Geek of the Week

Geek of the Week: A ‘nerd by means of and thru,’ Gail Frederick leads Portland eBay workplace and API focus

Gail Frederick at the eBay Connect 2018 developers conference. (eBay Photo)

As the vice president of developer ecosystem and general manager of the eBay Portland office, Gail Frederick wants to create a more powerful buying and selling experience on the global marketplace.

Since joining the company in 2014, Frederick has reintroduced eBay’s Developer Conference, eBay Connect, and expanded it globally across the U.S., Europe and Asia. The 2018 conference, in August, showcased how eBay is leveraging product-based commerce and AI capabilities to deliver APIs that enable eBay developers to create innovative eBay experiences.

Frederick, our latest Geek of the Week, has an extensive background in computer science and mobile software. With a bachelor’s degree in CS from the University of Michigan and a master’s from the University of Washington, her first software job was writing a WYSIWYG HTML editor for Windows in native Win32.

“I’ve worked in all areas of the software stack, and focused for about 10 years in mobile software,” Frederick said. “I’ve worked in mobile since literally the first Nokia phone that could run Java ME apps. In 2009, I wrote a book on standards-based Web development for mobile browsers (back when almost every mobile browser diverged from standards). I wrote the book in my second trimester carrying twins.”

Prior to joining eBay, Frederick was a UX and engineering director at Intel’s Open Source Technology Center, where she worked on Moblin and Tizen mobile operating systems, as well as product management for Linux middleware.

Frederick’s focus now is on eBay’s public API platform.

“We’ve focused here since 2016 in totally revamping our public APIs for buying and selling,” sghe said. “We have a modern, elegant, and useful API now and as a nerd, I couldn’t be prouder! We’ve adopted the OpenAPI standard for describing our APIs, and this allows our developers to generate client code in less than 90 seconds (we timed it). And importantly, fully enabling buying and selling via API means that eBay transforms into a global platform for commerce, where we bring eBay buying and selling to everywhere people are online.”

A fierce champion for inclusion of women and LGBTQ people in technology, Frederick lives in Portland with her wife and 8-year-old twins. She’s an avid knitter and seamstress, outfitting both hobbies on eBay. Her family calls her “the queen of small packages” due to the volume of eBay deliveries she receives at home.

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Gail Frederick:

What do you do, and why do you do it? At eBay, I look after our public API, developer program, platform components for web services, and our toolsets for test automation and continuous delivery. I do it because I love it. I’m a nerd, through and through. I am passionate about developer productivity, for both internal developers at eBay and outside developers using our APIs.

I love the people and spirit of eBay Portland. As GM, it’s my privilege to lead this band of pirates. eBay Portland started out as typically Portland with tattoos, bikes, beards and kegs. We celebrate Metal Fridays, where every Friday we encourage employees to wear a heavy metal T-shirt to work. (Don’t own a metal T-shirt? That’s OK, we have some you can borrow. Or, wear whatever makes you feel “metal.”) As the office has diversified, our concept of “metal” has grown to include all kinds of expressions of culture and passion. Sporting 90 percent test coverage in a codebase is “metal.” So is our traditional Diwali celebration that we hold each fall.

As eBay’s center of excellence for mobile, we believe that mobile is disruptive and challenges our assumptions about computing and user behavior. eBay had an iOS app before Apple had an App Store, and we recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the eBay app the iPhone. eBay Portland continues to cultivate future tech for eBay in Portland, especially as spatial computing (umbrella term for AR/VR/MR). The Portland office recently released our first AR capability for sellers, helping them find the right box to ship items sold on eBay.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? I’m a computer scientist by training who has worked in mobile, embedded, open source, web services and Linux in my 20+ year tech career. The single most important thing that people should know about CS is that fundamentals matter. I’ve seen waves of trending languages and frameworks in my career, and basic computing principles like efficient I/O, memory management and algorithm design still make or break projects. It’s inefficient and dangerous to code to a framework without understanding how the framework uses the runtime, how the runtime uses the OS, and how the OS uses the hardware. The key to scaling is optimizing the full stack down to the metal.

Where do you find your inspiration? In the mathematics of computer science, especially algorithms. (Really, in any mathematics, even the math of knitting.) In the stories of how relatively simple changes in APIs at eBay, such as adopting OpenAPI specs, causes an order-of-magnitude productivity improvement for tens of thousands of our developers.

I also find inspiration in the stories of eBay’s entrepreneurial sellers and how their livelihoods improve when onboarding onto eBay to reach millions of new buyers around the world. In this way, technology has a major positive human impact, and I’m inspired to work at a company where impact is front-and-center in our technical thinking.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? More and more, it’s my smart watch because it’s less invasive and disruptive than my phones. A quick glance at my watch and then I’m back focused on the topic at hand.

(Photo courtesy of Gail Frederick)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? Sunny office with a sit-stand desk, yoga ball (I don’t do office chairs), family photos, local art, and a hammock chair with footrest for focus time. Kinda messy, but it works for me. I’m on video conference or phone almost all day, and standing makes that bearable.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Two tips, sorry.

  1. Some of my most inventive moments have been in walking 1:1s. Movement helps me to think clearly.
  2. My personality is not one that lends itself to balance. So, I embrace that the pendulum swings in both directions. Sometimes I binge on work, and sometimes on life. I work hard. But, I start work early in the morning and almost always make it home in time for family dinner. I walk my 8-year-old twins to school at least once a week.

Mac, Windows or Linux? Mac for work and Linux for tinkering.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? McGonagall, obviously.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Transporter. Without travel time, maybe there’s also no jet lag?

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … ask for $10 million.

I once waited in line for … President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993, when I was 16. I was a page in the U.S. House of Representatives then, and was fortunate to receive tickets.

Your role models: Grace Hopper, for her obvious and pioneering awesomeness.

Greatest game in history: Marathon (at 2 a.m. in the student computer center at University of Michigan).

Best gadget ever: Nokia 3650 for the truly strange keypad. Symbian S60 was a gem of an OS.

First computer: Apple IIe.

Current phone: iPhone 8 Plus.

Favorite app: eBay, of course. My No. 2 is The New York Times.

Favorite cause: The Trevor Project, crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.

Most important technology of 2018: Augmented reality.

Most important technology of 2020: Blockchain, for applications outside of coin.

Twitter: @screaminggeek

LinkedIn: Gail Frederick

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