From Construction to Tech: Q&A with Gabe Ortega

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FieldLens has come a long way since it first started, and few people know that journey as well as FieldLens Senior iOS Engineer Gabe Ortega. We talked with Gabe about his background in industrial plumbing, how things have changed in the company, and what excites him about the future.

How did your years in construction prepare you to work at FieldLens?

I think it definitely helped. I was able to understand Doug and Julian [our CEO Doug Chambers and VP-Product Julian Clayton] more. My limited experience in tech, people tended to be passive-aggressive, and in construction they tend to be aggressive-aggressive. When people want you to do something in construction, it’s very direct, and if you don’t do it right they’ll just do it for you. And that’s embarrassing. It prepared me to work with the guys here. They don’t want something half done. They want it finished and working.

Were you always tech savvy?

Yeah I think so. Maybe that’s not the word, but I tended to think even when I was doing construction or other jobs of how to do things optimally. If I had to do repetitive tasks I would think step-by-step. When you’re putting in fittings that the stove is supposed to connect to, there’s an elbow, a valve, a plug that you’re gonna take out later. When you’re doing floors of apartments you might do 20 to 40 of these things. You need a set of tools, pipe dope. I’d do a couple and find a way to make an assembly for myself and minimize idle time. I tend to think that’s applied a lot in trying to develop algorithms or do things in the app as efficiently as possible.

Was the opportunity immediately obvious when you first heard the idea for FieldLens?

It was really small when I got here. The iOS app was started and being worked on. They brought me on to take it over. The years I spent in construction, smartphones were just starting. I had predecessors of the iPhone with touch screens and games, etc., so it made sense to me. When I was applying for other jobs, everyone said the same thing: “We’re looking for someone with more experience.” At that point, I was kind of a novice. But I met the Android developer and gave him my resume. I went on the interview not knowing too much about it — the website wasn’t really ready, so there wasn’t much I could research. The last person I met on the interview was Doug. I told him that even though construction was hard work, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I was able to learn a work ethic there that I’ve brought to every job since and I think it’s served me well.

How has the company changed over the years, and what has stayed the same?

We’re definitely bigger. No more flying by the seat of our pants like we did at the very beginning. We’re still trying to figure out how to work together most effectively — and we’re making a lot of progress there. What’s stayed the same? I feel the same urgency to deliver that I did when I first started here. But the urgency is different now. In the beginning I had a lot of things to figure out. Now I know I can do those things, but the tasks are more ambitious and wider in scope.

What excites you most about the way the company is innovating now?

I really like the idea of what we can do with visualization as we start to collect data. There will be interesting data to show to industry professionals. We’ll be able to let them see projects in new ways — where are the biggest slowdowns, the biggest hotspots, etc. We can present it to them in a way that it’s obvious.

Liked this post? Check out: FieldLens iOS developer Tony Hung on Apple’s new products.