#meetrhumbix interview with Jon Goncalves

Posted by Guy Skillett on 1/12/16 10:05 AM
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We’re continuing our #meetrhumbix series today sharing an interview with Jon Goncalves. Jon has been a member of our engineering team since the early days and shares some fun memories of our very first prototype.

You have a military background. How did you get into tech?
A major perk of the military is they’ll pay for you to go to school. So during my six and a half years in the Air Force I was also learning how to code. When it was time to reenlist, I had finished my degree in computer science and was ready for something new. I got an internship at Boeing that turned into several years of working in IT for all kinds of groups, projects, and locations all over the US. 

Boeing was where I really cut my teeth in software development. My last project landed me in Long Beach working on iPad apps for the guys on the shop floor building airplanes, which was pretty cool. 

You have been with Rhumbix since the early days. Tell me what it was like.
While I was in Long Beach, my cousin Gustavo was at Stanford working on his PhD. He met Zach and got pulled into an idea he had of using wearables to capture data from construction workers. 

Gustavo built the first prototype. It was a wrist-mounted wearable he built by soldering together pieces from hobbyist motherboards. The wearable gathered accelerometer, gyrometer and GPS data from workers. Gustavo pulled me into the project to write software for the hardware he was building. 

Our first pilot was crazy. We were working around the clock on a three-month deployment at a Stanford construction site. Gustavo would deploy at 5:00 am with the workers and I would write code all day. Then he would bring me all the feedback and I would work all night to put out a new version the next day. 

How has Rhumbix changed?
With every startup, you’re looking for a convergence between your long-term vision and an immediate problem. For us, this meant shifting from wearables to smartphones. We also needed to target a specific data set. When Bechtel approached us about replacing their timekeeping solution it was a great starting point. Timekeeping on construction sites is an industry-wide pain point. 

What hasn’t changed is the vision. I remember that from the first time I met Zach. He told me the vision for Rhumbix was to make construction workers lives better and I saw his commitment to that through the time and energy he invested in that first pilot. I thought it was really powerful and was willing to become professionally and personally invested. 

How has your role changed?
Well, I’m not working all night anymore. :-) Early on I was the only person and it was really about writing as much code as possible. Now it’s about solving problems as part of a team. I still write a lot of code but now it’s focused on specific challenges. 

Tell me about one of those challenges.
Battery life is a big one. In the beginning, the GPS feature of our app was draining workers batteries to where it wouldn’t last an entire work shift. A lot of apps use GPS tracking for things like navigation and location sensing, but ours is unique because we need that information so often. 

So we called friends at other companies and got some good insights that helped us create a solution. Battery consumption is now about 3.5X less than it used to be and we’re getting more reliable location coordinates, which is great.

Interested in working with a guy like Jon? Rhumbix is hiring. Check out a list of open positions here.

Topics: #meetrhumbix, Construction Technology