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May 03

Profile: Stephen Dawson-Haggerty, Co-Founder and CTO

Steve, or SDH as we call him, is the CTO at Comfy. He is responsible for our backend infrastructure and development. While working on a Ph.D. in Computer Science at UC Berkeley, he focused on architecture and infrastructure for wide-scale data collection. Steve has extensive experience with embedded sensing, networking, and large-scale deployments of wireless sensors. Little-known fact about SDH—he was Facebook's first intern.


What were you doing before BR?

Comfy actually got its start while I was a grad student at U.C. Berkeley. My co-founder Andrew and I were both interested in ways that computer scientists could interact with the energy space. When we started looking into buildings, we found these legacy systems actually had a really interesting set of controls already in them, despite often dating back to the 70s. Over the course of the next few years, we worked on creating a platform to make these building systems more programmable with more portable software. The thing is, when you make a systems platform, you also need an application to demonstrate its value, and Comfy was the absolute best one we could think of!


What is your favorite productivity tool or trick for work?

The challenge for me is staying productive over an extended period of time, so I tend to switch around between different tasks that have varying levels of urgency. We use a few tools and programs in our office such as Asana, which can be really helpful with managing projects and delegating tasks for teams. However, when it come to my personal to-do list, a good old fashioned notebook and pen tend to work best for me.

"Well if I’m going to enjoy myself, I’ll need a laptop, satellite modem, and a bar."


Where do you see the building technology industry headed?

Like most people in our industry, I think building management and usage is going to continue to converge with IT and computer systems. There will definitely be some sort of integration between different building systems with additional features like Comfy that provide more control for occupants.


What 3 things would you bring if you were stranded on an island?

Are you asking if I would eat the chicken or the corn first? Well if I’m going to enjoy myself, I’ll need a laptop, satellite modem, and a bar. By the way, you’re supposed to eat the chicken first.


What can you geek out on for hours?

On the work related side, I really enjoy reading about compilers quite a bit...but on the fun side, I think I’ve read every Wikipedia article that exists on airplane crashes. The thing is, you can really go into a downward spiral and end up reading all the NTSB reports.

[Aeronautics] is an interesting industry because the systems are so complex. Nothing is left to chance, yet there is a lot that is still quite manual with pilots navigating in a lot of the same ways they were in the 40s. And most of the time, it works surprisingly well! But, now there are also systems that can detect human error, catching and preventing problems before they occur. Just because there is human error doesn’t mean you can’t engineer around it.

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