software engineer

While It’s Compiling: Skills Matter interviews Cate Huston

While It’s Compiling is a series of interviews with experts across a range of bleeding-edge technologies and practices, exclusive to Skills Matter. Be sure to subscribe to this blog for future interviews, or follow us on Twitter.

Find out who we’ll be interviewing next, and get a chance to put your questions forward with the hashtag #whileitscompiling.


Cate escaped from graduate school to be a Software Engineer at Google, where she’s focused on a variety of mobile experiences over the last 3 years including GMail, Google Docs, Maps and now Ads. She used to be an international hobo, teaching programming in the US and in Shanghai, training in martial arts in China, qualifying as a ski instructor in Canada, and aimlessly wandering around Europe.

After nearly 7 years as an expat, she’s now readjusting to life in London.

You can find her on Twitter and on her blog, Accidentally in Code.

Cate will be giving a talk about building for mobile devices at iOScon, our first ever iOS conference. Check Skills Matter for updates and tickets!

1. What drew you towards mobile platforms?

It wasn’t a deliberate career choice, I interned working on a J2ME mobile app and when I went to work for Google I ended up focusing on mobile products. Really, I just like to build things for humans, so working on mobile is great because people love their mobile phones.

2. Is there anything in particular about iOS that appeals to you?

I carry both an iPhone (5) and a an Android (Nexus 5), and use them about equally. I slightly prefer my iPhone, mostly because the UX on some of the apps I use a lot (like Twitter!) is better. And the camera is great, I take all my pictures on my iPhone.

3. What new projects are you working on right now?

At work, I’m thinking about some of the wider implications of mobile that go beyond just the experience we build – for example, when people are making decisions the research phase is heavily mobile.

In my “free” (ha) time, I’m working on a book chapter for the Architecture of Open Source 500 lines or less project. It’s about image manipulation.

4. Where do you see iOS in the next five years?

Wearables. I have a Misfit Wearable, a Jawbone UP and a Nike Fuelband. They have their flaws, but I love the idea of being able to better track what I’m doing and optimize it. I was really sad to see Nike cutting back on the hardware to focus on software, but the rumor about Apple wearables gives me hope!

5. What do you wish you’d known when you’d first started out?

Things I still wish I knew – about how the hardware, and lower levels of the networking stack, GPS chips etc work.

6. If you could ask the iOS community anything, what would it be?

I’ve been thinking a lot about decision fatigue – the original example of this is the jam experiment: when people were offered a bigger selection of jam in a grocery store, they were more likely to taste and less likely to buy.

I’d love to know what effect people think decision fatigue has, or should have, on mobile design?

Got a comment for Cate? Leave it below!