Kin Lane joined Skylight in June of 2017. He’s a world-recognized expert in Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). For the past 10 years, Kin’s focused solely on mastering the lifecycle of APIs, from initial strategy to deprecation. During that time, he has written over 3,000 articles and spoken at over 50 events on API-related topics. Kin works closely with our clients to harness the connective power of APIs.
Chris Cairns: Tell me about your path to Skylight.
Kin Lane: I’ve been in the tech field for nearly 30 years, mostly as a software engineer. In 2010, I turned my full-time attention to APIs. I did that because I saw the potential for APIs to transform how organizations shared digital services, both internally and externally. API-enabled sharing opens up seemingly endless business and technical opportunities, such as monetizing data, modernizing legacy systems safely, improving operational efficiencies, and spurring economic growth and innovation.
To advance the state of APIs, I took on the persona of “The API Evangelist.” As The API Evangelist, I’ve been: consulting to firms of all sizes and industries, including Fortune 1000 companies and federal agencies; publishing content on a range of API-related topics; speaking at various events all over the world; serving as a board member on several API standards development projects (for example, OpenAPI Initiative); and contributing to various open-source API projects (for example, Open Referral, API Commons, and APIs.json).
Skylight presented me with a compelling opportunity to amplify my role as The API Evangelist, but with an even greater focus on public-sector organizations whose missions impact millions of people — from veterans to immigrants — every day.
Chris Cairns: How did you find out about Skylight?
Kin Lane: I met several members of the now-Skylight team such as Dr. Robert Read and Geoff Mulligan through the Presidential Innovation Fellows program in 2013. They approached me about joining forces with them for public good, and the rest is history.
Chris Cairns: Why did you decide to join?
Kin Lane: There were a number of compelling reasons, actually. One of the big ones was the opportunity to advance the government’s adoption and use of APIs. Every day millions of people and organizations depend on government services to fulfill their needs. These services are powered by, and interact with, countless internal and external systems. I truly believe that the more fluently these systems can talk to each other, the more impactful government can be. Unfortunately, I see a lot of government organizations needlessly struggling to realize the strategic value of APIs. Skylight gives me a platform to help change that.
Another major reason was that I identified with the culture that Skylight is striving to build. For example, there’s a strong focus on developing one another’s areas of expertise. There’s a lot I’d like to teach others, but there’s also a lot I’d like to learn. Being able to learn from people who are absolute experts in their field — such as legacy modernization, microservices, DevOps, and Internet of Things — really drew me in.
The last reason, but certainly not the least, was the opportunity to build up a business practice area focused on APIs. Skylight is run like a true partnership, and in that kind of model, people are supported and empowered to develop autonomous businesses in marketspaces that will move government forward in impactful ways. In other words, you can be a civic tech entrepreneur without having to start your own firm from scratch, yet still reap similar rewards. That appealed to me.
Chris Cairns: What have you worked on so far?
Kin Lane: Thus far, I’ve been supporting clients at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services with improving the way that they govern and deliver APIs. More specifically, I’ve been helping to establish a strategy for defining and delivering microservices with an API governance program in place to help ensure all services are delivered and managed in a consistent and scalable way. We’ll be scaling the approach so that it can be applied across multiple projects, especially as more projects take up microservices as a way of delivering government services.
Chris Cairns: What was most surprising to you about joining Skylight?
Kin Lane: Just how serious the Skylight team is about disrupting the traditional government consulting model. Whether it’s pushing the microconsulting model to combat overengineered contracts or open-sourcing their intellectual assets (such as methodologies) for public knowledge gain (Skylight is completely open by default), Skylight is driven to redefine what it means to be a modern government consultancy. I’m also pleasantly surprised by the extent to which everyone has rallied to support me in building out an API practice. They take the time to invest in my success.
Chris Cairns: What would you tell your colleagues from a previous job who were contemplating coming to Skylight?
Kin Lane: If you’re looking to be part of an exciting and growing startup that’s digital to the core, open by default, dedicated to public service, and a platform for amplifying people’s superpowers and facilitating the realization of their public ambitions, then look no further!
Chris Cairns: Kin, thank you for taking the time to share with us. This has been very interesting, as always. To our readers, if you’re interested in engaging with Kin to help you in harnessing the connective power of APIs, we’d love to hear from you.