Role Models: Sarah Withee, Software Engineer Generalist at Arcadia.io

Today’s Role Model is Sarah Withee. Sarah is a software engineering generalist for the data pipeline team at Arcadia.io. She recently relocated for the job to Pittsburgh, PA, after living in Missouri for her whole life. At her job, she works on the odds and ends of each project and is the “glue” that holds the other components together. Outside of work, she’s an international tech conference speaker, a teacher and mentor for a variety of organizations that teach people to code. In addition, she’s a robot and hardware tinkerer and conference organizer. Sarah is currently the Director of Programming for Abstractions, a technical conference that will be held in August 2019.

What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?

At my current job, I’m a Software Engineer Generalist.

I tend to summarize my job by saying I’m a Polyglot Software Engineer (as in multiple programming language-speaking).

What attracted you to this role?

After a couple of jobs that weren’t as mentally fulfilling to me, as well as wanting a location change, I started looking for jobs across the country. A friend brought this role to my attention, and the requirements originally seemed like a lot of tech I had never used. I interviewed anyway, and they liked me; they saw I had a resume of all sorts of random projects in different fields and tech stacks. They figured if I could learn the tech, then I’d be great for the team. I haven’t worked on the same type of thing more than a few months and it’s been fun to jump around every so often.

Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?

My team is a “local remote” team, basically meaning we’re local to the office (in Pittsburgh), but we work 4 days a week wherever. I typically worked in a co-working space that I liked the people in. My day usually starts with a standup status meeting around 10:30am, then we go about our tasks. Sometimes if we’re stuck or need two brains on a task, we’ll pair program together (usually over video chat with screen sharing).

We have a meeting every two weeks to go over our work, reflect on what went well or poorly in those weeks; then we plan out the next two weeks. For the most part though, we don’t have a lot of meetings. Lunch is usually whenever we feel like it, but I end to head out between 1pm and 2pm.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Problem solving is a HUGE must-have with the type of work I do. I’ve always loved logic and math puzzles, so software engineering has been great at that. While learning specific programming languages helps, knowing more how programming concepts work and how good systems are built helps more because I can learn languages and frameworks to suit the task at hand.

Communication, especially for remote-based teams, is a really important skill, too. We want to be quiet, but when you’re not always face-to-face with the people you work with, you have to speak up more so everyone’s up to date with what everyone else is doing.

What’s the most fun or creative part of your role?

One of the difficult parts of being the generalist on the team is the ramp-up time to working on a new part of the project. It means several days of working but really having nothing to show for it while research and learning is going on.

However, after I’m up to speed and I understand what I’m working on, seeing it finally work and plug in with the rest of the project just makes me excited. And knowing that I really am being the glue that’s holding the other parts of the system together makes me feel not just creative but important.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

The more obvious challenge is the actual learning. I didn’t really know much devops going into this role, but I was thrown in and ended up Dockerizing one of our products, figuring out how to set up some message queues on Amazon Web Services, and writing some Terraform scripts to automatically deploy and scale some services. I learned Scala despite not knowing it when i got started (turns out it is a lot like Haskell, a language I used in college). And in general just the learning curve of a lot of new things is a challenge.

The less obvious challenge is the mental task. My coworkers were very regularly completing stories/tasks daily, and I wasn’t. It felt very unproductive, despite knowing I was actually working and actually contributing to the team. My manager was great though and regularly reminded me that he was aware of my work, even of my daily status updates weren’t nearly as full as my teammates’.

What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?

For the most part, our project is sort of independent of other teams’ work, and so we didn’t have to work with many others. We are building a data pipeline though, and that pipeline sends that data off somewhere, so there was some consultation with another team to make sure they could take in the data we were sending along.

We also had a security audit at one point and one part of our software resulted in several bugs or security issues we had to fix. We ended up working with a consultancy group to try to fix those rather quickly so we could get back to our main work.

What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your role?

When I joined our team, most of the architecture had been designed already, so it our job to implement it. I really would love to be able to get back to not just working at the small daily tasks but helping design larger systems. I had a lot more involvement on these kinds of things in the past, and haven’t at my last job and this one yet. I would love to have a larger role in that and get more experience as well.

Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?

If you want to be a software engineer, definitely an enjoyment of taking large tasks and breaking them into smaller ones and building those. Also being able to look at a task and seeing it as a set of math or logic steps. That’s the building blocks of programming: taking something rather complicated and breaking it down into really small, simplistic instructions for a computer to do. Once you learn the core concepts of programming, and have used a language or two to do them, I think you’re suited for most programming roles.

If you want to be more of a generalist, I think there has to be some deep desire to always be learning and always want to be experimenting with new things. I used to think this made me feel lazy or look like I’m constantly bored with my job, but I learned that’s some of the key aspects of multi-potentialites (also known as polymaths). They are someone with many interests and creative pursuits, and don’t have a “true calling” per se. And that’s kind of been me: I will never stop wanting to learn new things in tech. So this sort of role was perfect for me, and hopefully for some readers out there too.

What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this role?

Technically, I learned all sorts of things about DevOps, or learning how to automate software deployments and systems with code. I knew a tiny drop before, and now I believe I could probably automate about anything I work on by myself. I feel like I was what I’ll refer to as “classically trained” in computer science, so I learned all the tried-and-true things that people have worked on for decades. But at this job, I had to start becoming what I’ll call “modernly trained,” so learning about web-specific tech and for software designed to scale really well. It’s not things I learned in school but have been immensely helpful.

More personally, I’ve been learning how I work, and how to build an environment that fosters my own productivity. I learned in past jobs that sitting my butt in a chair from 9am to 5pm isn’t productive at all. I feel like I get, at most, maybe 4 hours of work from that. I work better doing some work, taking a break, doing some more.

The problem is that as a remote team member, there’s no expectation to be somewhere at a certain time. I am my own willpower here. So it’s taken some time to figure this out. During the first two months, I hadn’t yet moved to my new city, so I worked remote in a different time zone than my coworkers. When I moved, things got a bit easier, but it’s still really on me to get myself going in the morning.

In your role, what metrics define success?

It’s interesting because I haven’t had a lot of “greenfield” development (as in building things from scratch) in my past, and so when you’re building something new, metrics are hard to define until more of the thing is built. One big metric was being able to take our project into production, which we’re about to do soon.

Another metric, I’d say, is being able to hit a “start” button (if you will) and watch all the pieces get deployed out automatically to the cloud, then just start working. The more pieces we could get working, the better we knew our whole system was generally working since we were still building all of them.

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Role Models: Kate Caldwell, Software Engineer at RateBeer

Today’s Role Model is Kate Caldwell. Kate pivoted into software engineering after starting her career in the publishing industry. Having worked in the tech industry for a few years now, she’s been thrilled the similarities between working on a written project like a novel and building software: both require an initial vision, a flexibility in approach, a dogged work ethic, and the ability to willingly seek out and incorporate feedback into your work.

What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?

I’m a Software Engineer working to re-platform legacy features into a new web application for RateBeer. I started as a contractor in the summer of 2017, and then the company extended a full-time offer to me in the fall of 2017.

What attracted you to this role?

This role stood out to me during the interview process because of the challenges of the product and the people I would get to work with as we tackled them head on.


Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?

On a day that’s largely left uninterrupted by meetings, I pretty much work on engineering tickets by writing code the whole day (with breaks to each lunch and grab coffee and mull over particularly complex problems by stretching my legs). Our engineering sprints are two weeks in length, so every other week we have a few meetings to wrap up and prepare for the upcoming couple weeks (e.g. ticket grooming, demo, retrospective)

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Because up until quite recently I’ve been the sole engineer focused on building out a web application for the product, I spend most of my day writing React Components in Javascript. If I ever come across a problem I’m not sure how to solve on my own, I’ll often start Googling and end up somewhere like Stack Overflow or a helpful blog post.

What’s the most fun or creative part of your role?

I love working closely with the design and product team to prototype and build out a feature quickly. Since my job is specifically focused on re-platforming legacy code into the new React codebase, I’ve gotten to build up the complexity of the repository over time which is has been a fun challenge.


What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

The product that I work on has a group of very dedicated power users who have been experts on the platform for years. As we try to build features we need to balance the needs of these expert users with the needs of more casual users we’re trying to court to expand the reach of the product.


What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?

The product that I work on is pretty self-contained, so I don’t really work with other teams in the company. Within the team itself we’re rather specialized to a particular part of the stack (so for me that’s the web front end). We are very friendly and collegial to each other, always willing to answer questions someone may have, but as the owner of my sphere of work I’m expected to be able to speak to it and answer technical questions to product managers and other engineers.


What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your role?

I’ve become really specialized in the specific part of the product that I work on, so for my next challenge I’d like to work on a team where there’s a bit more cross-functional work happening.


Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?

I’ve found that communication and project management skills are essential to my role. Oddly enough, my background as an account manager in academic publishing prepared for a whole part of my role I didn’t anticipate when I started.


What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this role?

I’ve learned a ton on the engineering side, since this has been my first full-time engineering role. I got the opportunity to build a web application from scratch, so every single step of that journey has been a huge learning experience!


In your role, what metrics define success?

We have a bunch of different sets of targets. Some come from a pretty corporate level, and some we set for ourselves. Knowing what success looks like for our team is actually something I’d say has been somewhat of a challenge for our team since there are so many different stakeholders with different priorities internally. I feel most successful when I build a feature and get it to market and users start using it and responding to what we’ve built.


Role Models: Morgane Santos, AR Engineer at Mapbox

Morgane Santos

Photo credit: Samuel Unéus

Today’s Role Model is Morgane Santos. She studied computer science at Berkeley and has worked in tech for about five years as both a web developer and designer. Morgane is currently an augmented reality (AR) engineer at Mapbox, a location data platform. Since she is around computers all day, she likes to hike, read, and otherwise avoid technology in her free time.

What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?

We don’t have official titles at Mapbox, but I’d call myself an AR engineer. I’ve been at Mapbox for just under a year and have been on two teams in the time. Prior to being an AR engineer, I worked on our Unity SDK (also as an engineer).

What attracted you to this role?

I’m really interested in the growing 3D space in tech, and knew I wanted a job in AR or VR (virtual reality). I was tired of working on websites and wanted a fresh challenge. AR and VR are still so new that no one’s an “expert” yet, which can be daunting but it also means *you* can be the trailblazer. A lot of AR/VR roles also combine design + development, which I enjoy; I don’t like just doing one or the other.

Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?

I’ve actually written about my day for our company blog before. You can check out the post here

tl;dr though, there is no typical day for me. I *can* tell you that my days are a mix of 3D math, coding, sketching out ideas on paper, and drinking a lot of tea. I keep a fairly traditional 9-to-5 schedule, eating lunch at noon and getting tea with coworkers around 3pm. I never stay late. I work from home maybe once or twice a week (which I prefer; I don’t like open offices at all). Every so often my job requires going to a conference, so I may be traveling for that.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

I’ve used a lot of different tech over the years, but this is what I use now: Xcode (we program in Swift on my team); Unity/C#; Git; Figma…

As for skills, I think the most important thing is to be curious and willing to see an idea through. In AR, there are no answers. There’s no book you can read that tells you exactly what works and what doesn’t. You have to come up with an idea, sketch it, prototype it, and build it yourself to learn if it was ever a good idea. Of course it helps to already be comfortable with math and programming, but the curiosity is ultimately much more important. Are you willing to learn? Are you willing to fail? Being comfortable with so much uncertainty and ambiguity has been critical to my success in this role.

What’s the most fun or creative part of your role?

I literally get to think of what could be cool in AR, and then I make it! This is a role with lots of freedom and room for experimentation. It’s really exciting coming up with the very first solution for something and learning by doing. It’s similar to playing with Legos as a kid: you have a visionary idea, you have some basic building blocks, and you just go for it. Sometimes I can’t believe I get paid to do this.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Everything that makes it exciting: there are no answers. I can’t easily research how someone else has solved a certain problem. I definitely can’t anticipate most problems I encounter. The tech is also nascent, so the limitations of the software and hardware can be frustrating at times.

What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?

Our team’s fairly insular, but we do work with the sales, business, and marketing teams to better understand what potential/existing customers might want in the AR space, and how we can make that happen. We also collaborate with other engineering teams sometimes to create specialized AR experiences.

While I can’t talk too much about the work we do for customers, I can mention a more individual collaboration. Part of my job includes writing tutorials for how our SDKs work. In those cases, I work closely with our documentation team to make sure my instructions make sense and are easy to follow. People like Heather Stenson (who you interviewed!) are really instrumental here.

What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your role?

I like teaching and mentoring; I want to focus on how I can share my work with others and help them get more comfortable in AR/VR. I recently spoke at Nordic.design about how designers can get started in this space, and it’s something I look forward to continuing.

Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?

I’ve touched on this above, but I’ll say it again: curiosity and being comfortable with ambiguity.

I also want people who like collaborating and don’t have huge egos. My team is really supportive and kind; we judge each other’s *work*, not each other. I’d rather work with a “junior” person who’s thoughtful and excited to learn than a “senior” person who’s rude and stuck in their ways.

So how can you show that you’re curious, collaborative, and thoughtful? Maybe you have a few side projects that illustrate how you learned a new technology. Maybe you blog a lot about engineering or design. Maybe you volunteer somewhere on the weekends for a cause you really believe in. Maybe you have totally non-tech-related hobbies like learning a new language. I’m more interested in any of those facts than where someone went to school or if they’ve worked at a “famous” company before.

What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this role?

Being self-organized. I need to plan out my own work, including the metrics of success; I can’t rely on someone higher up telling me exactly what they need from me because no one knows what’s a reasonable ask in AR yet.

I’ve also gotten a lot better at understanding how people process 3D space, which is a cool perk of working in AR/VR.

In your role, what metrics define success?

Tangibly, it’s building a prototype/demo/app/whatever you want to call it that clearly communicates a certain idea. These demos are used by teams like the sales team to help convince customers to use Mapbox, specifically for AR.

Aside from the *business* success, we’re successful in our roles as long as we’re learning and honing our AR skills. The more we know about how to design and build something for AR, the better.

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Role Models: Cassidy Williams, Senior Software Engineer at Codepen

Cassidy is currently a Senior Software Engineer at Codepen.

Today’s Role Model is Cassidy Williams. Cassidy studied computer science in college and began her career at Vimeo. In addition to building out the product, she also served as a developer evangelist, organized hackathons, and spoke at events and conferences. In her subsequent roles, Cassidy continued to serve as a mentor and advocate for her fellow developers. Cassidy is currently a Senior Software Engineer at Codepen, online community for testing and showcasing user-created front-end code snippets.

What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?

Senior Software Engineer at CodePen, and I’ve been there for six weeks this week!

What attracted you to this role?

I’ve used and loved CodePen for several years, and I’ve known that I wanted to work for them for a while. It was so thrilling to be able to finally do so!

Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?

CodePen is a fully remote company! We’re a team of 7 people based all over, from Virginia to Australia. So far, I work from home or at a cafe nearby; I’m thinking about joining a co-working space at some point. We don’t have a lot of meetings as a company. We have an all-hands every week, weekly 1:1s with a different member of the team (everyone rotates), and then we have impromptu meetings whenever something needs to be discussed. It’s a great, friendly, very efficient team.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Communication is absolutely key. Especially on a remote team! If you can’t communicate, then people don’t know you’re working. 

As for technologies, I’m armed with JavaScript and React! We’re converting a large chunk of the codebase to React right now, and we’re also working on new features and bugs. I normally use Vim as my editor, but I’ve been dabbling in VSCode here and there lately.

What’s the most fun or creative part of your role?

Because we’re such a small team, everyone’s voice is very significant. If someone has an idea or opinion, their thoughts directly impact what the company builds! I love having that freedom.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

A small team means you’ve got to be efficient. We don’t move super fast; rather, we move more deliberately. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can be a challenging thing.

What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?

I work with everyone on the team! One of the things we do at CodePen is a “support rotation.” On Fridays, a different person rotates to handle customer support. We have a dedicated customer support/community manager/etc person, and on Fridays she works on her other projects. Doing that sort of cross-functional work is great for having perspective on what users want. I’ve also pair programmed with almost everyone on the team, which has been helpful for learning the codebase and seeing how other people think.

What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your role?

Because I’m still fairly new to the role, learning the codebase and how the team works is still top of mind. That being said, I’m hoping to establish a long-term work/life balance where I can do fun side projects and not be stressed about work. I want to be a better developer and manager, but being better personally is something I constantly have to work on.

What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this role?

We’ll have to see as time goes on. 😉

Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?

Being a solid coder and being willing to pick up and learn new technologies is good, but communication is #1.

In your role, what metrics define success?

Code quality and solid communication.

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Role Models: Yisselda Rhoc, Software Engineer at Def Method

IMG_0351

Today’s Role Model is Yisselda Rhoc. Yisselda earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science and specialized in artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction. On top of this strong foundation, she translates those theoretical fundamentals into tangible products. Today, Yisselda is a software engineer for Def Method, a New York City-based software consultancy. In her spare time, she also plans events as a committee member for NYC PyLadies.

What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?

I’ve been a Software Engineer for four years. I’m currently working for Def Method, a small software development consultancy focused on using Agile methodologies.

What attracted you to this role?

I enjoy creating and solving real-life problems with code.

As a consultant, I get to work on a diversity of projects. It’s interesting to experience the many ways people run businesses and how tech fits within them. This past year, I’ve worked with a Fin-tech startup, a Fashion-tech startup, and an insurance company.

My job also gives me the opportunity to try out different stacks/technologies, which I love because it keeps me up to date and satisfies my curiosity.

Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?

I adapt to my client’s schedule. Here is what my day has looked like for the last 10 months:

9:00 am~9: 30 am – Grab cereals and tea for breakfast from the office kitchen before sitting at my desk. Start looking up what I was working on the day before.

9:50 am – Get up for the stand-up meeting. The whole team gathers, even the remote engineers. In this meeting, we tell each other what we’re working on, if we’ve encountered a blocker and if we are available for pair programming.

10:00 am – 5:30pm~6pm  – Code, code, code for the whole day.

I’m lucky that I don’t have many meetings. The ones I attend to are:

  • The weekly planning meeting to define our goals and the tasks on which to focus.
  • The bi-weekly retrospective to summarize what went well and what we can improve for the next sprint.
  • The bi-weekly engineers meeting where we get to meet new hires and geek out.
  • The weekly meeting with my consultancy during which we give a lightning talk, a project update and share announcements about the company or tech events we are attending.

Most importantly, I’ll get lunch at around 1 pm.  We have a communal table where I can eat with others, but I like to go alone from time to time to disconnect, listen to podcasts and eat mindfully.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

The multiple programming languages that I’ve worked with in the past make me very adaptable to any technical project.

The ability to focus and listen has helped me work with many teams and clients.

Although I use my laptop to code, I always have some form of paper so I can write thoughts, ideas, and lists.

I also plan my week to ensure I respect my work-life balance. I have used a bullet journal and Trello in the past, but right now I’m just using Google calendar to set time aside.

What’s the most fun or creative part of your role?

I think that I get most creative when coding because I get to imagine and craft a solution. Everyone has its style, techniques, and tricks.

The most fun I have is when I’m talking and laughing with my colleagues. This role made me realize how important it is to have a good relationship with your teammates.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Learning a technology on the job to quickly produce quality code can be destabilizing and stressful.

As a French woman, just understanding some English accents is a challenge at times.

What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?

I work daily with my product manager. He knows exactly how the app is supposed to function.

From time to time, I work with the DevOps team, to set up the application’s environment.

Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?

I think empathy, curiosity, and joie de vivre are essential personality traits to collaborate with teams.

Technology is always changing, which means you have to be eager to learn new concepts.

Being down to earth and able to take a step back to see the full picture is crucial, too, so that you don’t get overwhelmed by work.

What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this role?

I’ve improved overall as a backend engineer. For example, I’m more mindful of memory usage when processing big data. I learned about the impact of incorrect database indexes, and I got better at pair programming.

I’ve improved my professional network by taking the habit of organizing coffee meetings.

In your role, what metrics define success?

Our customer’s satisfaction and feedback define success because it means we’ve successfully added value to their business.

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Role Models: Meka Seymour, Software Engineer at Harry’s

Meka Seymour is a software engineer at Harry's.

Meka started working on the Customer Experience team at Harry’s, a startup that makes and sells shaving equipment. As she started to interact more with the company’s engineers, she realized she wanted to move into software development. Instead of quitting her job to focus on learning full-time, she took a different approach and shared her vision with her manager. With her manager’s support, she diligently enrolled in online courses and studied in her free time to build her skills and contribute to the product.

Currently, she’s a full-fledged software engineer at the company.

What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?

I’m a Software Engineer at Harry’s. I’ve been in this role for about 6 months now and before this I was an Apprentice Software Engineer for 4-months (also at Harry’s).

What attracted you to this role?

I’d been working at Harry’s on the Customer Experience team for almost 2 years when I joined engineering, so I already knew the people and enjoyed working/hanging out with them.

I was excited to learn about the business from a new angle, to get to code, and to work on problems that I knew would feel more challenging and exciting to me.

Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?

My team works in two week sprints.

Our team and project manager decide what we’re working on during the sprint, so when I come in I work towards completing those tasks.

I try to keep my schedule light with meetings if I can, but a few of the regular meetings on my calendar are:

Grooming Backlog – a bi-weekly meeting where my squad (a small working group of engineers responsible for building tools around a certain function or aspect of the site/app) discusses work that needs to be done and creates clear goals and criteria for the work. Then we create tasks for the upcoming sprint in Jira, an issue and project tracking software.

Retro + Test Results – a bi-weekly meeting where my squad discusses the previous sprint and reviews any noteworthy A/B test results the project manager has to share. When we A/B test, we compare two versions of the web page or app against each other and use the data to evaluate which version performed better.

Sprint Review – a bi-weekly meeting where all the engineering squads meet and showcase what they’ve accomplished over the course of the sprint.

Friengineering – a bi-weekly event where we get together, eat food and discuss all things technology both inside and outside of the company.

Front End Forum – a forum where engineers who work frequently on our frontend/ iOS app get together to give talks on relevant and/or new frontend technologies.

Team Lunch – we get together for lunch every Thursday at 12pm.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Our team uses git/Github, Jira, and Slack largely to both communicate and keep ourselves organized.

As an engineer that works a lot on our front-end I also use things like React/Redux dev tools in Chrome, CanIUse.com, and VirtualBox to do testing across older browsers quite a bit.

Learning how to code typically requires endless hours of scouring Stack Overflow and lots of documentation to find answers for yourself. That skill definitely still comes in handy every day on the job.

What’s the most fun or creative part of your role?

I love that I get to do a lot of coding every day.

Our site is part Ruby on Rails app and part React app, so I work on both the front-end and back-end. (Editor’s note: To clarify, ‘front-end’ is the user interface where people interact with the application while the ‘back-end’ is where the server, the application, and the database interact).

Working on front-end experiences is really creatively fulfilling for me. It’s exciting to know that people all over the country (and in other countries) are experiencing technology you work on every day and that they’re, hopefully, really enjoying it.

Getting to work with humble, hilarious, hard-working people all day – a team that cares as much about our work as we do each other – is definitely the most fun part of my job.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Our team takes on lots of large projects, which requires writing lots of code but also communicating well and consistently, being very organized, etc. In addition

to that, being pushed out of the comfort bubble of only working on things you know well and feel confident doing from the start can feel scary.

The most challenging parts of my job are the parts that teach me the most, so they’re also my favorites.

What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/ individual?

I work closely with the project managers, UX/UI designers, and the Customer Experience team, to name a few.

For example, another engineer and I meet bi-weekly with a member of the Customer Experience to discuss possible bugs their team has noticed or heard about from customers.

We also discuss new feature suggestions and requests. We both care a lot about the people who use our products and our work has a real-time effect on the experiences they have, so it’s important for our teams to work closely together.

What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your role?

I am interested in working more on mobile projects as we grow and have more opportunities to create apps, so I’m learning a lot about React Native and brushing up on my Swift.

In your role, what metrics define success?

There are some obvious ones, like writing quality code that doesn’t release bugs, being able and willing to learn new things, and delivering work in a timely fashion.

Because we work in two week sprints, we measure the velocity of our working groups in how much we’re able to accomplish in those increments.

On our team people are really important, so some less obvious but critical ways we define success are by being a dependable teammate who cares deeply about the success of the whole team and the individuals on it.

What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this role?

I’ve improved a lot technically. I am more comfortable solving problems with code, more familiar with lots of different technologies and concepts (e.g. MVC – model view controller), more familiar building things from scratch, etc. And I’ve learned a lot about working on an agile team in general.

Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?

Being collaborative and not taking yourself too seriously.

Willingness to work hard and challenge yourself – it’s ok not to know how to do something at the jump of a project as long as you’re willing to do the work to figure it out.

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