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My Life in Tech: Q&A with Developer Erica Sadun

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Erica Sadun talks about her career path, advice for those who want to get into iOS development, and who is stealing all of her gadgets.
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InformIT: You have a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Georgia Tech's Graphics, Visualization and Usability Center. What did you envision as your career path at the time you were pursuing your degree? What led you to becoming a prolific writer of technical books?

Erica Sadun: I’ve always loved the craft of documentation with its challenges of communicating technical ideas, but it’s certainly something I’ve had to work at and build skills at. I was at Georgia Tech when I first really started writing about technology, at that point about the NeXT development system and later about the Newton. It was a natural place to go when I got married and needed to build a life that avoided the “dual tenure divorce track” trap. So far it’s worked, and it’s been a gift in terms of real life flexibility.

InformIT: You’ve authored quite a few books. Which one is your favorite, and why? Which one gave you the most headaches?

Erica: Every one is my favorite and every one gives me headaches. It’s really funny because each book becomes an entire world that you immerse yourself in, whether it’s about iOS Drawing or Auto Layout or general iOS 7 development. It’s fun and gratifying to deep dive into a topic. You give yourself permission to play, to explore, and to discover.

InformIT: You’ve been described as “an unrepentant geek who never met a gadget she didn’t need.” What is your current favorite gadget?

Erica: It doesn’t matter what gadget I currently love. My children will arrange to steal it. The geek gene appears to be dominant.

InformIT: What do you think of the changes in iOS 7? Is Apple still innovating, or are they merely catching up to Android?

Erica: Innovation isn’t limited to Apple, of course, and a smart company takes lessons from many places. I’m excited about iOS 7 and there are many things I absolutely love about the new system.

I’m not entirely sure how all those changes will be welcomed by the general user base. That base represents the group Apple not only has to sell to but also develop and expand even further into to grow their market share. I remain hopeful but cautious.

InformIT: Do you think the key to smartphone success is based on innovative hardware or operating system/apps?  Or, alternately, is the development environment for app-builders the key?

Erica: Consumers shop for great cameras, good reception, and storage. Yet, what keeps customer loyal is the day-to-day user experience. Apple’s strength has always been its OS and its interface. There’s some healthy competition in the market right now and it’s the consumer that benefits from that competition.

InformIT: Do you ever see yourself owning and/or developing for Android or Windows Phone devices?

Erica: Cross-platform development is the reality today. Although just a few years ago you could write off other platforms, there’s a big enough user base and a large enough demand that it makes financial sense for many developers to pursue Android solutions.

As for owning, I do own, use, and enjoy Android devices, but I primarily live in the iOS/OS X world. There are many right answers in a healthy marketplace.

InformIT: What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into iOS development?

Erica: I’d recommend focusing on the fundamentals. A strong background in languages and algorithms helps support whatever development efforts you set your mind to.

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