Our official, full-blown, kick-butt, slow-walking Director of Technology

Marty in Pixo’s Hall of Justice.

It’s Wednesday afternoon at Pixo, and the Hall of Justice is getting restless. The #happy-hour Slack channel starts to light up as 4:45 ticks closer. Finally, it appears:

It’s 4:45, and Marty, our recently appointed Director of Technology, has deemed it time for “a Marty.”

To properly enact a Marty:

  • Walk across the street to Crane Alley.
  • Order one beer.
  • Pay for the beer.
  • Drink the beer.

The Marty is a cherished ritual at Pixo, but it was borne from necessity. Marty Kane likes beer, and the camaraderie of happy hour, but he can’t languish with a mug of suds all evening — he only has a few minutes before his wife Melody will be picking him up with their 3-year-old twins, Alison and Tommy, in tow.

Marty’s top 3 summertime beers

  1. Bell’s Oberon (brewed near his alma mater, Hope College)
  2. Southern Tier Hop Sun
  3. Stiegl Radler Grapefruit

“I lent a hand wherever I was needed for about a year, and then all of a sudden, I was DoT.”

Marty’s top 3 technology interests

  1. Test-driven development (TDD)
  2. Functional programming
  3. JavaScript

Marty started working at Pixo as a senior software designer a little over three years ago — in fact, he can measure his time here alongside the birth of his kids. About two weeks into his time at Pixo, Ali and Tommy were born, and he took advantage of his paternity leave.

For his first couple of years at Pixo, Marty worked mainly on big business apps, where he learned the strengths of designing reusable patterns. “There are a lot of problems to solve in business apps,” he says. “I like being able to apply good engineering and come up with a pattern that makes the rest of the project easier.”

He remembers the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois, or CARLI, project as one of his favorites: “A lot of projects hit a crest and then go downhill in terms of velocity. The code is harder to work with, everything starts taking longer, people get scared to change things. But on CARLI, when we climbed the big hill, it turned into more of a plateau.”

The UIUC CARLI site.

The CARLI project involved building three complicated business apps for internal use. By the time the development team had built the first two, Marty was able to build the third in a week.

“We had the parts on the shelf, and we were able to put them together. I really appreciated what it means to build a good framework and then take advantage of it. On smaller projects, you don’t get that.”

“I do have way too many hobbies. That is the reality of being Marty.”

Outside of Pixo, Marty leads a life rich with hobbies such as playing board games, making knives (yes, you read that right 🔪), painting miniatures, brewing beer, making cheese, cooking dinner for his family, and messing around with electronics with platforms like Arduino.

Marty’s top 3 games

  1. Race for the Galaxy
  2. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
  3. Any game that has plastic miniatures

“I think I picked up my slow walking in central America.”

A few weeks ago, everyone at Pixo got an email from Lori announcing Marty as our Director of Technology:

It is my IMMENSE pleasure to announce that Marty Slow Walking Kane is our official, full-blown, kick-butt Director of Technology.

The “Slow Walking” part isn’t just a curiously specific nickname, it’s a precise descriptor. Looking for Marty throughout Pixo’s office space is a lot like watching a river flow. Just wait, and he’s sure to amble through.

“I think I picked up my slow walking in central America,” Marty says. He and Melody lived in Honduras for four years after college, where he worked as a teacher and web programmer at the International School of Tegucigalpa. “The culture isn’t time oriented — it’s people oriented. People aren’t concerned with punctuality. The lesson I learned was ‘Stop and take it easy. There’s no such thing as ‘late.’”

“I want us to keep raising the bar.”

Marty’s laid-back worldview reflects his personality and adds a soothing air to what could otherwise be a frantic pursuit: leading technology and development at a busy agency like Pixo. But as unruffled as his presence is, his sense of direction is clear:

“I want us to keep establishing clean code standards and good engineering practices,” he says. “We’re doing awesome at that. I want us to keep building reusable stuff. We don’t have to reinvent what we don’t need to.”

The key, he thinks, is striking a balance between single-mindedly pursuing bleeding-edge technologies and stagnating in only doing one thing. “Neither is quite right for Pixo, and we’ve bounced between the two in the past. I want us to be dialing in the middle. To get really efficient at doing some things over and over again, but not just resting on those things.”

Slow-walking, maybe. But never resting.

Photo by UX designer Allie Ofisher.

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