For our new series Meet a MakingSenser, I had the pleasure of interviewing Juan Diego “JD” Raimondi, our Solutions Architect. Just what is a “solutions architect”, and how did JD become one? He was happy to explain it all to me (in great technical detail, of course!) so I could bring it to you here for the second post in our  series.

Below, you’ll find a synopsis of my talk with JD who, as you’ll find out, reserves a special place in his heart for the work he does at Making Sense.

JD Raimondi has been working at Making Sense for nine years now and is one of our longest standing team members. JD now works, as I mentioned just above, as a Solutions Architect and is truly passionate about technology. Even in his free time, he enjoys solving tech issues.

N: How was your start at MS?

JD: I started in Making Sense back in 2007. I was not new to software development, but certainly a beginner. I arrived for my job interview where they were really thorough about every technical detail I would need to know for my first project. I wasn’t proficient in everything, but as they told me “don’t worry, we don’t expect you to learn everything in a weekend”, I think they must have seen how much I love challenges.

Almost before finishing the interview, somebody burst in the door saying “There’s a UFO in the sky!”, and Damián apologized to me saying “don’t mind us, we’re all crazy around here”. I thought to myself how laid back yet still knowledgeable these people were, and that I really wanted them to hire me.

And they did. :)

N: What was your first project like?

JD: My first project was a Java-based real time application that was already close to its finishing tracks. While working on the app I noticed that it was hard to make changes because the general structure of the app was not properly adapted for what I needed to do. Knowing I’d surely get dismissed, I asked about it and brought in a discussion about the whole architecture of the app.

The architect sat by my side and we went over everything. His conclusion was that I was right: we were heading the wrong way. He congratulated me for spotting it and we started amending what we needed to make sure the app behaved as necessary.

I was shocked: “Did they just listen to the new guy, who has less than a week on the job?” Yes, they had.

N: What do you do at MS right now?

JD: I’m a Solutions Architect. I work with full-fledged teams to make sure all of our technical needs are addressed properly and that projects move in an orderly fashion when they start and also when they’re mature. My job is to avoid our work becoming “legacy code” which has a bad name and cannot be worked on.

Similarly, I help teams execute their job in a way that the processes they uphold start working for them. Ultimately, my goal is for everything to go so smoothly that I’m not needed anymore.

My job is to make myself dispensable. :)

N: How long have you been working at MS and why do you think you’ve never left?

JD: It’s about to be one decade, almost exactly.

At Making Sense there is this familiar sense that I’m working with friends, no matter what team I work with. Everybody is friendly, and everybody has a different view of life. At the same time, everybody is good at what they do and when they’re not, they acknowledge it and they start their learning path.

In Making Sense I’ve been both a learner and a teacher, a one-man-project and a participant in big groups. Every experience is different, every challenge is new. I always learn, I always grow, and the company cares for my well-being and that of my colleagues. I have brought concerns of all types to superiors and they were never ignored.

N: Tell us about the challenges you found in your MS career

JD: Most of the first challenges were technical, and I still enjoy them: solving problems, integrating systems, putting pieces together, designing flexible solutions. I’ve learned from every case and I’ve become a little better each time, as far as creating something that brings solutions to our clients.

As the company has grown and I am moving more into leadership roles, the challenges have been more those of soft skills… understanding what priorities are even when they are not explicit, knowing how to deal with things which are not perfect, like when budgets/tools/teams are not entirely available.

In Making Sense we offer clients our full package: analysis, discovery, design, QA, technical quality & measurements, flexibility, well-designed systems, innovative technologies, proof of concepts, agile processes, adapting to changes, etc.

Of course, this means a big team and a lot of work and this reflects on our budget. Not all partners decide to be that much involved, and that’s fine, but then making sure that all is still well can be a challenge.

My greatest challenge has been to adapt to that lack of “the perfect team” for whatever obstacle has appeared, and make the projects work anyway. We’ve built this flexibility into the way that we all work, and none of us are now one-trick ponies, which makes things a lot better.

N: What opportunities does MS offer you, in terms of doing what you like?

JD: Innovation.

Sometimes it’s about using new technologies. Sometimes it’s about changing completely the way we work with a customer. Sometimes it’s about giving back some of our discoveries to the open source community.

Here’s an interesting example: several years ago, we were experimenting in the field of JavaScript development, because we were mostly .NET stack developers. After a few members (including myself) decided that we wanted to check out the web world, we started training ourselves and we hired a few seasoned members to make sure we were on the right path.

This traction allowed us to start taking projects and make this a win-win for both customers and us. MEAN development now has become one of the core technologies that we work on, among several other technologies. And we did it out of nowhere, even when no project was bringing in money to support it.

N: What do you do outside of work?

JD: I love reading and writing. Technology is still a passion for me, even if I’m not working on it, so technical books are a common source of enjoyment for me. Plus, I’ve got my share of personal projects, most of them open sourced. I also maintain a software development blog and another non-technical blog, which is more of a thought-dumpster. Finally, I cooperate on some fandom-based communities where I produce content too.

I also have a wonderful wife and two dogs, and I make sure to spend quality time with them. They’re the real reason behind it all.

I’m a fan of science fiction (did you guess that one?), so movies and books go along that path. I also have in my plans to learn to compose music, draw, dominate the world and learn French.

And with those grand proclamations, our interview was complete. I’m afraid it had to be a videoconference, given that JD moved to Austin, TX a few years ago and works remotely from his home. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know JD, and perhaps this interview sheds a bit more light on how the Making Sense team creates their magic for our clients. Thanks, JD!

PS: In case you want to keep reading about our MakingSensers, feel free to take a look at our previous interview with our UX Designer Martin Deniro.