The big to-do: 6 engineers explain their current projects

by Liz Warren
June 27, 2018

What’s it really like to be an engineer at a leading tech company in NYC? It depends. We caught up with engineers at six very different startups throughout the city and asked them to explain what makes their team — and their daily assignments — unique.

 

squarespace
image via squarespace

At Squarespace, engineers tackle problems together as often as possible. Senior Software Engineer Ryan Gee, who has been with the company for seven years, explained what goes on behind the scenes every day and shed some light on the project he’s currently working on.

What’s a typical day like for an engineer on your team?

We start each day with a brief standup meeting where we discuss what was completed yesterday, and what we aim to accomplish today. We also have the opportunity to ask for, or offer, assistance on specific tasks. When unexpected challenges arise, we like to break into pairs or groups of three to troubleshoot and field ideas. We might do a live walkthrough of a code change so that we can review as a team. The systems and requirements we model are very complex, so we try to collaborate as often as possible.

What’s one of the most interesting projects your team is currently working on?

My team has been hard at work updating a critical piece of Squarespace’s payments infrastructure. It's a massive undertaking, but one that’s interesting because it requires everyone on the team to push their skills, and constantly learn new ways of problem-solving. It’s exciting to know that what you’re working on now will make future work a lot easier.

How is your team here different from any other team you’ve been on?

What makes our team unique is how cross-functional we are. Since most of the changes that relate to the way we sell products and promotional initiatives go through our team, we get intimate knowledge of a broad variety of ways our customers interact with Squarespace. That knowledge helps make us effective partners to both the product and business teams.

 

bluecore
image via bluecore

Every day is different for an engineer at marketing tech company Bluecore. Newton Ikhariale has been with the company for about three years and serves as the director of engineering. He told us how he and the rest of the team make a huge impact on the company.

What’s a typical day like for an engineer on your team?

The day begins with a quick stand-up meeting in the morning to sync with the team. Around noon, we break for a healthy and delicious catered lunch. The team spends the rest of the time working on their priorities for the week or attending design reviews, a book of the month club, or other informational or collaborative opportunities. As the day ends, you may find a few team members playing “Go” or other board games.

What’s one of the most interesting projects your team is currently working on?

The team is currently working on a big project to rebuild a core pipeline using a new technical architecture. This is very exciting for all because the project has a huge impact to the company margins and the ability to scale our customer base.

How is your team here different from any other team you’ve been on?

A significant difference is the combination of impact and variability of the job. Every Bluecore engineer works on projects that impact the business. The team’s work varies from building our best-in-class user workflows to backend architecture that scales. It’s fun to put it all together to delight our customers.

 

Director of Software Engineering Daynesh Mangal has been on the Discovery Digital team for over four years. He described each engineer on the team as a “sharp technologist” that plays an influential role in the company.

What’s a typical day like for an engineer on your team?

On our API and services team, engineers focus on supporting specific missions. Each engineer is a member of an agile pod and is actively engaged in all discussions, decisions and standups that revolve around the primary mission of that pod. Outside of our pods, our engineers are also highly collaborative and have very influential roles in driving our overall backend architecture as well.

What’s one of the most interesting projects your team is currently working on?

Our engineers have been laying the groundwork for delivering targeted API responses based on data from several sources. The engineering challenges to support this vision are insanely exciting and there’s still so much to do. However, incremental releases to gradually transform the way we drive our users’ experiences — and ultimately how we operate — make these larger initiatives more attainable.

How is your team here different from any other team you’ve been on?

I am very fortunate to have engineers on my team who are just really sharp technologists. Our team members have solid engineering chops and are highly collaborative, humble people. We regularly reevaluate our technology choices openly and respectfully (yet critically) in an attempt to move us all in the right direction. And because of these team traits, working at Discovery has been truly rewarding for us all, regardless of our experience level.

 

tpt
image via tpt

Engineers at Teachers Pay Teachers spend their days rotating between working on their own and collaborating with their team. Mercan Topkara, who serves as the tech lead for the recommendations and ranking team, has been with the company since August 2016. She explained why it’s so important for engineers to be both team players and solo rockstars.  

What’s a typical day like for an engineer on your team?

A typical day includes coding and interacting with other team members. We do regular pairings on code development and have deep technical discussions on several Slack channels dedicated to certain technologies. We have team-level learning opportunities where we discuss everything from technical problems to interesting books or papers that are specific to the type of work we do. The team can spend part of their day participating in company-wide activities such as “This Week I Learned (TWIL)” and “Open Source Fridays.”

What’s one of the most interesting projects your team is currently working on?

We are working on resource recommendations for educators. Technically, this is opening up room for large scale data-driven products where we generate daily recommendations for all active users using tools such as Spark clusters, scheduler systems and microservices for this pipeline, building offline/online evaluation frameworks. We are also very excited that this product serves our mission to help educators find the right resources for their teaching needs at the right time.

How is your team here different from any other team you’ve been on?

This team is one of the most diverse teams I have been on, and we benefit from this diversity immensely. We have great work ethics and enjoy working together. I work with people that I enjoy spending time with outside of work as well. I think it’s the first time I’ve also connected to my team over several other social networks! This team is also special in the sense that I work most closely with community experts and designers. Being this close to the educator community extremely increases the connection to users of our technology.

 

Quovo
image via quovo

VP of Engineering John Whitfield has been with Quovo since September 2017 and places a big emphasis on coding — for that reason, you won’t see many Quovo engineers with a packed calendar. The team likes to meet once in the morning to allow for as much coding as possible. Whitfield explained more.

What’s a typical day like for an engineer on your team?

We begin with a standup meeting to touch base about our priorities for the day. After that, we don’t have many other meetings. We keep schedules relatively unstructured so that we have plenty of time to code. Like other engineering teams, every day is different, but collaboration is always guaranteed. The whole team is based in New York, so we’re constantly in close communication to solve problems together.

What’s one of the most interesting projects your team is currently working on?

At the moment, we’re focused on scaling to support rapidly increasing traffic and to ensure that every service we deploy is provisioned in a scripted, repeatable and reliable manner. It’s an exciting time for our engineering team because we’re quickly growing our roster of clients across the U.S. and outside the country. We need to be able to easily launch services in multiple regions and VPCs to support these diverse clients.

How is your team here different from any other team you’ve been on?

Quovo’s clients range from small fintech companies to the largest banks, and we’re entrusted with a lot of sensitive financial data. We use modern technology and processes to move quickly, but security is always top of mind. We train our engineers in secure coding practices, and we are refining our processes to optimize for both agility and security. In a recent round table of tech leaders I attended, security was named as the top concern by almost every participant. Security has become table stakes for engineers in today’s world, and in this context, Quovo is a great place to be.

 

VTS
image via vts

Senior Software Developer Evan Goodberry has been with VTS for almost five years. He explained why engineers on his team have an especially unique and exciting set of challenges day in and day out.

What’s a typical day like for an engineer on your team?

As our team is focused on our application’s foundation, our daily routines are varied. Besides maintenance of our shared component library, we also regularly pair in order to educate, train and support engineers on the VTS experience teams.

What’s one of the most interesting projects your team is currently working on?

We’re deep into a project to migrate our front-end framework. The challenge of decision-making around timing, strategy and technology at this level is especially interesting as an exercise in collaborative research and planning.

How is your team here different from any other team you’ve been on?

Our focus on one slice of the tech stack means that the members of this team tend to be especially passionate about front-end technology. The work around updating patterns and best practices presents a unique challenge for the engineers, as proper communication is just as crucial as the changes themselves.

 

 

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