Our  “Faces of Abe” profile for November features someone who, as a veteran of the United States Air Force, has seen quite a bit of our great country.  Along the way, he’s developed a pro-level green thumb, built bots for video games and even become an ordained minister. Say “hi” to Senior Software Engineer,  Andrew “Studs” Studnicky.

Where do you call home? 

Orlando, FL

How long have you lived there? Where before?

I’ve been in Orlando for two years this go round, but really six years non-consecutively.  I was raised to be somewhat of a nomad and have called many places home.

In between my two stays in the Orlando area, I lived in Durham, N.C. for around a year. 

Prior to my first stint in Orlando, I spent time in the Annapolis, Md. area after leaving the United States Air Force (USAF). While in the USAF, I served as an intelligence analyst and moved around quite a bit including time in Alexandra, Va., Atlanta, Ga., San Angelo, Texas., Omaha, Neb. and Monterey, Calif.

I don’t even remember and could not possibly even list all the cities I moved between as a child.  I think the count is around eight states and twenty five cities.  My family flipped homes all my life, living in them while we worked on them, sometimes moving twice a year.

Who calls Orlando home along with you?

I’m the proud owner of two dogs – Mila (eight year old corgi mix) and Daru (two year old swedish vallhund). I never imagined being a small dog person…it happened by accident. I was told that Mila would be a mid-size dog (around fifty pounds) and then she just stopped growing at around thirty pounds.  I adopted Daru later to keep Mila company while I was away.  Obviously, I needed to have another pup her size, so as not to overwhelm or overpower her.  Their names are Arabic – Mila translates to “The clever one, the trickster, the mischievous” while  Daru translates to “The brave, the fierce, the undaunted.”

What led you to your career path? 

I consider myself a lifelong engineer.  Some people are just wired that way. Whether constructing lego projects as a young child, building homes as an adolescent, taking apart and repairing cars, soldering together broken electronics, hacking video games or publishing websites…  it’s been a progression, I suppose, of taking on new and different applications of the same problem.  The question is and has always been, “How can I make this do what I want it to do?” I answer that question with software these days.

I firmly believe that the future of the user interface is to not have an interface.  Smart home technology and IoT has always interested me.  I love that we live in an age where I can make my coffee machine talk to my alarm clock, and then, instead of buttons or a screen, I can just talk to both of them with my voice.

I’ve been developing personal assistant software for the last half decade.  It definitely did not begin as consumer grade, but that wasn’t the point – the point was to create things to assist myself. Some of my early bots were java applets mounted into websites. I later got into commissioned work for stream management to help broadcasters on Twitch.tv.  I’ve built community engagement bots for fan bases of video games such as Minecraft and Pokemon Go – just because I saw a need.

I met the co-founders of Abe.ai about five years ago and it was very interesting to see the product develop from a consumer product into a B2B platform product.  After getting to know them and the product better, the time was right for me to join the team. 

Speaking of your role, tell us more about what you do at Abe.ai… 

As Senior Software Engineer, I work primarily on platform integrations where I’m responsible for making sense of any data that comes from a client into our platform.  Each data provider has their own internal data formats, functional rules and may use entirely different web communication standards.  Our application has to be able to interpret whatever they throw our way.

Ultimately, the responsibility I currently fulfill is to ensure that none of the other engineers at Abe have to worry about those challenges and instead get to interact with all of the various partners and institutions through a standard interface with a well defined data model.

How long have you been with Abe? 

It’ll be two years in the spring which seems like much longer than it feels occasionally.  Then again, some crunch weeks feel like two years, so it goes both ways I suppose.

What do you enjoy best about working at Abe.ai? 

The thing that I love about software development can also be the most challenging aspect – working with brilliant people.  Every software engineer you will ever meet is very used to walking into a room and being the smartest person there.  Stick ten of them in a room together?  Things are going to get interesting.

What do you do in your spare time? 

Everyone at Abe knows me as “the plant guy.” I got interested in gardening as a hobby around the time I left the USAF.  I sometimes think that it was the lack of permanence in my life that led me to it – I wanted to stay attached to some part of the earth and keep it with me as I moved around.

As I got further into the space and learned more about it, I started getting into more rare and difficult plants to grow and keep.  A couple of my plants are worth several thousand dollars to collectors and a few others are considered nearly impossible to keep in captivity indoors.  They’re like living trophies – a testament to knowledge and expertise. You can buy a rare plant, but if you don’t know how to keep it, you won’t have it for long.

There’s a very mentally stimulating part of the hobby as an engineer – figuring out how to establish the right environment for each plant can be a real challenge.  I have gone back to some of my childhood roots with welding, glass cutting, plumbing and electrical work to set up grow chambers that are just right for each of them. On the other side of that, the more rote tasks can be cathartic stress relief, with the reward being surrounded by life, energy and beauty.  My home is very warm and calming.

What’s getting heavy rotation in your music playlist these days? 

To contrast what I just mentioned about the warm, calming energy of my plants, I have a ton of late 70’s and early 80’s punk rock on my playlist – probably more of that than anything else combined.  The bold anthems of pride and self assertion resonate with me on a fundamental and nostalgic level.  I absolutely know that it’s not melodic or even highly-skilled and is sometimes outright juvenile – and that’s exactly why I like it.

Favorite TV show/series? 

I have a thing for sketch comedy and one of my favorite long-running web series, “Aunty Donna,” just launched a Netflix series.  They’re a very fun group out of Australia that have mastered a blend of situational humor and social commentary that I find especially hilarious.

Favorite movie of all time? 

That’s a tough one! I grew up with “Star Wars” and would have said that series, but the prequels and post-sequels have kind of taken away the nostalgia and made the series less enjoyable over the last few years.  Call me a free-agent.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?

There are a few things that often surprise people. First, a lot of people are shocked to learn that I’m a veteran, especially given some of my views.  Others are surprised to hear that I am an ordained minister.  It all comes down to the assumptions a person makes about you based on how they met you.