How One Tech Leader Made the Leap From Marketing to Software Development

Brian Shields joined Boingo Wireless as a marketing professional, where he had the autonomy to explore projects that interested him. Now, he’s an engineering leader.

Written by Cathleen Draper
Published on Nov. 15, 2022
How One Tech Leader Made the Leap From Marketing to Software Development
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Brian Shields went to art school. Now, he’s the vice president of software engineering at Boingo Wireless.

After attending the California Institute of the Arts where he studied graphic design, Shields worked in web technology starting in 1996. During the .com boom — and bust — in the early 2000s, he made the logical step to website development.

In 2007, he joined the marketing team at Boingo Wireless, a company that designs, builds and manages technology solutions to connect people, business and things anywhere and everywhere. For the next seven years, his responsibilities grew — and guided him toward software development.

“That may not sound like a typical path, but Boingo is a rare place that allows for the freedom and autonomy to learn, grow and contribute,” Shields said. “We’re given opportunities to grow in myriad directions within the company.”

To make the leap from creative roles to engineering, Shields had to hone his leadership, technical and soft skills. Boingo Wireless helped him do that.

Now, Shields focuses on software development initiatives from network control and reporting integrations to authentication, billing, APIs, websites and apps. As an engineering leader, he also provides career development opportunities and training for his team.

What makes Boingo Wireless unique for Shields, and what he hopes to pass on to his team, is the possibilities for growth and ownership.

“Everyone has the ability to make a direct contribution to improving our products and solutions,” Shields said. “I can dream something up and then execute it.”

 

“Boingo is a rare place that allows for the freedom and autonomy to learn, grow and contribute.”

 

What professional development tools and resources, informal or formal, have you utilized at Boingo Wireless? 

I spend a lot of time working with standards bodies supporting the engineering team. I learn a lot from industry peers on how to improve technology and standards.

Technology training is a big area of focus for the engineering team. It is extremely important to stay current with the latest technologies and practices. We make this a priority across the entire team. 

As I grew in my role, Boingo’s leadership training has greatly improved my knowledge and skills, and practical skills developed from real-world situations are the best teachers. Plus, I have amazing peers at the top of their game and a super-smart team that supports one another. I learn a ton from them. 

 

A group of Boingo employees sit around a pool table for a presentation
Boingo

 

How are managers involved in the career development of direct reports?

Managers have a direct hand in supporting the career development of their teams. Through good communication, they support employees with resources to expand their skill sets and responsibilities to further process improvement and help them to advance to senior levels. 

 

“I can’t imagine a more interesting place to work. Since day one, I’ve never been bored.”

 

How has joining Boingo Wireless positively impacted your professional journey?

I can’t imagine a more interesting place to work. Since day one, I’ve never been bored. I’ve learned so much over the years as the wireless industry matured from the early days, when Wi-Fi cost $80 a month to use, to a converged wireless industry in the modern age. 

 

What are you excited to accomplish next?

I am working to mature our team, processes, standards and skill levels to become a high-functioning, world-class level development team. My team’s success is my own.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Boingo Wireless.

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