Julien Delange’s Plan to Slash Your Technical Debt

Written by: Kiley Nichols
5 min read

Julien Delange envisions a future where software developers build great code almost effortlessly. In fact, he just launched a company that is helping developers do just that. It’s called Code Inspector and when he joined us recently as a guest on DevOps Radio, he was putting the final touches on a demo for key investors. We were delighted that he could squeeze in the time for this episode!

Julien began his journey to CEO of Code Inspector in his native France, where he earned a PhD. in computer science and started his career at the European Space Agency writing software for rockets and satellites. “That was fun,” Julien says. “The hardware is totally different because you have radiation, and the software needs to be predictable in real time.” Also surprising was the meager computing power he had to work with. “Most of the satellites that are operating today we could pull off a Gameboy from the '80s,” Julien laughs. 

The young Frenchman, however, would soon find a new home on the other side of the Atlantic. “I was really in love with the United States,” Julien says. This led to his first job at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute in Pittsburgh, where he spent five years on research projects. Then, cajoled by friends, he turned his sights to the high-tech industry and to a language learning website call Duolingo. “I really loved Duolingo's mission,” Julien says. “I think that's amazing to provide free education.”

Unfortunately, the opportunity at Duolingo fell through, but he quickly landed a job at Amazon Web Services. That was followed by a move to California and a stint with Twitter. At each of these waystations, Julien noticed that the burden of “technical debt” was always an issue. The problem: Much of the software used by their systems was written decades ago, confusing the newer generation of developers, and slowing productivity.

A mountain of technical debt

The challenge of technical debt became a career focus for Julien, driving him to write a book about the topic with two of his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon. This is when he started thinking about creating a company. But of course, that would mean leaving Twitter along with a teaching position he’d picked up at Northeastern University. “At some point you need to decide what you're going to do in your life,” Julien says. “You cannot do everything, and I wanted to do my own thing.” So, Julien left Twitter in January and dedicated his life fulltime to Code Inspector with the mission of helping developers and managers produce better code – and tackling the challenge of technical debt in the process.

Part of the reason for technical debt is sheer laziness, Julien says, and that leads to design troubles. “Technical debt is like exercise,” he says. “You know you should exercise every day. You know you should eat vegetables. But then what you do is, you go to a restaurant and order a burger and fries. And give me a shake too because it's freaking good.”

A kale smoothie for your coding diet

That’s why you need to have a coach, says Julien. “Code Inspector is like a kale smoothie for your coding diet,” he says. It’s going to tell you, hey, don't eat the French fries. Take the broccoli.”

Perhaps the best analogy – and the reason behind the Code Inspector name – is that it’s like buying a house and you hire an inspector to check everything. “Code Inspector is doing the same thing but with your code,” Julien says. “It looks at your code and says here’s a problem. The basement is dirty. You have a wiring issue with your electricity. This is basically what Code Inspector does, but with your code.” 

Code Inspector helps developers write better code automatically. It’s not unlike the way Grammarly rapidly fixes your spelling, punctuation, and other common errors. “It is better than me at writing English,” he says. And we should do the same for writing code.” 

Besides shaping up your code, Code Inspector is leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to help developers write code even more efficiently. It will also help train new developers with a tailored feedback tool called Code Coaching. And for the DevOps pros among us, Code Inspector’s open APIs integrate seamlessly with Jenkins and GitLab. 

There are a ton of new features on Julien’s drawing board designed to conquer your technical debt and give back some of your productivity. “We're going to have more tools that will be open source and interact with Code Inspector,” he says. “As a matter of fact, I just hired a developer of operations this week. She just started, and I'm super excited."

To hear more of my wide-ranging discussion with Julien Delange, including his bold prediction about the future of the developer environment and our usual “DevOops” hijinks, tune into Episode 98 of DevOps Radio

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