Developing Avionté, New Beginnings

by: Derek Beumer, Software Developer at Avionté

As a software developer, the first few months of each new job I’ve had have been some of the most exciting times of my life. Each new start is an adventure, full of risk and reward, with mountains to climb and gaps to mind. Each new piece of software is a test of my abilities and my self-confidence and each new company is an opportunity to grow, and maybe even put down roots.

I’ve been a software developer at Avionté for nearly five whirlwind months and I’m pleased to say the experience has been no exception. From day one I was thrown into the deep end; I’ve been challenged with a great variety of projects and have had the opportunity to work with many of the talented people in our U.S. and Nepal offices. I’d like to tell you a little about my experiences and how we, in my department, develop Avionté.

Quality assurance is a primary focus of development at Avionté. Accordingly, that was the focus of my first major project after starting in August. For that project, I built a system that would allow our development teams to create automated tests – small programs that would exercise and verify the behavior of our software in a fraction of the time that a human could – in an efficient manner that’s friendly to non-programmers.

Automated tests are an especially useful tool for something called regression testing, which is a process that seeks to identify any issues that may have resulted from modifying a piece of software. Regression testing is an important part of our software release process, but it’s also lengthy and laborious. The Avionté codebase – the collection of text files that define how our software works – is comprised of over three million lines of code, spanning multiple programs for Windows and the Web, with portions written in nearly a dozen different programming languages and syntaxes. Utilizing automated regression testing, we’ll be able to make the monumental task of testing more efficient.

With programming on the automated testing system complete, I eventually turned my focus to training my fellow developers on its use. I was apprehensive at first. Not all developers I’ve worked with in the past would have tolerated being taught things by the new guy – but I needn’t have been. Like everyone at Avionté, my teammates in development are all amazingly kind and patient. They were eager to learn and supported my training efforts 100%. I’m really grateful to all of them for making me feel welcome.

In addition to building out the automated testing system, during my first few months I was also contributing enhancements, bug fixes, and testing for Avionté’s 12.2 release. This gave me the opportunity to dig into those three million lines of code and start building a rapport, which was a relief because getting to a point of proficiency in a new codebase is typically a long road to walk. The only way to really get there is to put in your time and work at it.

Version 12.2 was ultimately released in December of 2012. Since then, we’ve settled into the day-to-day development process for version 13.1. To accompany that, we developers in the U.S. office recently reorganized into a single, cross-functional team, which I’m very excited about. While I find programming itself very rewarding, nothing quite matches the thrill of being part of a focused and productive team. It’s this team aspect of development that gives me my enthusiasm for the profession and I’m grateful to find it once again. I can’t wait to share the results with all the users of Avionté.

So now my first months at Avionté are coming to a close. The new job excitement is fading as I settle into my role, but it’s replaced by an eagerness to build great software, and contentedness at being part of the Avionté family; it’s a family-like culture that landed us on Star Tribune’s Top Workplaces list. I learned a lot in 2012, though I have a lot more to go, and I was able to work with a lot of great people. I’ve never worked with such a friendly, hard-working group of people. I look forward to making Avionté better every day, and I can’t wait to see what adventures 2013 has in store.

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