ITA Spotlight: Joe Tobolski, CTO, Nerdery
Monday, November 11, 2019
Posted by: Gary Hotze
Joe Tobolski, Chief Technology Officer, Nerdery, @jftobolski
Nerdery’s CTO, Joe Tobolski joined the company in April, bringing more than 25 years of deep technical experience in Agile, DevOps and other innovative technologies across numerous industries to the position. He serves as Nerdery’s senior-most voice for leading-edge technology strategy and works with senior leadership to define and drive new capabilities as well as mentor the next generation of technology talent. We’re excited to introduce Joe to Chicago in this new role!
Chicagoan by birth or relocation?
I was born in the southwest suburbs (Oak Lawn — the K streets rock!) and have lived in the Chicago area my whole life, with breaks for college and international assignments.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
I’ve had so many mentors throughout my career it’s hard to pick out just one. I like to think many of the senior folks in my early days at Andersen Consulting had a huge impact.
What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?
“Worry about the careers of the people who work for you, and yours will sort itself.”
What other roles have you held in the industry?
How did they lead you to where you are now? I’ve been in all sorts of roles: developer, architect, innovation lead, practice lead. I feel like a good exposure to many technologies and industries has helped me in my path to now.
What have been some of your favorite medias (books, podcasts, movie/ documentary, tv show) of the last six months and why?
I like all of Randall Munroe’s stuff (XKCD, “How To”, “What If” and others). I’m a regular reader of Ars Technica and Technology Review. And while this is out of the time period specified, “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. As a side note, look up the Unicode/ASCII for “*”
What about Nerdery was appealing?
I like being around interesting, smart, passionate people, and Nerdery has some of the best I’ve ever encountered. I like learning something new every day.
Excluding your phone, what kind of technology could you not live without?
This is a tough one. I think it’d be a tie between my Fujitsu scanner>Evernote setup (I truly hate paper) and my Anova Sous Vide. I can never go back to standard grilled chicken again.
What’s your outlook on the local tech industry?
We’re certainly in boom times. It’s a hot market, new technologies and approaches are coming out all the time, and at least from where I sit here in the West Loop, it’s a time of hyper growth. However, having lived through the dot.com boom and bust and a couple recessions, I know that things are cyclic. I think we have a robust community in tech, and will continue to be so.
If money was no object, what would your dream job be?
I would build houses, with an emphasis on energy efficiency.
What risks or issues do you foresee in your industry’s near future?
Like many, I feel the crunch of trying to find and retain top talent. I worry a lot about hidden vulnerabilities in the core code that powers our daily lives. I also worry about over-specialization in our technologists; it’s so easy to build incredible things these days, but the amount of abstraction we have in tech stacks means that you can these incredible things without a lot of appreciation for all the tough engineering that came before.
Where do you live in the city and why? What are your favorite restaurants, bars and places to go and why? Your favorite architectural landmark and why?
Like many in my demographic, I have moved to the suburbs for the schools — I live in the Hinsdale area. I really enjoy Asian food, so my favorites include sushi, ramen, Thai and Indian foods. From a landmark perspective, it’s got to be the Sears Tower. It’s central in my field of vision every time I look to the east.