Last week, we sat down with head developer Thomas Sciaroni to talk about code, poetry, ski lifts, and starting out as a DeFi developer. Our questions and his answers are below.
What’s your role at Cowri Labs?
I’m a software engineer. Where Kenny, our founder, is the economist, I am the lead developer.
Do you like poetry?
I do. I write my own poetry and my girlfriend is the only person who reads it. I actually think poetry has traits in common with software engineering. Richard P. Gabriel, a famous computer scientist compares good code to good poetry. It’s short and information dense while making sense.
How did you come into contact with Cowri Labs?
A friend of mine told me about Cowri Labs and connected me with Kenny. I flew out to Hawaii to meet him soon after. I grew up on Kaua’i from ages four to twelve, so I looked forward to returning to the islands. Kenny and I got along great and I hopped on the project, becoming the team’s full-time developer a few months later. Flying prospects out to Hawaii is a pretty novel recruitment approach, but it’s been effective for the organization so far.
What advice would you give someone who’s trying to build their confidence?
Start small and build your way up.
Do you think the typical first impression of you is accurate? Why or why not?
No I do not. I give off different first impressions, so it’s hard to nail down why exactly. People usually either think I’m much more serious, or on the other end of the spectrum, more goofy than I actually am.
What are you most excited about in launching Shell Protocol v2?
I’m most excited to see what people do with our system once it’s out of our hands. There’s a ton of potential for v2, but for it to be truly great we need buy-in from others and that’s not necessarily guaranteed.
If you had to instantly lose your English fluency and gain fluency in a different language, which would you want it to be?
If my choice is career-driven as a DeFi engineer, speaking Mandarin would be the most beneficial. However, if I’m thinking in terms of what I personally like to read and think about, I’d go with French.
What’s your favorite part about Cowri Labs’ company culture?
Everyone on the team is kind and very measured, and that comes from the top. We’re lucky to have Kenny to mediate outside pressures of investors and the market, which allows us the space and freedom to experiment with our work.
What kind of high school teacher would you be?
I think I would be the kind that gives the same lectures every single year, and is pretty focused on being efficient with my time. I wouldn’t necessarily agonize over lesson plans. I would definitely teach math, particularly somewhere in the range between 7th to 9th grade.
Can you describe your professional background before starting at Cowri Labs?
I got my undergraduate degree in computer engineering at SJSU — Spartan Up! My learnings in engineering pretty directly map to the concepts that I needed to understand in order to write smart contracts. In the summer before my senior year I held an internship at Raytheon, a defense contractor. More than one third of the team I was on had PhDs and it was a fantastic learning experience.
After graduating, I focused on contracting for various websites. Working as a contractor allowed me some schedule flexibility, and in that time I was able to go meet Kenny.
What role would you want to have in a rock band?
I don’t have a great sense of melody, and unfortunately I don’t really have a sense of rhythm either, so that rules out drums. I think I’d be the lead singer of a pretty bad punk band, and lean on my screaming abilities.
What advice would you give a green developer in DeFi?
Read more code than you write, write more exploratory code than production code, and write as much production code as you can. The field is too young for knowledge to disseminate through textbooks, so spend time reading other people’s code and playing with your own. Also, don’t get discouraged if you can’t find an answer to a specific coding question, because you may be the first person trying to solve it.
Would you rather live in a valley or on a mountain?
I am a fan of very fresh air, which you can only get from being in the mountains. I’d definitely choose a mountain.
What are some of your interests outside of DeFi?
I’m a big fan of nature, and I love to camp, hike and ski. Spending time with family and friends takes up most of my free time and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What’s your favorite kind of public transit?
Practically, I have to go with light rail, specifically light rail that’s on time and comes at a regular frequency. I think public transit needs both those things to win over commuters, so you can know when to leave and when you’ll arrive. On the less practical side, I also love a good ski lift or gondola.
How does living on an island compare to living on the mainland for you?
Living on an island can be frustrating in some ways as a few things are impossible, but the flip side of that is a narrower scope of what is possible. When you’re on the mainland, you have so many choices. Living on the island breeds more of a humble culture as you’re allowed a simpler set of decisions to make every day, and I think that helps everyone feel more connected as well.
What’s the work you’ve done for Cowri so far that you’re most proud of?
So far, I’m most proud of v2, particularly the Ocean component. One of the goals in my work is the relentless pursuit of simplicity and honesty, and I think v2 reflects that.