A Quickfire Chat with Jesse Johnson (MEST ‘15)
Jesse Johnson is a senior software engineer with a wealth of experience in the tech industry. He graduated from the MEST Class of 2015 where he co-founded church management app, Asoriba. He is passionate about building great software products that make users happy. From co-founding Asoriba to making significant contributions at Invoice2go/Bill.com, Jesse’s journey is a testament to resilience, ambition, and constant evolution.
In this quickfire chat, Jesse shares his insights on the most important skills for developers, how tech teams can be more efficient, the exciting future of generative AI, and his insightful perspectives on software development’s future in Africa. He also reflects on his time at MEST Africa and the lessons he learned that still apply to his work today.
MEST: What’s the most important skill for a software developer to have and why?
Jesse: As Falk Benke, a technology fellow from my days at MEST Africa, put it (in our first lesson): “Read and follow instructions”. Most of the life of a software engineer is spent reading and understanding documentation, specifications, existing code, and more. It goes without saying that doing this well makes a better developer. Debugging is another valuable skill closely related to the other half of Falk’s advice, and it plays an important role in building the capacity to understand (and improve) working systems.
MEST: Share three things tech teams can do to be more efficient in delivering quality products.
Jesse: I believe efficiency is more likely when teams are ruthless with what they focus on. If the focus is on delivering quality products — as it should be — there are a few things I think are really important to keep on top of a tech team’s mind: first is to respect the user. This point is more easily felt that stated. High-quality software products excel at not only doing what the marketing claims. They make their users happy. They don’t frustrate them. Discerning users can tell when a lot of thought was put into making a product.
Another thing tech teams need to be mindful of is their own dev experience. Frustrations during development make it harder to build great software. Investing in the best tools, keeping up-to-date with industry conventions, and “always moving forward” will play a crucial role in making the experience of building and shipping good software great.
One final thing is to close the loop by incorporating feedback into the engineering process early and using it often. Everything from scrum ceremonies to analytics and app monitoring should inform the team on how well it’s doing the most important thing. This may seem obvious, but it can be surprising how much is overlooked when teams are not intentional about feedback.
MEST: What’s one thing you’re excited about in the world of software development right now?
Jesse: Generative AI, of course! Software development tools keep getting sophisticated, empowering teams to work on even more ambitious projects. Generative AI tools such as intelligent coding assistants take this up a notch by allowing developers to work on a slightly higher level. That alone opens up more opportunities to make amazing things. It has a lot of potential to change dev x.
MEST: What’s your opinion on the future of software development in Africa?
Jesse: Africa’s young population pretty much guarantees a progressive technology culture, and the folks that build software will be an important part of the near future. Our unique development path also allows us the opportunity to learn from the experiences of other countries even as we blaze our own trail on the continent and set new standards for the rest of the world to consider.
MEST: What skill or lesson has stayed with you since your days at MEST?
Jesse: My time at MEST and in the Incubator with Asoriba taught me several ways to build resilience and focus on getting stuff done. It’s hard to pinpoint one skill or lesson, but the environment of great opportunity, ambition, brilliance, and searching for success in a challenging market contributed a lot to shaping who I am today.
Jesse Johnson, an accomplished senior software engineer, has forged a remarkable career path. As a co-founder and mobile engineering lead at Asoriba, he spearheaded streamlined product releases and established the company’s QA team. With a successful tenure at an audiobook startup, he later contributed to a greenfield project at Invoice2go/Bill.com, enhancing front-end monitoring. Jesse’s extensive experience has honed his expertise in engineering culture, product design, development, and efficient team delivery. Jesse also volunteers as a technical consultant under the MEST Alumni SAGE program where he supports and advises MEST alumni, companies, and Entrepreneurs-in-Training.