Sebastian Blandon

Interview with Parse Software CTO Sebastian Blandon

Have you heard the news? The Midwest is quickly on its way to becoming the new Silicon Valley. Yes, through tech startups, software firms and new products on the market, the Midwest is rapidly expanding its selection of technology companies looking to get a piece of the pie and make a difference. One such company? Parse Software Development.

According to their website, Parse is “… a team of innovators with a passion for solving big problems, one build at a time.” But don’t let us tell you all about them; why not hear from a Parse employee himself? Sebastian Blandon currently works as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Parse, and also serves as a Code Instructor at Midland Code Academy. We asked Blandon if he would sit down with us for a quick interview to learn more about his views on coding and its importance in the workplace. Here’s what he said.

Q: Tell us about your company and what it does.

A: We started as a small team of freelancers in February 2015. Since that time, we’ve developed apps and other custom software solutions for businesses large and small around the world. Our mission is to facilitate our client’s ability to engage their customers and employees by building functional and aesthetically pleasing software that solves real problems. Our work gives businesses and their customers easier access to each other and creates new avenues for you to engage clients, increase revenue, and optimize efficiencies.

We work with startups and established companies to build cutting-edge technology. If you’re a startup looking to get ahead of the competition through tech or a company looking to bring a new product to market, we’ve got you covered.

Q: Explain what custom software development is and what it looks like for your company.

A: For us at Parse Software, it looks like developing a solution for a business where we explore with each one of our clients how we can solve their problems. A lot of people think that custom development is just code that was designed for you, and it is true, but people forget about the process of designing a piece of engineering behind the development process. A big part of our company focuses not just on the coding side; we focus a lot on our discovery process.

This is where we as developers will find your real issues and even help the client to understand his problems better, and how the product that we are designing is going to help him solve his necessity and improve another part of his business. Custom software is a challenging market, not just because of the problems you have to solve day by day with code; it’s challenging because you have to educate the client in what you do, how you do it, and why you are doing it.

Q: How did the idea for this company come about?

A: Parse was born 3 years ago. I used to work for a construction company doing internal development for their software and helping them with marketing and design projects, but I started to notice that a lot of people I was meeting at the time were having issues looking for people that could code for them, and they weren’t very happy with the development shops that we have in Lincoln. So, I decided to do some freelancing for companies in town with my two childhood best friends, Camilo Mejia (Lead Engineer/Co-Founder) and David Lema (UI/UX Designer/Co-Founder).

We started with a bakery and the Lincoln Stars. Then, after a couple months, we started to get busy, so we decided to recruit the best talent we could find all around this continent from New York to Medellin, Colombia, to bring different ideas and innovation to Nebraska. It was then we all decided we were ready to make an impact as a company and we added Doc Bolton as our Business Developer and CEO. Right now we have nine developers, three project managers, and one business developer… and we are planning to add more and more developers. (Developers feel free to apply.)

Q: What makes your company unique compared to others?

A: I will say, what make us unique right now from our competitors is we are able to change and adapt our processes to the client’s necessities. A lot of our competitors don’t change their discovery or development process per client; they normally have one process the client has to accept. This is kind of annoying for a client, and more so when you have to handle your business and build a tool for the business. It could get crazy, which is why in Parse we adapt to your necessities, your process and the way you do things, unless you give us the freedom to offer you our regular process.

Another super unique part of our company is our multicultural staff and worldwide experience. All of our staff come from different backgrounds such as the bank tech industry, the military tech industry—even the aviation industry. I am really proud of that, because the diversity makes us bring different cultural experiences, and bring the best innovation to this magical place called Nebraska!

Q: You offer a variety of software services. Which ones are you most proud of and set you apart from others?

A: We are proud of all of our work. We always put 100% of love, talent, and attention to each detail and project we have, not matter how big or small the project is. However, I will say there are three projects which have left a big big impact in our company. First, the Divvimap/Schedudrone project was awesome. We created this big technology, able to layout a map inside a mobile app where farmers can have access to their field maps. So, what we did was build a platform that was able to go and take all the pictures a drone took from a specific field and, using the coordinates of each picture, we were able to generate a full image and use it as a layout inside the app. In that way, the farmer was able to know what was going on in his field all the time, without spending a lot of money in scouts. It was challenging because we had to learn about drones, mapping, geolocation, UVA, and thermal images, and how to recognize a lot of the data we could get from the pictures.

SIMA is another project that was fun to build, but very challenging. This software was designed to allow citizens from Ensenada, Baja California, to have access to a web portal where they can pay all their government forms, such as taxes, parking tickets, traffic tickets, alcohol licenses, permits, etc. It was crazy! Two other engineers and I moved to Mexico for eight months, where we lived and worked together with the Mexican governmental employees, who taught us about Mexican tax law and how the Mexican government needs software to be done with the rules behind it. This was our first massive project and was the project that allowed us to have our first “real growth.”

Last but not least is a TMS that I can’t talk much about. Basically, the software will help a trucking company have better control of their business. It’s a really fun challenge because of all the rules that apply to each section of their software, the massive amount of integrations to other systems, and working with their employees and oner. Everyone is very open to helping, which is super awesome when building custom software. I will say I am in love with this TMS project so far!

Q: What is your role within the company?

A: I am the CTO, and I work as software developer as well. I love to code, and even when I have a bunch of administrative tasks, I always jump into different projects and help them to move stuff faster.

Q: How does coding play a role in what the company does?

A: When you mention custom software and a custom development shop to someone, they think you code 100% of the time. However, we spend a significant amount of time on other stuff, such as researching, planning, and product design. I suppose programming is 60% of what we do at Parse; 40% is development and business operations that we have to develop for each project.

Q: Why would you recommend for someone to learn how to code?

A: Code is everywhere now and people should understand how stuff works. I’m not saying learn how SpaceX made a rocket go to space, but at least understand that everything a computer does was designed for humans! People still don’t understand that when you are coding, you are solving problems. Coding is just the tool to solve the problem. I think programming has these big misconceptions from the public in general, because they think that coding is all they need to learn, when the reality is they have to first learn how to solve problems.

Q: How can someone integrate coding into an otherwise “non-coding” job?

A: I will use Doc, our CEO, as a perfect example of how he integrated his coding knowledge into his business development skills. Knowing how and why coding works gave Doc the ability to better understand the necessities of the client and be able to know what is possible and what is not possible. In that way, he can help the client and the development team find the better approach to the software that will solve the client’s needs. Having a knowledge of code will make you more efficient in non-code related tasks, and even understand how to automate your daily job tools that exist out there.

Q: What do you look for in potential employees:

A: A lot of people think we are looking for a ninja, which sometimes we are looking for a person with a good amount of experience in different coding skills. But for me as CTO of Parse I look for three things: passion, willing to join in teamwork and that you want the job! We can teach talent and knowledge, but passion and love for problem-solving is hard to teach.

If you’re interested in learning more about Parse Software Development, check out their website and contact them to learn more about how they help startups and companies kick their software development projects up a notch.