Featured Fíontan: Meet Elliott Mina

Elliott Mina somewhere in the wilds of New Mexico
Elliott Mina somewhere in the wilds of New Mexico

You’ve been with Fíonta for 3.5 years. How has your role changed since you first started?

I feel like my role at Fíonta has been in constant flux, mostly in response to our evolving processes and priorities. When I started, my focus was on development within the web practice and I’m now Director of Salesforce Development. I’ve worked on both web and Salesforce practices, and, for a time, managed the developers for both sides of the business. 

My background is in custom application development—that has been the main constant. While we at Fíonta strive for out-of-the-box solutions, sometimes the responsible answer is to build something bespoke. I am involved in most custom development projects and oversee the group with the most demanding requirements.

These days I get to spend a great deal of time hands-on, working with a great team. I still advise and support both Salesforce and web practices. 

Are there one or two projects that you’ve been a part of here at Fíonta stand out as particularly meaningful to you? Why?

My favorite project is the Electronically Listed Immigration Information (ELII) system we built with Mobile Pathways to help immigrants and asylum seekers navigate the immigration process. Mobile Pathways is helping a segment of the population who are largely ignored within an antagonistic system and are, very often, in real physical danger. This project will save lives and compensate for ineffectual and outdated government processes and technology.

Besides the humanitarian aspects, the ELII system is one of the most interesting technical projects I have worked on. We built software to call the government phone system, navigate the phone trees, and parse vital data out of the audio recordings. We literally have robots calling robots.

My second favorite project is the eXchange system for the Federal Depository Library Program. I know most folks won’t get excited by library software, but this truly is an interesting project (Editor’s note: Uh, we’re a tech company with a Slack channel about books, so we’re excited!). This system automates the exchange of library materials across the country, which was formally a completely manual process, involving lots and lots of spreadsheets.

What excited me was our approach. While many of the project’s needs were addressable with off-the-shelf systems, the main domain needed to be truly custom. We partitioned the responsibilities, allowing us to meld a content management system (CMS) with a custom application layer. What this means is that each system is responsible for only what it does best and there were no compromises on either side.

What’s the “Mina Special Sauce”?

My time is usually in high demand, most of which I attribute to experience. I have been writing software professionally for 20 years, but more important than the number of years are the experiences I’ve had. You don’t grow if you are complacent.  You must set aside discomfort and fear. Do what scares you. Volunteer for the firefight, instead of hoping you get overlooked. I have a wealth of experience, much of which was earned on very crappy days. (Editor’s note: Can we make this statement into a bumper sticker?)

Which Fíonta core values resound the most to you?

For me, it is always “Do what’s right even when hard”. Fíonta is the most ethical company I have known. At times it can be really tough, but the reward is that we always do right by our clients and our peers.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Software, games, woodworking and sailing and I like it best when they intersect. I have dreams of writing super low wattage sailing software and a gaming table with integrated electronics.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee.  I grew up in Seattle, and it was literally forced upon me at a young age.

Dogs or cats?

If I was forced to pick, it would be dogs.

Board games or video games?

Board games, but just because they always involve other people.

Beaches or mountains?

Mountains, definitely.  Beaches are full of people; mountains are full of trees.

Favorite nut butter?

I eat peanut butter twice a year, and that’s about all the nut butter I can stand.