Welcome to the first instalment of our “Meet the Team” blog series, a collection of interviews that offers a glimpse at the people behind Leaning Technologies.
Today we meet our Founder and CTO Alessandro, the mastermind behind all of our tech…
Alessandro Pignotti, Founder and CTO
What’s your background?
I was born in Rome, Italy and had the pleasure of studying at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa. This was where I met Stefano and Massimo, the fellow founders of Leaning Technologies, and it is fair to say that we all have deep connections with the place and the background we share.
Thanks to the opportunities that I have had, I have been able to travel around the world a bit. I lived/worked in San Francisco for a while and have brought back a bit of the spirit of the ‘Valley’ and that experience was extremely important in my life.
What do you do at Leaning Technologies?
My job is to oversee the development of Leaning Technologies’ products and technologies, and to plan long-term R&D work. So what I do daily is to figure out how to make a little slice of something impossible more possible!
What’s the most exciting part of your job?
What I find really fascinating about my job is seeing increasingly complex software projects coming to life and developing into bona fide enterprise-ready tools.
What we focus on at Leaning Technologies are compilers and virtualization solutions. When starting to prototype tools such as CheerpJ (our Java to HTML5 compiler) and CheerpX (an x86 virtualization technology for WebAssembly), you always start from minimal test cases, and move on to bigger applications gradually.
You start with a blank screen and a bootstrapping process. Then you see a few lines of console output. Then, all of a sudden, there’s a moment where those lines of text turn into a full application, and you start to see something rendering on the screen. The same slow, gradual but powerful progression is something that you see when working on performance and optimizations. The first proof of concepts are always very slow and crash with every new instruction. After months (or years) of grinding, things start to get better, and you see complex applications and libraries sort of taking life.
It is this concept of gradually increasing complexity and performance, and building on years of previously developed technologies, that I find most enthralling.
What was your biggest challenge in the last 12 months at work?
The biggest challenge for me over the past two years has been working on CheerpX, our x86 virtualization solution for WebAssembly, and CheerpX for Flash in particular.
Developing a high-performance, full x86 VM for the browser has certainly been the most difficult thing I have ever done, in fact, I think it might be the most difficult thing that I will ever do! It’s difficult for me to imagine anything more complex, in this industry at least.
What motivates you at work?
As one of the founders, I feel like Leaning Technologies is our baby, which we are proud to see grow from strength to strength, but also drives us crazy every now and then!
What really motivates me in doing my CTO work is building something useful, and doing it right. Providing a good service to our clients, and striving to always recommend them to do the right thing.
I believe that each one of us, in general, has a moral obligation to make a contribution to society, no matter how big or small their contribution is. And here at Leaning Technologies, we may not change the world, we are not going to find the cure for cancer or colonise Mars, however for the small contribution we make, we try to do it the right way.
What’s the best place you have travelled to?
It’s actually my home town.
I was born and raised in Rome, but I never really appreciated it enough when I was growing up. Having now lived abroad for over a decade, whenever I go back, it’s usually just to visit family and friends, and I’m pretty much visiting Rome as a tourist. Believe it or not, I now appreciate it much more than I used to. It’s a city with lots of problems, but it’s also incredibly beautiful. What I find truly amazing is the contrast between the modern side of the city and its magnificent ancient architecture.
What’s your favourite thing to do on the weekends?
I’m a “movie guy”. Before the obvious happened, I used to love going to the cinema and pretty much watching everything that came out. I’ve really missed this in the last 18 months. If I had to choose my favourite film it would be one from my childhood, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.