When Jason Haase joined Harman International Industries Inc. in 2003 at the tender age of 21, the company immediately tested his software skills.
Haase was asked to design a turn-by-turn navigation system for Harley-Davidson's touring bikes.
"My boss handed me a CD with the code and told me to do it," Haase recalled. "I had to dramatically change the user interface and figure out how to put the control buttons on the bike. It was the kind of job where you either fail spectacularly or succeed spectacularly."
To make things more difficult, most of Harman's software experts were in Germany at the time. "I did all my learning in a vacuum, so I spent a lot of time experimenting," Haase recalls.
He got up early every day to phone his German colleagues, "and I'd prepare a list of issues to make sure I didn't ask stupid questions."
Haase succeeded, and now the 32-year-old software engineer is one of four chief engineer architects at Harman. "Our role is jack-of-all-trades," Haase said. "When there's a new program, we've got to set directions for the solution, then find suppliers and design it."
Because Harman uses a matrix management system, Haase also oversees the company's Subaru and Maserati businesses.
While Haase enjoys his assignments, his management obligations limit the time he can devote to writing software. "At this point, I'm lucky if I can spend 10 percent of my time writing software," he said. "I have to fight for it. If you don't use it, you lose it."
To relax, Haase says, he likes to spend time with his 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter, and he also likes to write software in his spare time. That should come as no surprise for someone who taught himself to write code when he was 13.
-- David Sedgwick