Ryan Tunis graduated from the Computer Programmer, Computer Software Engineering program in 2016 and worked in the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre at Research & Innovation for four years, first as a Research Associate, and then, as a Senior Research Associate. Ryan began his new role as Software Developer in June 2019 with Anova, a global leader in remote monitoring, and industrial technology.
Tell us about where you work:
Anova does sensor networking for the industrial industry. Anova has a growing network of over 350,000 cellular, satellite, and LPWAN devices in 65+ countries around the globe.
Describe your role and what you like about it:
I am a software developer. The sheer volume of data that flows through this system is astonishing. The environment is very start-up like with all the newest tech and a comfortable working environment. Sit/stand desks, you get your own high tech laptop, which is easily one of the best you could possibly buy in terms of hardware.
Please give us an idea of what types of related things you’ve been doing prior to this recent position.
I worked at a company called ServicePRO, which does workflow management software and quickly moved into a senior role after a few weeks of working there. It’s not my cup of tea though; I prefer the big data scene.
How has your Research & Innovation experience helped you prepare for your current role?
If it weren’t for R&I I would not have had the time or opportunity to experiment with the latest and greatest technology that everyone is moving towards today. I would not have the experience to know how to handle situations where I know very little about it and still walk out on top. I also know a lot more about farming than I ever thought I would.
A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?
Re-architecting the Crop Portal, AgroTelligent, RRx, and RTAG into one massive micro service application really allowed me to grow my skills as a full stack developer. I can now confidently say that I can build any application from the ground up and take it from alpha to production ready code.
What led you to Niagara College in the first place?
I was a framer for seven years prior to going to Niagara College to study Computer Programming. I have always loved the idea of creating something and looking back at it and thinking, “Yeah, I made that… nice.” The challenge was trying to get that same feeling without having to push your body to its physical limits every day and endure the cold and heat throughout the year. So naturally, I thought, “well, programming is kind of like building houses, so let’s give that a go,” and I fell in love with it. The best thing about it is if you make a mistake, you just have to delete the lines of code that don’t work, if you make a mistake building a house you could end up ripping an entire wall down and having to rebuild it again.
“If it weren’t for R&I I would not have had the time or opportunity to experiment with the latest and greatest technology that everyone is moving towards today.”
Most memorable experience at NC?
I attempted to create an autonomous rover that was wired up with an Arduino and a whole slew of various sensors. I then programmed coordinates into it to feed to the GPS, compass, and servo, to get it to try to follow a path. After hundreds of test runs, I only succeeded once. I think it was a pure fluke or something to do with GPS drift because it never followed the route again, it would only go in the route’s general direction to the way point. Either way, that’s still a victory. Oh, and you could also control it manually with an Xbox controller.
A faculty member who influenced you?
Cliff Patrick was a fantastic teacher. I remember the day I had the “A-HA” moment when I finally understood the fundamentals of programming and I owe it to his teaching methods. He gave the best analogies. I frequently use some of them to explain what I do to people who don’t understand programming.
A mentor at R&I?
Dr. Mike Duncan was my biggest influence at R&I. I remember many occasions when Mike would ask me, “Hey, do you know how to do this?” to which I would respond, “I have no idea, but give me 20 minutes and I’ll let you know.” The overwhelming support and trust Mike has given me has allowed me to become the software developer I am today and I will never forget that. He’s also a decent bass player, too. 😉
What advice would you impart on current research students or future alumni?
As programmers, we often repeatedly have to put up with failure and you might often be asked to make the seemingly impossible, possible. But, if there is a will, there is a way, so don’t throw in the towel early because your next error message is your next victory. If that fails, you could visit Ballmer’s Peak. 😊
After being in the workforce, what have you learned?
Not every company values the same things and as such, their work processes are different. Not all code follows all of the conventions we were taught. Not all code has meaningful comments that explain precisely what the function you are looking at is supposed to do, like we were taught. It’s unfortunate but that’s just the way it is. Code is art; you wouldn’t purposely draw a crappy picture, why would you purposely write garbage code?
Proudest achievement since graduating?
Currently working on what will be a revolutionary musician’s practicing application that adopts gamification to get users addicted to progress. Stay tuned…
What are your interests outside of work?
Music (I play guitar), badminton, table tennis.
If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?
If you see a new error message, you’re heading in the right direction.
Anything else you want to say?
Thanks to everyone at R&I for being very supportive to everyone who works there, it is an amazing place to work.