a few things I’m excited about.
Firstly, I’m really excited to see how the power of Google Cloud’s Machine Learning APIs for Vision, Video Text, and speech have come along lately. These APIs open up a huge amount of processing power and developer tools that can’t be possible without the scale of data that Google can train these ML systems on. I’m hoping there’s a natural next step where more mobile developers can realize that these APIs are extremely easy to use, and can improve their applications in ways they may have not traditionally thought about.
Secondly, I think there’s a natural opportunity between Android Things, the IoT space, and Google Cloud Platform. When you’re dealing with a million deployed IoT sensors, it’s no longer a hardware problem, it’s a cloud-scale data gathering and processing problem. So when you combine the rich ecosystem, development tools, and hardware of Android with the scale and power of Google Cloud, it’s a natural fit.
Finally, I’m really encouraged to see how much Firebase has been able to help Android developers build better, more stable applications. I’m really excited and encouraged to see what’s next for that group.