AppForce1: news and info for iOS app developers

Shane Zilinskas, president of ClearSummit

June 30, 2022 Jeroen Leenarts
AppForce1: news and info for iOS app developers
Shane Zilinskas, president of ClearSummit
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Shane owns and runs ClearSummit an agency with a clear focus on React and ReactNative development.He started in aviation and got into iOS on his own time. Learn how teaching himself iOS development ended him up owning a business.

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Jeroen Leenarts:

Hey, everybody, welcome to another special edition of my podcast app Force One. I'm sitting here with Shane Zilinskas, he helped me train that name a few times, because it's a Lithuanian name he shared with me. He's not from Lithuania himself. He's from the United States. And he actually owns a nice company there, which we'll talk about a little bit. But we're also going to talk about his backstory and how he got to the position that he is in right now, because he was initially an iOS developer. But he progressed onwards from that significantly. So let's see what happens and where we end up with Shane. So Shane, welcome. Hi. How are you doing today?

Shane Zilinskas:

Thank you cannot complain. It's almost July 4, and we got a long weekend. Some excited.

Jeroen Leenarts:

July 4 is kind of a thing in the US, right?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, we don't have many holidays. So we've seen every one we get.

Jeroen Leenarts:

So what is your July 4 going to be? Like? Are you gonna like grill everything? Or is it like driving around the truck with with a flag on it? Or what? What is it like where you're where you're at?

Shane Zilinskas:

Well, there's gonna be plenty of people driving around in trucks where I'm at, because I'm in Nashville at the moment. But for us, we have like a bunch of family from different sides coming in town. So getting all the kids together and letting them play. And we're going to give up my daughter half birthday party, because hers usually gets bottled in with Christmas. So it's going to be a fun weekend.

Jeroen Leenarts:

That gets a lot of kids love party, right? Oh, yeah. But you already shared a few interesting bits of information that you live in, in Nashville or near Nashville, you mentioned your family, man, we already know that you own a business as well. So where should we start?

Shane Zilinskas:

I think it might be interesting to just hear how I got to owning an agency and the journey from that. So I went to school for software engineering. And very quickly after that I was working with like Lockheed Martin Building flight aviation systems, radar control systems to track incoming and outgoing flights, from control towers. I realized very quickly that I did not like government work. And in my downtime, I taught myself iOS programming, and Python, back end programming. So shortly after that, I, I changed jobs and found an agency and was working with them for a while and building iOS, building iOS apps and building web applications and the like, did that for a few years, and then convince my wife to my now wife, girlfriend at the time to buy a one way ticket to Europe with me. So backpacking around Europe, people started asking me if I can do some work for them. iOS development, primarily. So it's just building iOS apps, freelance. Then we came back, the United States moved to Los Angeles. And the business just kind of grew from there, primarily focused on iOS development out of the gate.

Jeroen Leenarts:

So you mentioned quite a lot of things there. So let's unpack that a little bit. So what year did you graduate? 2010 2010. And then you started professionally in the job at Lockheed Martin, I think you said.

Shane Zilinskas:

So that. Yeah. I mean, it was kind of a weird structure. I was working with a company that's now owned by Airbus. And that was a contractor to Lockheed Martin. And

Jeroen Leenarts:

if you're drawing the lines, at some point, yes, you work at the office or the building. But it's also a bit of a fuzzy situation, how you actually legally get tied up to a company. But But was it like your choice to start in aviation as a software developer? Or was it something that was like serendipity?

Shane Zilinskas:

It wasn't necessarily my choice to start in aviation. What I liked about it is that we were, we're solving complex problems, that at the end of the day, we're helping people. That's what drew me to it, really.

Jeroen Leenarts:

So and was like, working at like one of these big government jobs was that like something that you plan for when you started? Your, your education because you graduated in 2010. But you must have had, like, a plan when you when you started your education, right?

Shane Zilinskas:

I always love software development. I mean, I was, I was programming back when I was in late middle school, early high school. So I always knew I wanted to be to build software. I just didn't know the actual application. You know, I didn't know if it would be something government that wasn't really necessarily a draw until until I talked to a recruiter. And then, and I liked the opportunity of what we're building is pretty interesting. Yeah, so it wasn't it wasn't a clear trajectory on like, which field and I think, you know, that shows up a little bit in our agency as well. Like we're pretty agnostic. We're just, we're just really strong at what we do. And so we can move between fields quite fluidly. So it wasn't necessarily the field of aviation or government work. If you'd asked me if I'd want to do government work in high school or college Probably would have said no. But the opportunity was interesting.

Jeroen Leenarts:

So I took it. So you mentioned that like, at a reasonably young age you you got some interest in software development was that like, by your own discovery, or did someone or some Institute introduce you to computers and like programming.

Shane Zilinskas:

It was partially my own discovery, just, you know, hacking around with webpages, trying to figure out how they work and things like that. My father also bought me when I was pretty young, some of those Lego Mindstorms robots, and you could customize them. So you know, having them run around the house, run away from light and chase people and stuff like that. So that really sparked my interest. And then in my high school, they were offering AP computer science courses. So I took those as well. So it's kind of fluid journey between them. Yeah. Because

Jeroen Leenarts:

then and then in high school, that really affirmed to you that that might be a direction you might want to take with your studies to end up as a software developer initially. So but you mentioned that after Lockheed Martin, you you ended up at an agency. You did contracting work, and Juliet. And you learned iOS development, on your own, you mentioned? So what was the process of those two things? Let's start with the iOS development learning that itself, what when was that? What what version of iOS? Did you get started on?

Shane Zilinskas:

It would have been, I can't remember the exact version, it would have been about 2012. Or maybe 2011. So I think it would probably been five, I was five. At the time, I left out a step I did a short stint at a was a contractor at a company between Lockheed Martin and that agency where I came in and re architected their systems it was a media company is now in but Berkshire Hathaway, but they're on about five year old antiquated versions of Django. And so I went in, helped them organize the rewrite for that. But it was during that time, and some of the time while I was working with Lockheed Martin, that I really started jumping into iOS development and, and learning the nuances of it.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Yeah, yeah. Because being like, of course, you're not a self taught software developer. But finding your own way in a new API and a new platform without peers around you who can guide you a little bit? That must have been tough, right?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, it definitely is tough. And jumping into iOS development coming from, you know, more, like, I mean, I had the background and C and things like that. But when you're building web API's, it's a very different process and iOS development, and there's a lot of API's, and just even getting around Xcode, and like learning some of the nuances there and some of the points where it breaks and the answer at that point was to restart the computer. So it definitely was, but I, I've always enjoyed learning new languages, I feel like it makes me stronger than languages that I already know. And it shows me some interesting principles and patterns.

Jeroen Leenarts:

So do you have any favorite languages or languages that you have very fond memories of

Shane Zilinskas:

fond memories of I don't have fond memories of C, which is what we did all the systems for the FAA, and I really enjoy Python. I think it's incredibly versatile language, we use it for back end API's. So really enjoy that. And it's also easy to hack things together on a weekend, if you'd like to. I really enjoyed When Swift came out, as opposed to Objective C, I think that that made things a lot easier, and a lot more intuitive. And even cleaner and code structure. And right now I used to, I used to not like JavaScript and think all the JavaScript web libraries were poor. And, and, and kind of dependency hell in a way. But now, my favorite is probably node and react and React Native.

Jeroen Leenarts:

But it's some something changed in the JavaScript developer ecosystem in the past years that made it much like better and easier to comprehend. For you as a software developer.

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, I think if you look back, like 10 years ago, the front end frameworks you're using would be something like knockout or something like that, which, you know, it's we're trying to do state binding in ways that were intuitive. And it didn't really until react came out. There were a couple you know, you had Angular before that I'm not a huge fan of Angular reacts, put it in a way that you could structure the code in a way that was scalable, component based easily, like with their JSX in text, you can run test cases against it easily and abstract or HTML away from your component logic, which is really powerful so that you can separate the visualization layer from the the actual logic layer. So that was that was pretty much the main thing that drew us into React and then into React Native. I mean, you get the benefit of saying you can build an iOS and Android app at the same time. It's not, it's not exactly all that cost and time savings, but you do, you at least have the whole team in the same code base, which is helpful. So you can share logic, you don't end up drifting in the two components states. But one thing, a couple things that really did it for us there is we built a system where our, we take our back end API's on every test case, and we spit it out to the front end react native code, and which hydrates our model layer and hydrates our view layer. And then we have CI CD, doing visual regression snapshotting on it. So we get like 70% line coverage, just by not even really doing much. And we can also see if anything changed in parts of the application that we didn't want to. So that high code coverage along with TypeScript, which allowed us to statically type things, which were while we're using Flow, having that static type, typing, having that visual regression layer, and also having that high line coverage just allowed us to get incredible confidence really quickly. out the gate shipping stuff.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Okay, so that's your current agency, right, that you're all of a sudden are ended up on. So we'll, we'll dive into that a little bit more so because it's good stuff that you're talking about. But you were after the Lockheed Martin engagement, you were at the agency? And then you started on iOS development while you were at ATC? Or did you do it at like, before, that's already

Shane Zilinskas:

before? Yeah, in my downtime at Lockheed Martin and the other consulting job.

Jeroen Leenarts:

So it was actually the iOS development that you taught yourself, that enabled you to get started with this agency. And then you just did a lot of projects there. I guess. You progressed there as a as an individual and as professional, and you did a lot of fun projects. But then at some point, you must have thought while agency, I can do that myself, right? Because you otherwise you wouldn't have made the pitch to your girlfriend now wife to actually start one yourself, right?

Shane Zilinskas:

That sounds like a much better story. Sounds like a much, much more mature story than what actually happened. We

Jeroen Leenarts:

oh, I want to know.

Shane Zilinskas:

We said, we're here in Virginia, we'd like to be in California. We'd like to be in Los Angeles, probably maybe San Francisco. And we were talking pretty avidly about moving there. We're taking some interviews even. And then we kind of came to this crossroads where it was like, well, we're going to move across the country, we're going to pack everything up. Why don't we just go to Europe for as long as we can on our visas? Because when will we have that opportunity again? So we just kind of grabbed that opportunity. And so for the first couple of weeks, you know, we're exploring and stuff like that. Around that time, it kind of hit me like, okay, like, I know, we can do this, but it's kind of weird, not having a job or anything lined up. And right around that time, people started reaching out to me kind of serendipitously, they were like, Hey, can you help with this iOS project that we're building, etc.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Okay, so basically, you start with like, some contract work, and then that enables you to make sort of like a different choice in your career, you know, you have like, ongoing contracts. And then at some point, you've come to the point, I've got too many contracts, or if I want to take more contracts, I need someone to help me and that's when you as a solopreneur, all of a sudden switch into a business owner, I guess.

Shane Zilinskas:

It definitely wasn't all of a sudden, it just kind of slowly happened at to the point where it was like, Oh, we actually have a bunch of people working for us, I guess I'm I own and run a business. I'm not a developer anymore. So yeah, there's been a couple of realizations like that over time, which are kind of fun. And it's, you know, it's interesting, you just kind of start changing the way you refer to like what you do every day, and then what your job title is.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Yeah, because I imagined that elf sudden, you're like, you're receiving invoices from the people working for you, and you're sending out invoices. On the other hand, based on the work that these people did for you, all of a sudden is like, wait, wait a minute, I'm like taking a percentage of this results. So that's business in itself already. But But what's it like really? Was it like a point in time that it really was a decision with you and your partner? That it was like okay, we're going to start a business now we're going to like actually call it a business and call yourself yourself a business owner because do you like own company on your own? Or are there more people owning the company?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, so I fully own clear Summit. My wife helped me out in the beginning doing products. And she still does do some product work for us as well. I think the decision point came probably so We've been in business for eight years now. And the decision point probably came at about the three year mark, we had been working with a number of contractors at that point, and like you said, you know, they're sending us invoices, were invoicing, the client, etc. And we really decided to start hiring full time people to be on the team. So we could build a team culture, so we could really instill strong standards in what we do. And that come across in every product. So that was, you know, that was a decision point that I was probably a little resilient to, because it comes with all these other responsibilities, which at that point, I, you know, I was a developer, and I like developing and I'm with my team, and we're developing and now, you know, I'm saying, All right, now I'm going to be the person to make sure the p&l balances and everybody gets paid, and everybody's happy. And the clients are excited. And so it's, yeah, it was, it was probably about three years afterwards.

Jeroen Leenarts:

It's different, right? But would you say that the trip to Europe, not only in requiring or well, making you do some contract work, but in a sense, in essence, that that big leap that you took with your now wife, to go to Europe and to just be there and live day to day for a while? Was that like something that was altering in your perception of your life in the sense that just that it allows you to become a business owner or not?

Shane Zilinskas:

I think that if I had not done that, I would probably not own the business that I'm currently operating. Yeah. I think that space of you know, being able to field every opportunity that kind of came to me, allowed me to do it.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Okay. And you already mentioned the name of the company within clearly indicated yet. It's called Clear summat? Yeah. So what's the idea behind the business name then?

Shane Zilinskas:

So the idea I mean, it comes from a, it's kind of a hiking analogy, it's that the idea is that when you're hiking up a mountain, that the peak that you see is the peak that you will, that you're going to, rather than you hike up the mountain, and you realize, oh, no, I need to go down again, I need to hike up even more. So it's kind of like a straight line towards your goal. And that's, you know, in a lot of ways, when we tried to do we try to shift left, we try to, like get to the bottom of problems as soon as possible in the process. And by having product minded people. But honestly, that name came out because we were in Portugal hiking, and I knew I needed to create a company to invoice so my clients from so we're just kind of spitballing ideas as we were hiking. And I was like a clear Summit. Let's, I like that. I think it sounds good. Let's go with it.

Jeroen Leenarts:

And it happens to be available. Right? That's also quite an important thing, I guess. But then you have a business name, you slowly progressed from having contracts to your first full time paid employee. And you mentioned already that part of having a study team was to be able to instill a certain culture a certain level of of quality that you want to provide for your clients. So was it like the was more of a practical thing, or the goal to achieve a certain level of quality that allow that made you want to have your own team members that like, We're staffed within your company?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, so with the clients we work with, we work very agilely with our clients, we have Slack channels with them, they have access to the entire team that's on the project. And everybody's product minded. So multiple people will weigh in on questions or decisions that are being made, which I really appreciate about everybody who works here. And with contractors, it was difficult to accomplish that they have other work that they're working on. Right, they, you know, they may be doing it in the evenings and, and things like that. So the hours might not overlap. So we wanted to be able to produce a quality. I mean, our product is producing other people's products and software. And we wanted to be able to hold a very high standard with that so that we could, because we think what we bring to the table is that product knowledge is being able to de risk sooner and pivot even very quickly inside of sprints. As we're noticing something doesn't even feel right in the user experience. Like we thought it would drink design. And so we wanted a team that wanted to work in, in what's almost like a startup environment. Right. So that really pushed us towards hiring full time.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Okay, so and you mentioned agile, you mentioned already that most of the work that you guys are doing is is react and React Native. If I'm guessing right, then most of the backend work that you do is Django Python based I would think or Django rest maybe so But is it like a standard stack that you that you utilize for your clients? Is it like if a client approaches you, you're it's like, okay, if you work with us, you got to deal with this tech, or what's the worst idea there?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, we we're not, we're not going to shoehorn our technology in where it doesn't fit. Generally, for most of our clients, Python, Django is a is a great solution. For front end web. It, you have angular and react and a couple of other ones and kind of have your pick. As far as React Native. There are instances where we would recommend a client use native iOS or native Android. Depending on there's some nuances of React Native that you wouldn't want to build in React Native, if you're hitting those like high CPU usage and stuff like that. And you need to send stuff across the JavaScript bridge. So we Yeah, we're not going to shoehorn those in them in those technologies. However, with React Native, we do have the ability to drop out into native iOS and native Android coding. So if we have a certain isolated portion of the application that needs that, we can do that. So that's what we recommend. But again, we're not going to shoot we're in a technology where.

Jeroen Leenarts:

So imagine that you're at like a conference for like, iOS developers in the broadest sense of the word. And you're just like on the conference floor, just casually conversing with other fellow developers. And one of them asked you Hey, man, well, why should I get involved in in React Native? Well, what would you tell this person, then?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, I'll tell you why they should get involved in some of the things that like they won't get. So you get the you get the code usage across iOS and Android. If you have a back end team that's working in node, you also get the code, you can do code share in there. So we have, we have when we're building web apps and mobile apps, we have common model layers that are shared and installed between them. So we know we're always on a consistent version, that we're not deviating. I think the the visual regression testing that we were talking about being able to run that and CI CD and just get incredibly high line coverage out of the gate is great. React to solve a lot of the issues that they had in the early days, when we started using it. Like we had to drop into native iOS, because the input fields wouldn't get select correctly if you are updating. So a lot of the kinks have been worked out. There's it also does allow you to if you understand the React, syntax and everything like that, it allows you to build a web application pretty quickly. The only thing you're missing is, is CSS styling. But there's a number of libraries that make that easier for you now, so it also gets you quicker to market. I also, I think it can get you quicker to market depending on what you're building. Like there's some interesting tools out there like expo where you can deploy applications very quickly to people. And I also really like our over the air app updates, which is wonderful on for for day one issues. You know, when you launch a new product, and there's going to be some issue somewhere, we can update the JavaScript portion of that application over the air. So we don't have to go through the iOS app. Acceptance again.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Okay, yeah. Because I remember that Apple was quite adamantly against these JavaScript over the air updates a while back, but they're relaxed on that like a little bit now. Right?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, apples, apples guidelines change pretty fluidly. And they don't always tell you when they change. And they're a little bit cagey, if you call them and ask them to clarify them, which we've had to do for a couple of our clients, depending on what they're building. As far as the over the air updates. My current understanding of their stance on it is as long as it does not alter the primary functionality of the application, then you can you can do it.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Yeah. Like, if it's like a notetaking app, it shouldn't all of a sudden turn into like, a To Do app. Minor. Yeah, I wouldn't give people ideas like that. But but with a with a development that you're doing right now, how big is the company that you're working with?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, currently, we're 18 People

Jeroen Leenarts:

18 already? And that's, that's quite a lot. And is it like, remote work? Or is it like people on site or is the mix of that?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, that's a great question. So we, um, we started in 2014. And I was remote. So everybody working with me was remote. Around four years ago, we were in Los Angeles, and we had people in Los Angeles. So we we got an office. And then shortly after that COVID hit and so the office space were renting, we could no longer use that company. It was like we're not opening up again. And so we went back to fully To promote. So we'll take meetings in person with clients in like Los Angeles and in Nashville, and other cities. But we're, we're all remoted. At this point, we do see each other from time to time, but the day to day is fully remote.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Yeah. And but why did you end up in Nashville then? Is that? Because that's where you're from originally? Or what's the idea there?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah. So again, going back to COVID, we were in Los Angeles. We had just had our daughter, she was, she was born in January 2020. And everything shut down in March 2020. We were in a an apartment in a high rise building. And in LA, they were like, shouldn't even go into the halls, you can catch COVID This is going to be absolutely terrible. And like all the restaurants were shut down and, and public spaces, you couldn't even go to the beach, they shut down the beach, which forced everybody onto the side streets, which made it even worse in a number of ways. So my wife and I decided to go to Virginia for a little while, where our family's from, were there for a bit. And then for the last couple years, we've kind of bounced between Virginia and Nashville and LA, and withdrawl. In Nashville is we have family here. So it's, it's another place for us to have good roots.

Jeroen Leenarts:

So and like because of your your work, you have to have interaction with clients. And you mentioned that you have like in person meetings with them. I like occasionally, like flying to all ends of the United States, or is it more situated around Los Angeles and the Nashville area that you are find your clients?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, there's some we find our clients all across the United States. There's a there's a number of clients who we've, we've worked with completely virtually. And we don't go on site, and everything's done remotely. Number of the meetings, though, where we are interacting with clients are usually in Los Angeles.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Okay. So and if you look at you as an individual, like, your journey from like, a software developer, like with some with some side steps to different technologies, and then all of some business owners, is it something that you would recommend to anybody? Or is like, yeah, only do it, you should only do that, if you meet certain criteria as a person? Or what do you think in that regard?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, there's a lot to unpack in that. I wasn't clear that that was my journey, it just kind of unfolded in front of me. And part of that was because I like learning new things. And I like challenging myself. So I mean, you know, just deciding like, one day, I'm gonna learn iOS programming is an example of that. Okay, we have a business now let me learn how to run the p&l and, and financing and all those other things. So I would say it's unfolded well, but I, you know, I think that it's helpful to also be intentional about like, where you want to go, and how you want to get there. Because that's where you'll end up. I'm happy where, where we ended up. But it was an interesting journey along the way, I would say that, like one of the, so I started in development, and then I kind of branched out a little bit into design and products. And yet, and then that was part of being a business owner. The difference between being a business owner and, and a developer is what the when you're developing, you have this, you have this great opportunity to you can write test cases, and you can verify things work and you have something may break in production, but you get a, you get a century report of like what happened and like the edge case, and you could solve that and be confident it's not gonna happen again, as opposed to like shifting to a business owner, you're dealing much more in probabilities of what may occur, what future outcomes you think may happen if you do X, Y, and Z. So it's a very different kind of mindset. And I think a lot of that is just being able to balance a lot of different information. Being able to like Ryan Holliday has a lot of good books on like, the obstacle is the way and he has won on time management. And it's, there's never enough hours in the day, in a way, there's always another thing that you could do to progress something forward or, or something like that. So it's it's very, it's very different parts of the brain.

Jeroen Leenarts:

But what would you say is harder, like tackling an elusive production issue on a mobile device or running a business?

Shane Zilinskas:

Running a business? Yeah, because the production issue on a mobile device is fun. It's like you because at the end of it, you know, you can and should be able to solve that problem. And there'll be a state where, you know, you mark the ticket is done and you can like be happy about that. With running up Business like you make it to an end state, and it may be slightly different than what you thought or maybe a little open ended. So there's, it's, there's some satisfaction to being able to drag stuff to complete.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Yeah, that's that's the that's the dopamine trigger, right? Yep. Where's the dopamine trigger in owning a business then

Shane Zilinskas:

dopamine trigger and owning a business is one like working with our team and seeing our team grow. And it's working with people on the team to help them become even stronger developers or product owners or whatever their role is, and, and being involved in their growth. That's, that's really, that's very rewarding. And it, it's also with clients and being able to know a number of our clients come to us and they don't have, they're going from zero to one. They may be a product owner, or they may be like a head of innovation or something like that. And they don't have the means to accomplish that. And so being able to deliver that and being able to accomplish their goals for them and to be able to ship amazing products that the end users like. That's, that's the dopamine rush.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Okay, and a client, why should they come to clear summit with their problem and ask for you for a solution to that problem?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, yeah. So because our entire team is product focus. This is what I what I tell people as their onboarding with us as well. We have designers, we have product managers, we have engineers, we have QA engineers, but all of those people are product minded. So they will, they can provide feedback on the product, the field, the user flows. And they do that sometimes when we've had a product manager who's out sick or something like that, the team is able to guide clients through these decisions, provide them with a pretty clear fork in the road, if we do a, it's going to take this long, and you'll get this result. But we can do B, you'll get a slightly different result. But we'll have it quicker. And we provide we try to provide radical transparency through that that entire process. Because again, a lot of our clients aren't necessarily developers themselves. So providing, like weekly updates of like, here's what we said we were going to do, here's what we accomplished, here's the risks that we see to your roadmap. Here's the third parties that we're integrating with and current statuses with them. Because sometimes we have to negotiate with the third parties. Because it's not just a simple API integration. There's contracts and things like that involved. So we take a lot of that kind of magic that happens underneath. And we distill it in actionable insights for them, then guide them through the process.

Jeroen Leenarts:

People who do the work, Lou, who are software developers, why should they work at Clear Summit?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, yeah. So the the people that we have on our team, I think I would look at the people that we have on our team. And I think they're all very strong representation of who should come work with us. Everybody on the team really has a passion about building low tech debt code. With amazing user experiences, and learning from past mistakes. We don't have ego, the best idea wins. We have our own internal tool that we use to launch all these projects. We call it our liftoff kit. And it's a collaboration between design and engineering. We have designed systems built out us built out mobile applications, web applications for everything we know, that you need out of the gate, and are so like login and sign up, profiles, things that we don't need to build again, and our team collaborates on those to learn how to build these components very quickly. So we can get the stuff out of the way that we've done 100 times and we don't necessarily need to do it again. And we can focus on the harder problems that are in front of us.

Jeroen Leenarts:

All right, that sounds like a lot of technical work that you people are doing. And if we look at the technologies that you mentioned, during a conversation, it's it's react, native, it's react, and it's jangle native iOS and native Android, that's mostly as the focus of your company. Is there anything that we forgot to talk about? Because we talked at length about clear Summit? And what to do and what your role is there? But is there something else that we that we are missing right now.

Shane Zilinskas:

This could be a whole other conversation but in the journey here, we we built and sold a SASS company for music tech rights. And so that was a, we bootstrapped it inside of the company, built it up and then sold it.

Jeroen Leenarts:

So basically, you mean that clear summit started the product and then it got successful and then it was spun off into a separate company.

Shane Zilinskas:

It was acquired by a company in the space. Yeah.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Okay. So and are you still involved with that product? Or is it more like that, like, came to fruition? It was sold off to another owner. And then that was that and on to the next project.

Shane Zilinskas:

Yep. sold off to another owner and on to the next project.

Jeroen Leenarts:

So but what happened to her because if you're an if you're an agency, you're mostly involved with like doing contract work, and then all of a sudden, you're doing like your own product. So why why make that decision? Because it's it's a big leap of faith, going from an hourly based type of work to like, creating a product and launching it and hoping for the best, right?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah. And, again, this goes back to like balancing the p&l, right. We don't want our whole team working on products like that, because then we aren't billing clients and don't have money coming in. So we have to balance that, right. We have to have a certain set of the team who would work on that. And we would not always work on that we would do a few months sprints or something to get another version of the product out. Yeah, I mean, we, for us, we love building products. And given the right opportunities that come to us, sometimes we do work in that way. So it was, yeah. But again, it's a balancing act of making sure that the company is stable enough to support those activities. And that, the other thing is, is that everybody loves building our own eternal products. So everybody wants to be on this project. So it's a little bit of balancing that internally as well.

Jeroen Leenarts:

So you mentioned projects. So how many of those projects? Have there been in the life of clear summits already? Because I do imagine these projects come and go, some are successful, some that you need to wind them down, because they just don't have any traction.

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, so I would say, at this point, there's been about two or three, maybe three, like we've, there's some that we've started, we've tested, and then we've we've shut down pretty quickly. The other one that we took pretty far was an application for museums. It was an it was an iOS and Android app, and a web platform. And the museums could upload format plans, which they have. And they could do a drag and drop interface place where different things were in their museum and give their attendees virtual tours, buy tickets, find more information. We have a pretty extensive roadmap for it. But that shortly thereafter, Google released something similar. And also, we didn't have continued funding for it. So we shut it down.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Yeah, yeah. But it is fun, like these technical challenge that you build yourself that are a little bit more involved beyond? Well, I imagine most client work quite often they just want like a sort of like an especial Web Viewer for their brands, that basically renders JSON in a meaningful way into a user interface. But we'd like a product like this, that you have like real world integration. That's like a whole different ballgame I imagined.

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, I mean, those are, those are the fun ones. For us, like we worked with a subsidiary of Belkin called fin. And they had prototyped, an IoT device that could listen to water and tell you which fixtures were being used in your house. So we worked with them to go through like blue, we help them to find Bluetooth pairing flows. This was like four years ago, and there weren't very many great examples of like clean pairing flows. So we really refined that and worked with their ml team to define like, what can be done with the application and how we can communicate that between the unit, etc. So that one was much less a JSON displaying. It was it was a lot of dynamic data. We wrote interactive, we wrote a, a framework for interactive conversations with the end user. So they, it's more of a system than just clicking on things. So there was there's a number of things there was pretty fun.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Okay, cool. Because it is all of a sudden, right at the end, you just mentioned that. Yeah, we also do some projects internally. But it is what it is, yeah, as long as it pays the bills, then you're fine, right? Because as a business owner, you I imagined first of all, you want to have an income for yourself, but you also want to have an income for your team so that they are able to stick with you for a number of years. But I think we're getting close to time already. And I want to wrap things up. Is there is there any parting words that you that you want to share like things people should not miss or that they should know about either in general or more in relation to clear Summit?

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, so in in the shownotes, you, you asked me if I maybe had a book recommendation or something like that. And there's two books that stuck out in my mind. The first one is the hard things about hard things. That one is a pretty well known book, but I highly recommend it. And the other one is a book called Good strategy, bad strategy is pretty dense. It almost reads more like a textbook than anything else. But it completely changes your viewpoint about how you set up strategies and initiatives and diagnose problems in an environment where you don't have all the answers. And you don't actually potentially even know what like best case goal outcome would be.

Jeroen Leenarts:

All right, I'll make sure to link those from the show notes. And with that, Shane, I'd like to thank you for your time, because it was an interesting conversation and just learning how you actually started as a, as a small kid doing something with with webpages, then progressing to a actual education. Getting to Lockheed Martin was through some contract structure, and working at an agency and then going to Europe and learning iOS before that even. And then that enables you to do some contract work while you're in Europe. And that's while you're in Portugal climbing a mountain mate, you come up with a business name, that you then started in, back in the US again, and you're hops between Nashville and Los Angeles for a bit. And now you're situated in Nashville. But still, yeah, it's it's an interesting journey that you took there. And it's fun to hear like that somebody who does like individual contributor work that just basically by a bit of chance, and a bit of forethought, end up as a business owner with like an agency that is, by the looks of things very successful, and in it for the long run, which is, which is always good to see because it's a different business model beyond working at a huge corporate and just being a small shop. With a small team. It allows you to do very different things there. And I hope you'll stick around with Claire summit for quite some time, because I can tell that that you're having a lot of fun doing it and that's always good as well.

Shane Zilinskas:

Yeah, yeah. I really appreciate it. It's great talking to you today. It's fun to be on the podcast. Thanks, Lexi. Lady shame. Bye bye

Intro
Origin story of Shane Zilinskas
Discovering software development
Favourite languages?
WHat do you think of JavaScripts?
Starting ClearSummit
What is harder? A hard bug or running a business?
Where's the dopamine in owning a business?
Why should a client come to ClearSummit?
Why work at ClearSummit?
Oh we build and sold a SAAS company on the side too…
Book: The Hard Thing About Hard Things
Book: Good Strategy/Bad Strategy
Wrap up