Behind the scenes: 4 engineers share the code to their success

by Liz Warren
July 31, 2018

It’s easy for professionals across all departments to get bored when the days become redundant. Engineers especially need new challenges that test their coding skills and inspire creativity.

Fortunately for employees at these four companies, every day brings a different set of problems to solve. Take a behind the scenes tour of these engineering teams, where no day is ever Groundhog Day.

 

Flatiron Health
image via flatiron Health

Senior Software Engineer Rohit Kapur has been with Flatiron Health for more than two years and has been motivated by the company’s mission — to connect industry leaders in the fight against cancer — since the very beginning. He explained to Built In NYC what it’s like to be part of a team that’s making strides in healthcare.

 

Describe a typical day for an engineer on your team.

We're still figuring that out! Two other engineers and I have recently spun off into a new team that's focused on solving some specific problems relating to data tooling for our internal Flatiron customers. A typical day as such involves people getting to work anywhere between 8:30 to 10:30 AM , followed by a daily standup. The rest of the day might involve some cross-team meetings, but otherwise the focus is on our assigned sprint tickets.

 

What’s the most exciting part of being an engineer at your company?

For me, the answer has been the same since day one: the mission. I work with a lot of extremely talented people, any one of whom could have their pick of places to work, and yet, we're all here together, trying to help accelerate cancer research . What could be more fulfilling than that? That being said, the engineering culture here also contributes to a happy workplace. People have the freedom to move around internally, work with exciting technologies, and learn from other talented engineers.

 

What’s unique about working on your team?

The opportunities! We're a new team with no baggage, and we're trying to solve problems that haven't been tackled before. We have the freedom to pick the right tool for the job, which means testing new technologies and helping define patterns for usage of said technologies across the company. That in itself is both exciting and challenging.

 

deloitte digital
image via deloitte Digital

Senior Architect at Deloitte Consulting LLP, Jordan Stone has been with the company for four years. During that time, he’s watched the Deloitte Digital studios team experiment with exciting new technologies and define best practices for the industry — and as a result, every day has been different.

 

Describe a typical day for an engineer on your team.

We work across a range of technologies in the studios, so a typical day is different from project to project. Traditionally, the studios have been focused in web and mobile technologies, including native iOS and Android apps. For the last two years, a small group of folks has been doing work in emerging technologies, such as AR/VR/MR, conversational user interfaces and IoT.

For these teams, a typical day is even more unpredictable, as we spend a ton of time experimenting with these new technologies to better understand the promises and limitations so that we can take that back to the projects we’re working on. In many cases, such as for the work we’ve done with chatbots and voice assistants, we’re helping to define and publish industry best practices and standards, since many do not yet exist.

 

What’s the most exciting part of being an engineer at your company?

We are working on a number of projects, including some that are disrupting the way people order food. It’s predicated on the notion that brands need to start thinking about being omnipresent in the places their customers are spending their time, and that includes being available on a whim when a user is at home with their hands full, and suddenly decides they want food.

As an engineer, this is particularly exciting because the space is so new, and the architecture is pretty robust. It’s a fully serverless, microservices-based architecture on the backend, and all of the infrastructure is managed as code using an open-source tool. It’s been really exciting working with a client and showing them how powerful some of the newer cloud technologies can be. Because of the experience we’ve built in conversational user interfaces, we’re having discussions with clients across retail, travel and healthcare about how we can bring the power of conversation to their customers.

 

What’s unique about working on your team?

What makes the studios different is the way we think about and solve problems. As an engineer, to say to a client, “Hey, the technology isn’t as important. Let’s talk about what problems your users are having” has been a refreshing way to view the world. We are user-centered at our core, and it allows engineers and creatives to engage in healthy debate about how to solve those problems.

I’ll often be in a brainstorming session with a group where an engineer says, “Well, we can’t quite do that, but did you know about this API that allows us to do something even more interesting?” This is different than other teams I have worked with because there’s a real symbiotic relationship between design and engineering, whereas traditionally many groups have a “throw it over the wall” mentality. The results are beautiful products that have real impact on the lives of those who use them.

 

theskimm
image via theskimm

iOS Skimm'r Rosa McGee has been with theSkimm for almost two years. Her team works together on code day in and day out, but what sets the company apart from others is the fact that the audience — millions of users and readers — also participates in the feedback cycle. She told us what goes on behind the scenes.

 

Describe a typical day for an engineer on your team.

A typical day on the tech team starts with a code review in the morning. We review any proposed changes to our products that have been submitted in the past day or so and leave each other feedback. If enough changes have been introduced, then we release an internal preview to the company. If it's early in the week, we head to meetings with our product designers and managers, where we prioritize what we're going to be working on that week.

Coming out of those meetings, we are ready to get to work engineering exciting new features or crushing pesky bugs. We code, grab lunch together, code some more, break for coffee, lightheartedly debate about pop culture or programming paradigms on Slack, code some more, and then go home to do it all again the next day!

 

What’s the most exciting part of being an engineer at your company?

The most exciting part of working at theSkimm is knowing that the eyes of the world are on what you do. Our newsletter reaches millions of people every day. We’ve been featured in the App Store numerous times. When the company makes the news, it’s splashed across publications like TechCrunch and Bloomberg. Because so many people use our products, we are only one part of a valuable feedback cycle with our users. They are continuously making the newsletter and our apps better.

 

What’s unique about working on your team?

The senior engineers of our team have teaching experience, which means they’re great at distilling technical ideas to simple, accessible points. They’re patient and committed to mentoring others, as they have in the education space. It creates a safe environment in which it’s okay to ask questions and show what you don't know, receive feedback on how to improve and know someone is always rooting for you.

 

Transfix
image via transfix

Lead Frontend Engineer Whitman Schorn works on the engineering team at Transfix. While there’s a quick sync at the start of each day, the team generally tries to limit the amount of time they spend in meetings. He told us how the team uses the remainder of their office hours.

 

Describe a typical day for an engineer on your team.

The day officially starts with our team standup, where the whole group does a quick sync. We try to keep the rest of the day as meeting-light as possible, allowing engineers to focus on problems without interruption — we've even started a “meeting-free Thursday” initiative! During this time, engineers work on their tasks. Most of our engineers like to have headphones-on programming broken up with in-person time, whether hacking on difficult bits of code, sharing tips for good tests or sketching out a new API contract. People often bring in treats to share, so most afternoons include a snack break.

 

What’s the most exciting part of being an engineer at your company?

When you first take a look at the production site, you realize that there's this truly vast range of people, goods and information all being tracked in our system — it's a cool feeling!

 

What’s unique about working on your team?

Our team has a nice symbiosis with the users of our product — not only do they use our tools to do their jobs, but we learn a great deal about how to improve those tools from their feedback. When they do well, so do we. It's really satisfying to share success in this way.

 

 

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