Welcome to “Talk with a Titan” — our Q&A series devoted to highlighting the work and expertise of some of the most prolific members of our Axway Appcelerator community.
For this inaugural installment, we caught up with longtime Titan (and friend) Adam Armstrong. As the Manager of Mobile Technology at AmWINS Group, Adam is a one-man army when it
comes to delivering incredible, cross-platform mobile experiences for both employees and customers alike. On top of that, he also does freelance work for Implicitli — and still somehow finds the time to play and coach ice hockey.
Adam sat down to enlighten us on making the jump to full-time mobile dev, explain what he loves about the Ti Slack group, and discuss his nearly decade of experience using Titanium. Here’s a transcript (lightly-edited) of our conversation:
The last time we spoke you were a one-man shop managing mobile for AmWINS Specialty Auto. So, what are you up to these days?
ADAM: Yes, still doing the one-man band thing! For AmWINS, I’m still doing all the native mobile app design and development — using Titanium, of course. I’m also doing some freelance work in my spare time for Implicitli.
Oh really, what’s Implicitli?
ADAM: Implicitli is a freelance company that I own and spend time building apps for either customers or just myself. So, I’m running full steam with both that and AmWINS right now. Wearing all these hats definitely keeps me busy.
How do you have time for all that?
ADAM: Sometimes I work on it while watching my daughter practice at the hockey rink (laughs). But now I’m coaching her team too, so that’s not even an option anymore. I’ve played ice hockey my whole life (in college and he still plays some goalie today) and now she’s on a competitive travel team, so I’m on the ice with her a lot, which is wonderful. That leaves me maybe an hour or two each night for Implicitli, but it’s mostly weekends now.
So, what projects are you most excited about right now?
ADAM: We’ve talked about internal AmWINS DASH app before. Well, I’ve gone back in and introduced some AI and machine learning to introduce optimized routes for our marketing reps to visit field agents. The new features take into account factors like who they should visit, the fastest route, store hours, avoiding tolls, and more in order to maximize their efficiency.
We also made updates to the AmWINS Auto Policyholder app since the last time we chatted. Previously, if someone had a claim, we had to dispatch someone to physically go there and take photos. Instead, now, we’ve added a feature so users can take and share the photos themselves right through the app.
It adds a ton of convenience and reduces the wait time for claims from days or weeks to mere minutes. Not to mention, it saves AmWINS money and time. So, everybody wins (laughs).
Those apps have been out for a while right, like three years? That’s pretty old in the fast-moving app world. How do you maintain them?
ADAM: When new versions of iOS or Android are set to come out, I’m already testing betas to see how things work long before they release. Also, when new Titanium SDKs roll out, I’m on that or just one version back.
With Titanium it’s easy, I don’t have to wait to upgrade or fall two, three, or four versions behind. It’s simpler to adopt the new version and make small adjustments, rather than wait and make sweeping changes. That’s when it can get difficult to figure out what’s breaking.
You’re no stranger to cross-platform development. Are you still building only cross-platform apps today and has it evolved over the years?
ADAM: Yep! There’s not a single app I’ve built that’s not cross-platform.
Do you have any tips for our audience who are just getting started developing cross-platform apps with Titanium?
ADAM: The most important thing I’ve learned over the years is that when you’re developing for multiple platforms, you need to test often — especially early-on. If you build, deploy, and test often across platforms (not just your OS of choice), you’ll save yourself a lot of work in the long run. Otherwise, if you wait for months and months, then you’re going to have a huge backlog of things to fix.
It’s so much easier to do now, too. Titanium has matured so much since I started using it in 2010 as the differences between mobile OS have also become more minimal.
Wow, so you’ve been doing this for a long time…how did you get started with mobile development?
ADAM: The first 10 years of my professional career were in infrastructure — think virtualization and data center management. Back in 2008 though, I camped out overnight to get the very first iPhone and knew right then I wanted to get into app development.
What other advice do you have for developers?
ADAM: Build fast and fix fast. Figure out your top features and get the app out in front of users so that you can get feedback. You don’t want to work for months and then find that you’ve missed the mark. Small, fast iterations that rely on user engagement are much better.
My other key advice (especially today) is to only call for data as you need it. That’s been a major oversight over the years around mobile development, and it’s time that we embrace better practices around that.
How has the Axway Appcelerator community helped over the years?
ADAM: The Titanium Slack group has been awesome and has really grown over the past few years. As the lone developer at my company, I can feel a bit siloed sometimes. So, it’s been great to have this community of +2,000 developers where I can bounce my ideas, ask questions, and also help others with my perspective.
Oh yeah, we’ve even heard that you’re great friends with our Developer Evangelist Brenton House?
ADAM: Yeah! We met at a Titanium meetup in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area and hit it off. It’s been great to have someone in the area to share ideas with. We only live an hour away from each other, so we actually just grabbed lunch together the other day. Now he works for you guys, so it’s like I have an insider (laughs).
Adam, it was so great to catch up again and get some mobile development insights. Congrats on being the first Titan featured for this series!
ADAM: Yes, anytime. Thanks so much for having me and I look forward to hearing what the other Titans have to say!
What to hear more from Adam? You can follow him on Twitter @adamtarmstrong
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