Friday Fives: Our Principal Engineer Mike Foster on 33Across Growth, AI, and Reading NT Greek

Today we celebrate Foster Day! You may ask yourself, “What’s that?” Foster Day marks the anniversary of our longest employee Mike Foster, our Principal Engineer. This edition of Friday Fives (as well as the entire day here at 33Across) is in celebration of Mike’s service and commitment to the company. Learn more about how 33Across has grown, Mike’s views on artificial intelligence, and the multiple instruments he plays.

How has engineering changed since you’ve been in the industry?

The industry has changed immensely. Software engineers now have access to a number of packages that can be integrated to form larger systems. This has influenced the way engineers think about software development. Computers and the way that they are manufactured have also advanced. Much more can be done now with less hardware and for less money.

What engineering project proved to be your most challenging?
During the early years of 33Across, everything was a challenge because we had very few people and we were starting from scratch. More recently we replaced Chukwa with Flume. We’re also upgrading our Hadoop application software to CDH5. All of these have been challenging projects.

What role do you expect artificial intelligence to play as ad tech continues to grow?
The amount of data we collect is overwhelming. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have the potential to help us make better decisions based on data. Today there is a lot of hype about AI as well as some pretty big claims. I think its immediate benefits will be in answering questions that are very focused and specific yet don’t have absolute answers. AI promises to be a practical ‘_fuzzy logic_.’

What’s the bigger challenge- creating a brand new project or improving an existing one?
If an existing project was well designed initially, extending it can be easier than creating a new project. However if the project was not designed well the first time around it is usually quicker and easier to create a new project.

Do you have any hidden talents? If so, what are they?
I play percussion, flutes, and a little saxophone. Reading NT Greek is one of my current hobbies. I’ve always loved astronomy so I have a huge telescope.