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The Twelve Developers of Christmas: Kevin kj Woolley, Swan Whisperer
by Isabelle Groc

Isabelle Groc, December 18, 2012

This month, we celebrate twelve Stackato ActiveState developers who share thoughts about the product, little known facts about them, and what they want for Christmas.

Kevin “kj” Woolley, Systems Administrator, joined ActiveState on the day of Halloween in 2005. Born in London, Ontario, he grew up in North Vancouver, and spent several years in the Northwest Territories doing technical sales. As Active State’s technical infrastructure specialist, kj is a multi-tasker. He helped with the early Stackato system configuration, and now defines himself as the internal Stackato customer, or the “loyal opposition,” as he is always ready to offer developers suggestions to improve Stackato and make it easier to use.

A talented wildlife photographer, kj enjoys photographing all sorts of creatures, big and small. He loves waterfowl, and inspires us with a beautiful photograph of a swan swimming on the Seventh Day of Christmas.

How did you become a developer?

I started programming when I was eight or nine years old. My dad had a computer science degree that he never used, and he had computer textbooks that I would read. According to my mother, I wouldn’t play with toys when I was a baby unless there were buttons I could push. When I was five, all I wanted for my birthday was a calculator, and nobody could figure out why, including me.

What was the first computer you owned?

A Commodore 64, in the late 80s. I was figuring out how it worked and how to make it do the things I wanted it to do. I have always been a control freak with machines (but not people).

Favourite programming language(s)?

Somewhere between C and Perl. These are the two languages I am the most familiar with, and that I have worked with the longest. C and Perl are both good languages for different things, and what I do tends to be somewhere in the middle of what they are good at.

Do you have a developer nickname?

I am usually known as kjwcode. My mother started calling me kj when I was born, and when I created my gmail email account, it told me that kjw didn’t have enough letters so I just added what I was just doing at the time: coding!

What gets you excited about Stackato?

Stackato presents a new and more efficient way of doing things. It allows developers to get the services they want, self-serve, and it allows me to focus on maintaining the infrastructure that supports Stackato rather than crossing paths with developers.

What do you think this product will look like in five years?

On the surface, it may not be too different, but the internals will advance a lot in that time frame.

What do people don’t know about you?

I tend to live as an open book, so what you see is what you get.

What do you do when you are not developing?

I am interested in photography and microscopy. I have a biological microscope at home, and a camera that works with it. It’s like having a 2000 x lens. I mostly photograph freshwater invertebrates. I go down to Ambleside Park in West Vancouver, and I take samples from the man-made lagoon for birds there. There are loads of small single-cell and multi-cell organisms such as vorticella and diatoms, and I find it interesting to view them through the microscope and record their behaviours.

When I got a microscope, I knew I wanted to see living things, and they were the easiest to get my hands on. I could just get to a pond or a stream and grab a couple of underwater plants, and I would have dozens or hundreds of these things to look at. I got into it because I wanted to explore biology.

I also used to shoot waterfowl at Burnaby Lake, Reifel Bird Sanctuary, and Stanley Park. I picked up a camera when I was six or seven.

What do you listen to while you're working?

My work music playlist currently includes Antrabata, Bloodwire, Cinephile, Delerium, Econoline Crush, the Faint, Giorgio Moroder, Hooverphonic, the Indigo Girls, Julie Fowlis, Kirsty Hawkshaw, La Plebe, Massive Attack, New Order, Opgave, Rise Against, She Wants Revenge, Tori Amos, the Vitamin String Quartet, Wide Mouth Mason, and more.

What you want for Christmas?

I have asked for the Leatherman Surge multi-tool. It is a tool for people like me who spend a lot of time working with various equipment.

Swan photo by kj Woolley

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Isabelle joined ActiveState as a Technical Editor after several years as a freelance journalist, editor, and photographer, and has contributed to a variety of media outlets including PC Magazine, Canadian Geographic, Discover, Canadian Wildlife, Georgia Straight, and Scientific American.