It’s been a busy last few days to say the least. Dreamforce, the world’s largest technology conference starts in less than a week and I’ve been in a race against time to be ready for my speaking engagements, plan for meetings, ensure I stay on track with my projects, and that I complete my topcoder challenges and reviews on time.
However, the one thing that’s been at the back of my mind has been a gentleman (in every sense of the word) named Jeff Douglas. My love for programming contests and hackathons is second to none and when you meet a person whose punchline is “My life is a hackathon” – I guess it just sticks in your memory for good.
For those unaware, Jeff played an instrumental role in building the topcoder (the erstwhile CloudSpokes) platform and he’s been one of the most visible faces in the community over the years. From launching the Rolling Thunder series, to building CloudSpokes via the community, to introducing Swift and Go languages, Jeff was always in the thick of things at topcoder. Since Jeff has departed from topcoder to pursue his dream job and join Salesforce as a ‘Trailhead Developer Advocate’, I thought it would be most appropriate to look back at some of the wonderful memories and times spent together and reflect upon his contributions from a community member’s perspective.
I first learnt about Jeff when I bumped into his blog looking for a solution to a Salesforce developer problem. It was no surprise that he was recognized as a Force.com MVP as he was one of the most respected developers in the Salesforce ecosystem. I then had the good fortune of meeting him in person at Dreamforce 2012 – where I was a first time speaker.
And to put things in perspective, Jeff was presenting as many as six sessions at Dreamforce that year. I managed to attend three of them and was left cursing myself for missing the other three. Nonetheless, it was good to finally associate a face to the name and our interactions got better and longer in the years to come.
CloudSpokes – The Beginning!
While I admired Jeff for his knowledge and contributions to the Salesforce community, my first serious interaction with him was when I started competing on CloudSpokes (now topcoder) – a crowdsourcing platform built by Appirio to drive predominantly Salesforce challenges.
At that time, Jeff (along with Dave) was running a ‘Rolling Thunder’ series of challenges to build out a mobile web version of the site. Since mobile is my forte and I managed to knock a few of those challenges, I had the good fortune of interacting personally with Jeff.
It was no surprise that Jeff had the answers to most technical problems and more importantly, he was always willing to go the extra mile to help contestants on his challenges to help them learn new things or solve complex problems.
This was the time when Apple introduced the Swift programming language and iOS developers all over the world were scratching their heads on how to ramp up on this new beast. Led by Jeff, topcoder launched the ‘Learn Swift’ series of challenges aimed at grooming developers on all aspects of Swift and covering basic, intermediate and advanced concepts of the programming language.
I worked with Jeff as a reviewer on these challenges and it laid the foundation for my knowledge of Swift and helped me improve my skills.
[TopCoder] – The Top Coder!
From Salesforce Lightning to Heroku to React.js, Jeff’s posts on the topcoder blog were always a fantastic read. He was the public face behind popular initiatives like Scavenger Hunt, the Cloud API mashathon and many more.
I last met him at the TCO14 finals where he literally dragged me to the cameras for a video shoot for the Cloud API mashathon.
All in all, he is somebody with a mastery of multiple technologies and the best part – he knows how to help other developers to step up and learn those – these I believe made him the perfect candidate for an evangelist for Salesforce Trailhead.
Of course, Trailhead is a revolution in itself so no surprise that it needs revolutionaries like Jeff! Given that I’m passionate about Trailhead myself as a community evangelist (read this, this and this), I am looking forward to interacting with Jeff in his new role.
I do want to take this opportunity though, on behalf of topcoder (and especially the erstwhile CloudSpokes community) to thank Jeff for his contributions. Good luck in your new role!