Jon Cantey is a Senior Firmware Engineer at Dojo Five and joined us in July of 2021, and works remotely from West Lafayette, IN. Growing up in Greensboro, NC and Virginia Beach, VA, Jon got into computers and fell in love with programming with the TRS-80, hacking games like Zaxxon to change parameters and give himself extra lives.
From an early age Jon felt compelled to program. He once had a dream where he died and went to heaven, surrounded by the usual fluffy heavenly ethereal whatnot. But he was sitting at a desk in front of a long line of people asking him to write programs for them. His mom had practical advice about following his dreams, advising
"You don’t want to be a programmer. They just sit in a dark room and don’t talk to people all day."
- Jon’s mom
Thankfully, Jon followed his calling and sits in a well-lit room conversing with nice people on Slack and Zoom all day.
Jon was drawn to embedded development about 20 years ago, when he joined a medical device team to work on nurse-call systems and heart rate monitors. He was intrigued by the challenge of solving puzzles with limited resources and time to execute. And of course loved the idea of his code interacting with the real world.
His path to becoming an embedded developer was not typical, but it affirms that Jon is right where he wants to be. While earning his B.S. in Psychology at the University of Illinois, Jon focused on Computational Modeling of Neurophysiology. He started a Ph.D. program in Computational Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, but dropped out when he realized he was drawn to the programming challenges more than the neuroscience.
He has worked on some interesting projects in his career, which include redesigning a biological threat detection device, and of course lasers were involved. Another highlight was as the chief architect on a military-grade product for anti-tamper and anti-reverse engineering. While the bad guys - with enough time and resources at their disposal - could inevitably win, Jon’s goal was to make it as frustrating as possible for hackers so that maybe they would just give up.
Jon is living his best life when he’s coding and testing. He enjoys unit testing, but has the most fun when he can break out the soldering iron, o-scope and logic analyzer to study some hard to reproduce aspects of an embedded device. His ideal job is one in which he is constantly learning and part of a good team that is proud of its work.
He prefers to work with heterogeneous architectures, such as the STM32MP1, and likes working in Rust. He’s written some tools and prototyped part of a system in Rust, and likes the speed, size, safety and fun that has made it the most loved language for several years running.
In his time at Dojo Five, he’s enjoyed being surrounded by very competent engineers who are just as passionate about modernizing the development of embedded systems. He’s found that most workplaces see the value of good development processes (e.g. TDD), but usually only attempt them when ahead of schedule and/or by heroic efforts by the developers (read: late nights and weekends). Solving the challenges of how to “do it right” is one of Dojo Five’s explicit and primary goals, and that attitude has resonated well with Jon.
On that note, Jon has recently started experiencing “spare time”, a concept that was becoming increasingly rare throughout his career. He enjoys reading philosophy, especially regarding free-will, the mind, rationality, and moral culpability. He takes his photography and videography very seriously, and the quality and clarity of his Zoom calls feels like it’s from 10 years into the future.