Thomas SpotlightBlog Post

Team Spotlight: Thomas Burke

Team member:

Thomas Burke

What is your position at FlightStats?

Engineering Manager on the Web and Mobile Applications Team

What made you interested in what you do?

I was working as a GIS technician for an ecological restoration nonprofit, trying to help them find the best technologies to collect data to support their efforts. At the time the industry-standard solutions were too complex and expensive. There seemed to be a lot of room for improvement. I wanted to be able to work on solving those problems, but I realized I would need to learn how to write software to do so.

How long have you been working at FlightStats?

Just over four years

How has FlightStats evolved since you started?

We’ve refined our engineering vision significantly. For example, the “Hub,” which is now a fundamental component of applications across the organization, was more an idea than a reality at that point. Today, we’re leveraging the Hub to share data across not just FlightStats but all of FlightGlobal. And while the Web and Mobile Applications team consume far more data than it creates, we still use the Hub for core functionality and to add visibility to our data as it’s transformed.

We have also refined our operations strategy. We’re moving toward using a technology called Docker, which allows us to write apps and run them in a variety of environments, including Amazon Web Services, our private infrastructure, or my laptop. Having that capability is incredibly powerful, especially when writing portable and maintainable software is the goal. It makes it easier for us to take a project that we haven’t worked on in a while, easily run it locally on a developer’s laptop, and quickly begin fixing a bug or adding a feature.

What do you like about working at FlightStats?

FlightStats has organized its engineering organization into smaller product-focused teams. This makes it easy to experiment with new products, and that’s exciting from a developer’s perspective because it’s fun to try new things. At the same time, though, the teams are not isolated. We collaborate effectively across teams to maintain and refine our technology as well as continuously improve the company’s greater vision for our products.

What’s the best part of working at FlightStats?

We have a lot of autonomy to select the best technology to solve the problem at hand. And that extends to our development environments as well. We use whatever works best. That sort of freedom is very important to me.

What are your hopes for our company?

I’m just looking forward to adding more features to the new version of the website. The subscription capabilities we recently added are helping us target a professional demographic, and as we continue to interact with these users, I think we’ll discover new use cases for our data. I also hope we start traveling to Mars soon so I can build interplanetary flight trackers for our website and mobile apps.

What do you do in your free time?

I play a lot of music. Mostly bass guitar but also enjoy noodling on/with synthesizers. I’m also restoring an old Alfa Romeo with my dad.

Any other fun facts you want to share?

I just hiked the Kalalau Trail on Kauai, which I recommend.