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API Management / Observability / Software Development

Hey Programming Language Developer — Get over Yourself

In this edition of The Tech Founder Odyssey, Jean Yang of Akita Software advocates for a pragmatic and data-driven approach to shape programming languages and tools in response to real-world developer needs.
Nov 30th, 2023 12:30pm by
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Software development and data should define programming languages, not philosophy.

That’s the view of Jean Yang, founder of Akita Software, an API observability company, recently sold to Postman earlier this year. Yang is a former assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University. She has a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard. She recently joined us in a discussion on The New Stack Makers.

“There’s a lot of philosophy in programming languages already,” Yang said. We should be letting data and actual use drive a lot more programming tools and software development processes.”

Yang said the developer experience should drive matters.

“It’s not about the experience that the language creator necessarily believes everyone should have,” Yang said. “Because one of my strong views is also the minute you get into the business of developer tools, you are not your user anymore.”

Yang said she now programs in Python or Zapier and builds for people like her. That’s why it becomes essential to follow UX design and product fundamentals when considering developer tools.

She said it used to be that developer tools were side projects, but now they are this whole industry. It’s full-time work for thousands of people. But for the most part, the people who are using developer tools depend on gluing APIs. The people who work on Python, and other programming languages, have become far removed from the needs of real developers. They need to understand the developer’s reality and break away from this outdated belief they are building for themselves.

Yang started Akita to help people build more reliable software systems.

“And so I have a view that, well, it’s just the truth, that software is running the world, that software is one of the biggest social problems no one is talking about,” Yang said.

Yang always found it deeply upsetting that software doesn’t do what we think it’s doing or that there is no sense of what it’s supposed to do. At Carnegie Mellon, where she studied programming languages, Yang worked with her colleagues on this concept of software correctness.

She started Akita to help developers build more reliable software systems that faced a world of APIs and microservices that made it harder to ensure software correctness.

Akita would transition to API observability after realizing APIs were vital to improving the understandability of complex systems. Watching API traffic lets you reconstruct what’s happening inside components.

“Over the last couple of years, it just only solidified our belief in APIs being the key to raising the level of abstraction, improving the ease of use of monitoring and observability,” Yang said. “In these complex systems, Postman has continued moving in a similar direction. We’re not building for Facebook or Amazon, but every developer that’s out there in the world.”

Check out more episodes from The Tech Founder Odyssey series:

How Byteboard’s CEO Decided to Fix the Broken Tech Interview

A Lifelong ‘Maker’ Tackles a Developer Onboarding Problem

How Teleport’s Leader Transitioned from Engineer to CEO

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TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: Postman, Teleport.
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