Daniel Olson


3 things I believe in and why I joined DigitalCube

Transcript from Shifter Meetup Kobe.

Hello and thank you for being here.

Of all the places in the world you could be tonight, you decided to join us and I’m honored for the opportunity of spending this time with you.

The reason I’m here tonight is to tell a story. It’s a true story and I know this because it’s a story about me.

The story I was invited to share is the story of why I’m standing here today, employed as a member of the DigitalCube team.

Konichiwa, watashi wa Dan desu

And this is a photo of me as a kid.

I’m a Philadelphia Native, the Chief Operating Officer of DigitalCube. Find me online at emaildano.

So, what do I do at DigitalCube? As COO I have a lot of roles.

I hold a degree in design, I’m a self-taught web developer, I’m a JAMstack advocate, an AWS superfan and design thinking enthusiast.

Most of all, I never imagined myself being so lucky to be where I am now.

At first, it seemed like an obvious story to tell. One day I asked Hiromichi for a job and he said, youkoso! Welcome to the team.

But, why I decided to ask for a job in the first place, is much more important. What were the decisions leading to that moment?

The reason I joined this team has less to do with the job itself and more to do with what I personally believe in and why I do, what I do.

So, what do I believe in? Let me show you.

I have three examples tonight of how my beliefs influenced my decision to join DigitalCube.

They are three key milestones in my life that I believe changed my perspective on technology, what’s possible and how to achieve even the most impossible goals.

First, a lot of my beliefs around technology and building tools start here.

This is a 1987 Suzuki Samurai.

This model was built the same year I was born. It was one of the first cars I owned and in my experience, it had more of an impact on my profession than any class, tutorial, or conference.

I believe that this is one of the greatest vehicles ever produced and for a lot of reasons. The Suzuki Samurai or Jimny as you know, it is more than just a car to me. To me, it’s a symbol.

Owning this car taught me a lot of things but the most important thing it taught me was this.

1. Power isn’t everything.

Nobody drives a Jimny to go fast. It’s slow. Really really slow. But what the Jimny lacks in speed, it makes up for in power.

But wait… didn’t you say power isn’t everything?

That’s right. Power isn’t everything. It’s what you DO what that power that matters.

The sense of power you felt when driving a Jimny did not match the power under the hood.

A 1987 Suzuki Jimny had about 60 horsepower.

With just a 60 horsepower engine, the Jimny was one of the least powerful engines of any car you could buy.

So, why does it FEEL, powerful? It goes back to why the Jimny was created in the first place.

The Jimny was never designed to be the fastest, or have the biggest engine, or be the most powerful.

It was designed as an offroad vehicle that could go anywhere.

And the most important factor for any offroad vehicle, more than power, more than speed, is weight.

The head designer of JEEP Mark Allen said it himself.

He said: Weight is your enemy.

Suzuki understood this deeply and they designed around that.

The Jimny’s lightweight design, combined with its small engine resulted in a vehicle with one of the highest power to weight ratios, ever.

With the right plan, you can a lot more with less. You don’t need all the power in the world, you just a strategy for HOW to use it and more importantly, WHY it matters.

1. Software is more important than hardware

One of my least favorite computer topics is computer hardware.

Computers geeks love to talk about hardware. New video cards, processors, memory, ram, and more. I don’t. For a very specific reason.

Hardware is nothing without software.

The most advanced video cards and processors cannot be used to their full potential unless they have the proper software to support it.

Better yet, good software can outperform the bad software on the most powerful machines.

Remember, power isn’t everything.

I believe that software is the key to our technological future. If we learned to write leaner code, faster code, we can do more with the hardware we already have.

Here’s an example.

Who has heard of Moore’s Law?

Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors on a microchip will double about every two years.

This is what Moore’s Law looks like.

Two times the transistors equals two times the power.

But, what if we didn’t need to double our power to create new things?

Instead, what if we decided to developed software based on the power and concepts we had 3, or 5, or even 40 years ago.

That idea of mainframe computing became mainstream about 40 years ago. They existed as large centralized computers that end users would use to run the code, but they didn’t own the computer itself.

It was the beginning of the “compute-as-a-service” model

In concept, AWS Lambda is the exact same concept as the shared computing concept we used in the 1970s.

The only major change is software. Let’s take a look at the changes over time.

In the 60s and 70s, We had an era of shared computing.

In the 1990s, we created HTML giving us the ability to create complex page layouts and data.

And in 1996, JavaScript was invented giving us more options with how to interact with those layouts and data.

These concepts together, are the JAMstack. It’s nothing new. It’s software that made the difference.

“Your best opportunity is one step out of your comfort zone.”

I don’t remember who told me this or maybe I made it up. Either way, this is the best bit of advice I can give.

What does that mean?

“Your best opportunity is one step out of your comfort zone.”

The idea is that small challenges become small victories. And they give us an opportunity to reflect and adjust.

The first time I was introduced to DigitalCube was through Amimoto. I was a web developer at an agency in Philadelphia where the first ever WordCamp US was hosted.

I approached the Amimoto booth and realized a few things.

First, the technology they were offering was incredible. They presented a new way to host WordPress on AWS that I’d never seen before.

Second, their branding wasn’t the best. As an engineer, I understood the technology but they couldn’t communicate that with the average user.

Third, the seemed like a lot of fun.

Despite having very few people at their booth they were energetic and convinced they had a great product. I understood that, and I wanted to help them.

So, naturally, I asked them out for a beer.

That night over a beer, this is what we talked about.

The belief that you can do more with less.
And that software is our future.

Two concepts that were already cemented in my philosophy.

We literally talked about the Suzuki Samurai and its abilities for being such a small vehicle. We talked about using good software design to solve technical problems. And taking small chances.

If I never asked the team out for a beer that night to learn more about them, I wouldn’t be here.

Taking one step out of my comfort zone changed everything for me.

The rest is history.