Behind the Screens: Inside the Coolest Projects these 8 NYC Engineers are Tackling

by April Bohnert
August 8, 2019

An engineer may write hundreds of lines of code in a single day, but it’s the potential sum of all those little parts that keeps them excited to come to work each day. Seeing that code go live and make an impact in the lives of a product’s users is, for many software developers, their raison d’etre.  

To learn more about what gets NYC techies out of bed every morning, we asked eight local engineers to look back on their time at their respective companies and get candid about the projects they’re proudest of — and what they’re working on now. 

 

The Farmer's Dog software engineers coolest projects NYC tech
Photo via The farmer's Dog.

The Farmer’s Dog is on a mission to give every dog their best life by completely reimagining what pet food is, how it’s made and how it’s delivered. Head of Engineering Andres Tuul said building — and scaling — the company’s proprietary technology has been a unique and exciting challenge.

 

Tell us about a project you've worked on at your company that you're really proud of. What role did you play in this project? 

To deliver a service as unique as ours, we quickly found that off-the-shelf software wouldn't cut it. We're building our very own e-commerce platform from the ground up with a modern stack using NodeJS and JavaScript. As the business continues to grow at an ever-increasing speed, the technical challenges are around scaling up our processes to support 25-times scale. Think MQs and service workers. It's been an incredible learning experience to be able to grow with the company and get hands-on exposure to the more technical parts of the system from day one.

 

It's been an incredible learning experience to be able to grow with the company and get hands-on exposure to the more technical parts of the system.”

What are you working on at the moment? What do you enjoy most about this project?

A critical initiative we're working on is optimizing our order fulfillment process, with a particular focus on the speed and accuracy with which we can make changes to orders and deliver them to fulfillment. This is a challenge for all of the reasons cited above but could unlock enormous value by reducing cut-off windows and providing a better experience for our customers.

What I enjoy most about it is that it's inherently cross-functional and collaborative. It goes beyond code. It's architecting a whole process. It's exciting to work at a place that is so open to innovation and first principles of thinking — not just sticking with something because it's the way things have always been done. And also, puppies. 

 

Unqork software engineers coolest projects NYC tech
Photo via Unqork.

Unqork’s DIY SaaS platform empowers users to build dynamic, complex enterprise-scale software applications without writing a single line of code. Lead Engineer Ben Warburton gave us a glimpse into what it’s like to build Unqork’s unique software tools and the impact his latest projects have had on their users.

 

Tell us about a project you’ve worked on at your company that you’re really proud of. What role did you play in this project?

I recently got the chance to build from scratch a new service that will greatly impact the way that customers use Unqork. Building a toolset that lets people create whatever they dream of is much different from delivering a service or an app with defined boundaries; we’re really asking that people shoot for the moon and we want to be the tool they reach for to get there. However, that does come with some complexities that some people aren’t ready to undertake, so I got to make a service within our platform that leverages the expertise of people with years and years of experience and implements best practices in a no-code way. It really is drag-and-drop enterprise software, and I got to give that life. 

 

We’re really asking that people shoot for the moon and we want to be the tool they reach for to get there.”

What are you working on at the moment? What do you enjoy most about this project?

Right now, my team is getting ready to release a beta of functional BPMN. Imagine you have your typical business diagramming tools, but they actually did things. No more missed communication between legal, the product owner and the development team; we now have a tool that accomplishes the vast majority of things you wish your static diagram could. We’re opening the door to even faster application development, all while making the process easy to visualize and track. It’s another example of making tooling and not a product, and I’m really excited to see what our customers do with it.

 

Gemini software engineers coolest projects NYC tech
Photo via Gemini.

Gemini’s mobile app allows both individuals and institutions to buy, sell and store digital assets  — like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin — through a secure and regulated platform. Frontend Engineering Manager Justin Perler gave us an inside look at the tech he’s been building recently — and the hard work that went into bringing it to life.

 

Tell us about a project you’ve worked on at your company that you’re really proud of. What role did you play in this project? 

I recently worked on our ActiveTrader™ exchange interface. I was responsible for the table and charting components, state management, websocket connectivity and page performance.  There were three core engineers and we split the project up across responsive layouts, global navigation, forms, tables and charting. We began by building out each of the React components in Storybook; we then plugged them into the grid layout and integrated with the backend. To now see the interface live and being used by customers makes all the hard work worth it. This project was a long time coming, and I think we executed it very well as a team!

 

To see the interface live and being used by customers makes all the hard work worth it.”

What are you working on at the moment? What do you enjoy most about this project?

I'm currently working on the new custody UI, which will allow custody customers to track their balances, conduct transfers and manage sub-accounts. There are several engineers working on this project, and it's been impressive to see everyone collaborate and work well together. This project has been a good opportunity for the front-end team to familiarize themselves with React hooks as well as develop best practices and patterns around state management.

 

Talkspace software engineers coolest projects NYC tech
Photo via Talkspace.

Leveraging a network of more than 5,000 therapists, Talkspace connects people with licensed mental health professionals, enabling them to talk online via video and chat, anytime and through any connected device. Software Engineer Lu Yang said improving the experience for patients and therapists has been both a challenging and rewarding endeavor. 

 

Tell us about a project you’ve worked on at your company that you’re really proud of. What role did you play in this project?

I led the engineering effort to allow Talkspace to accept health insurance benefits — an amazing opportunity to increase access to mental health services at a lower cost. By integrating a third-party service, we now deliver accurate and up-to-date health insurance information to clients so they can focus on feeling better, rather than navigating the healthcare system. Coordinating our front-end, back-end, mobile and infrastructure engineers to create the best experience possible for our clients, as well as our therapists, was a challenging — but extremely rewarding — experience.

 

I'm very excited to be building a tool that will make scheduling a video call with a therapist easier than ever.” 

What are you working on at the moment? What do you enjoy most about this project?

One of the best things about Talkspace is the level of flexibility it gives our therapists and clients when they communicate. I'm very excited to be building a tool that will make scheduling a video call with a therapist easier than ever. We are expanding our microservice architecture, leveraging Amazon's Simple Queue Service, as well as utilizing our own React and React Native reusable component library to provide a seamless video call experience so clients and therapists can get to the important business of the therapeutic process.

 

Dailymotion software engineers coolest projects NYC tech
Photo via Dailymotion.

Dailymotion is a video streaming platform that connects more than 250 million entertainment-lovers worldwide to the news and entertainment content they care about the most. Engineering Lead Aren Jidarian shed some light on his proudest achievements at Dailymotion and what he’s working on now. 

 

Tell us about a project you’ve worked on at your company that you’re really proud of. What role did you play in this project?

For the last three years, Dailymotion has been building its own adtech platform internally, with a mission to deliver timely and relevant advertising to our users. Starting from scratch has allowed us to leverage the latest technologies without being bogged down by legacy infrastructure. For example, the vast majority of our services are written in Go with a focus on containerization, and our continuous delivery and deployment workflow is entirely managed using the Kubernetes engine. I've been fortunate enough to have been involved in this project from the very beginning through the initial deployment. One of the most satisfying experiences for an engineer is seeing something you've mapped out and envisioned come online for the first time.

 

One of the most satisfying experiences for an engineer is seeing something you've mapped out and envisioned come online for the first time.”

What are you working on at the moment? What do you enjoy most about this project?

We have a few different initiatives going on at the moment. One is a project that will reduce the latency of our system by pre-generating some of the advertising-related metadata our player needs. This will reduce the number of network calls our player makes and give our users an even smoother experience. We’re working on improving our advertiser experience as well. Our automated system for handling broken or poorly performing ads is being given more granularity, allowing us to quickly address issues.

Shapeways software engineers coolest projects NYC tech
Photo via Shapeways.

Shapeways delivers on-demand 3D printing services with a full-service platform that handles every step of the process from design to production to fulfillment. Tech Lead Software Engineer Johnny Wang shared some of the projects he’s been particularly proud to have played a role in at Shapeways and what he’s tackling next. 

 

Tell us about a project you’ve worked on at your company that you’re really proud of. What role did you play in this project?

I have worked on so many cool projects at Shapeways. One of the recent projects I was involved with was called Shapeways E-commerce Integrations. It is a standalone service written in PHP, which integrated with the Shapeways and Etsy APIs to auto-fulfill shop owners’ Etsy orders on Shapeways.

One of the features I'm most proud of is product mapping on our e-commerce integrations product. This is where shop owners can easily search and map each of their Shapeways model materials to their Etsy product listing options. You can find both Shapeways’ price and Etsy’s listing price on the same page as well.  

 

I believe this project will solve many issues, not only making our software more scalable but also allowing us to offer more payment options to customers in the future.”

What are you working on at the moment? What do you enjoy most about this project?

I am currently working on a project called Payment Service, a centralized service for all payment processing activities that leverages different payment processors, like Stripe and Paypal, with the support of APIs, making it reusable by different applications at Shapeways.

I am super excited to be working on this project. I've gotten to learn more about the finance side of things — for example, how payment transactions work with different payment methods and providers. I believe this project will solve many issues, not only making our software more scalable but also allowing us to offer more payment options to customers in the future.

 

Trail of Bits software engineers coolest projects NYC tech
Photo via Trail of Bits.

Combining advanced security research and a real-world attacker mentality, Trail of Bits helps secure some of the world’s most targeted organizations and products, helping them reduce risk and strengthen code. Senior Security Engineer JP Smith, who often works directly with clients to secure their technology, said he’s enjoyed taking time recently to dig into some exciting and impactful research.

 

Tell us about a project you’ve worked on at your company that you’re really proud of. What role did you play in this project?

I recently wrote some software called Indurative that offers authenticated semantics for almost any Haskell data structure. This enables trustless delegation of an incredibly broad variety of data without writing any new code. I came up with the idea during our cryptography team’s bi-weekly reading group, and then wrote the code in the next couple weeks.

 

...Getting the chance to deeply investigate a hard research problem that's existed for years on end excites me.”

What are you working on at the moment? What do you enjoy most about this project?

I’m currently working on two DARPA proposals that I’m extremely excited about. I think they both have the potential to create some extremely exciting research. Most projects that I work on are consulting engagements that last somewhere between a few weeks and a month and a half, and getting the chance to deeply investigate a hard research problem that's existed for years on end excites me.

 

Merrill software engineers coolest projects NYC tech
Photo via Merrill.

Merrill builds software for the entire mergers and acquisitions lifecycle, leveraging its flagship platform, DatasiteOne, to help users accelerate the due diligence process and achieve successful deal outcomes. Software Engineering Manager Drew Strickland shared a bit about the evolution of the DatasiteOne and how he’s contributed to it in ways both big and small. 

 

Tell us about a project you’ve worked on at your company that you’re really proud of. What role did you play in this project?

Since joining Merrill two years ago, I’ve worked hard to help upgrade our platform, DatasiteOne. This has meant that I’ve had to rework various parts of it to support all the new products and enhanced services we are looking to build. In the end, I wound up doing many smaller projects to be able to do the work I’m doing now. After all, you can’t have integrations with third parties until you have a full-fledged API gateway. Until you form an agreement around what that looks like to your system, you can’t reasonably expect to trust authorization from third parties.

 

We are taking all these tools, literally designed for people and not machines, and making them all work together. It’s a fantastic challenge.”

What are you working on at the moment? What do you enjoy most about this project?

Merrill has always supported participants in the M&A lifecycle, and with some of our upcoming projects, we are looking to become involved even sooner. Later this year, we will introduce DS1 Marketing to manage deal initiation, workflow tracking and reporting. This will get us involved right as a deal is starting and help our customers with a process they do mostly with older tools such as email, spreadsheets and Rolodexes. It’s an exciting prospect because we are taking all these tools, literally designed for people and not machines, and making them all work together. It’s a fantastic challenge, and I am certainly glad I had the opportunity to lay the groundwork to make these other activities happen, and to begin to see the project through to its completion.

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