Shannon Lewis is the principal of operations at Providence-based software engineering firm Panoptic Development.
The Tufts University alumnus has more than 20 years of experience as a product manager, development manager, program manager, customer service manager and a test manager. At Panoptic, Lewis oversees the company’s operations including project management, finance and day-to-day operations.
Lewis talked to Providence Business News about her company’s new contract with the Ride Connection, a nonprofit that works with community partners to coordinate transportation options for the elderly and the disabled.
PBN: Why the name Panoptic Development?
LEWIS: Panoptic means “taking in all parts, aspects, etc., in a single view; all-embracing,” we believe this describes who we are as a consulting company. We use our vision and understanding of our clients’ goals and help them get the most out of our development efforts. To do this, we keep the lines of communication open at all times, something our clients always appreciate. Our logo is a bird of prey, for the same reason. They fly high above and can see everything on the ground. We take great pride in our “all-embracing” approach to projects.
PBN: You were recently selected by Ride Connection to designed and develop its new web application, can you tell us about that project and what makes it so exciting?
LEWIS: We are very excited to be chosen to work with Ride Connection on this project. (Ride Connection is a nonprofit and works with community partners to provide and coordinate transportation options primarily for older adults and people with disabilities.)
It’s always exciting to work on a ground breaking project such as the Clearinghouse, as well as to work with such a great business partner as Ride Connection. We are building an open-source web application which will allow different transportation providers to collaborate on vehicle capacity and customer demand, thus providing their customers with the most effective transportation options.
As a member of the clearinghouse, if I have a customer who needs transportation and I cannot fulfill that need, I can enter the information into the clearinghouse and a partner who has extra capacity can fulfill that need. Or on the flip side, if I have extra capacity, I can look at the clearinghouse to see if there are any transportation needs that I can fulfill. This is a win-win for both the transportation providers as well as the customers who need rides. This project is also interesting because it involves large amounts of real-time data, and that gives us challenges in terms of both execution and scale.
PBN: You’ve got some big name clients in Rhode Island, including Lifespan and Brown University. What’s the difference working with a big institution versus a smaller company?
LEWIS: I have seen some big companies that are agile and act more like “small companies”, and some small companies act more like “big companies”. For me, the difference is the number of stakeholders in the project. The more stakeholders, the longer the review cycle, approval process etc the slower the progress is for the project. Typically the larger the company, the more stakeholders, but this isn’t always the case. We’ve found that every project has unique challenges, but many times smaller organizations have the same concerns as large institutions. We try to focus on identifying solutions for their specific needs, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.
PBN: What is the most interesting, or challenging, project you’ve ever worked on?
LEWIS: Well I think all our client project are interesting and challenging in their own way. I have worked on so many different projects over my career, it’s hard to pick just one. I would have to say the most challenging project was my first project as a Developer Manager. I was just a few years out of college and I was put in charge of a custom hardware and software development project that had an extremely tight budget and a very aggressive timeline for delivery. I was thrown into the fire and learned a lot about leading by example, managing up and running a successful project under very difficult conditions.
PBN: What advice do you have to business owners who aren’t the most tech-savvy?
LEWIS: We’re a big believer in using technology to enhance productivity. Don’t be afraid to embrace technology to make your life simpler. Technology can be intimidating at first for the non-tech-savvy person, but using technology right can free you up to have more time to focus on growing your business.