Trust me - I know what I'm doing

01:11, Jul 24 2013
JONATHAN GILES: "The boat race is the CEO's hobby, but most people think I service computers or something."

Jonathan Giles works for Oracle, but instead of sailing a catamaran in San Francisco, he's sitting at a desk in the spare room of his rural Palmerston North home.

"Most people don't have a clue what I do," he says with a smile.

"The boat race is the CEO's hobby, but most people think I service computers or something.

"I can see the glazed-over looks in people's eyes when I explain it."

Giles is a software engineer creating code used by about 10 million developers on 3 billion computers and devices around the world.

His job is to make the world-renowned JavaFX software beautiful and compatible with every computer and smartphone.


JavaFX is part of Java, which almost every computer runs.

It's technical stuff.

But fortunately Giles has an analogy he uses to help explain the complex world of problem-solving that he delves into every day.

"If you are building a car you don't go and make a wheel, you get one off the shelf," he says.

Giles makes the wheel, so other developers can build the car.

He does it while the sun rises over the Tararua Range and the chickens begin to stir in the backyard.

The occasional 5am starts are so he can attend meetings with his team located around the world, and with his boss in California.

Giles' role in the team is as technical lead.

He wakes up to hundreds of emails in his inbox every morning, almost all related to bugs and feature requests.

These reports come in from developers from around the world.

It can be extremely challenging, but that's part of the fun, he says.

"Even the most primitive form of code, like a button, has to support a lot of requirements - different styles, different user interaction, and different country requirements - like right-to-left text for countries that read text this way.

"And then there are the complex ones that my team is responsible for."

Giles writes a successful blog rounding up weekly developments within JavaFX.

He has legions of Twitter followers from within the software community.

And he has spoken at conferences in India, Europe, America, and Japan to as many as 8000 people. "Many developers are not interested in interacting with the community, but I've always done it and I'm very proud of that.'

"I don't know everyone in the community.

But it is a great feeling when I go to a conference and someone recognises me and tells me that they appreciate what I do."

To get to where he is the 28-year-old completed a bachelor of engineering with honours in software engineering and a master of science in computer science at Massey University.

But it was his blog, and the diversity of knowledge it required, that got him a foot in the door of his dream job.

Giles is now helping to get the latest JavaFX release to work on the $35 Raspberry Pi computer, which is so tiny and basic that an SD card from a camera acts as the hard-drive.

Then, just for the fun of it, Giles is setting up another Raspberry Pi to control his home.

He has plans for it to fill his water tank to the right level automatically, to control his garage and gate, and to message his phone whenever someone calls the house or rings the doorbell - but only when the Raspberry Pi knows he isn't home.

Manawatu Standard