July 12, 2017

Getting to Know: “Employee No. 4,” David, Software Engineer at PebblePost

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Software Engineer David has been at PebblePost since 2015. He has been instrumental in developing Programmatic Direct Mail® and in spreading the company philosophy of doing “tangible good.

Can you explain the “Employee No. 4” designation?
I was one of the originals. I was really interested in joining a small company and seeing how it grew. Of course, I was also really excited about the product. I liked the idea of transforming data from the digital world into something tangible. I thought it was cool to have a message that was personalized instead of something that just popped up in your face every five seconds like most advertising.

What did you do before PebblePost?
I’m originally from Miami and I studied classical violin in high school before I went off to Columbia University. I switched my focus from music to engineering in college, partly because I was always curious about picking things apart to see how they worked. Engineering came naturally.

Programmatic Direct Mail® certainly qualified as a new thing. How far along was the concept when you joined the company?
We were seven days from sending the first piece of mail. So it was interesting to see it start from literally nothing. At first everything was very linear, just trying to get stuff out the door, and then all of a sudden everything became very dynamic, very complex, very rapidly. And it was exciting to be on that rollercoaster — things going right, things going wrong and then fixing them and making them better.

What’s the most fun aspect of the job?
I really enjoy figuring out how to make things more efficient by working with other members of the team. The VP of Engineering, Mathew, who’s been my boss since the very beginning, is very good to work with. We’re always bouncing ideas off each other to try to figure out which is the best way to get things done. I like that teamwork aspect, because a lot of times we are on our own computers doing our own stuff nonstop. 

Describe the PebblePost culture.
Everybody is really friendly and open. I think that’s very important in a company that’s growing so quickly. We still have board-meeting reviews so we hear what’s happening across departments at a high strategic level. Everybody’s in on it. Beyond that, I just really like sitting at the kitchen table and seeing people from other departments come by and asking how their day is going.

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Can you talk about some of the “internal” awards you’ve won?
Uh … OK. [Laughs.] Well, basically, I’ve received a steady stream of awards for what I’d call my semi-non-achievements. It started in 2015 when we went to Taqueria Diana and I unknowingly ordered the nachos, which ended up being one of those giant silver trays filled with nachos and meat and every other kind of topping. I knew there was no way I could finish it. So did my three teammates — so of course they started egging me on, calling it the PebblePost Nacho Challenge. For my lack of enthusiasm they gave me an award, Nacho Challenge Participant. Since then I’ve received a bunch of others. For instance, I said I was going to go to grad school at night while I was working here, and after one week I was like, “No thank you.” So they gave me an award that said “Grad School Registrant.” I’ve compiled quite a resume.

Well, on that note, if you were to make a recruiting pitch, what would you tell a prospective PebblePost employee?
It’s a really great company with good people who are seriously enjoyable to work with. And we’re doing cool stuff that’s making people’s lives better while being less in their face about it.

What’s on your TV/reading/podcast/iPod list these days?
I watch way too much TV, so it’s hard to say which show is my favorite because there are so many. But it runs from “Will & Grace” to “Game of Thrones.” Currently I’m reading “Seveneves,” which is an interesting book about how humanity had to be rebuilt in outer space after the moon exploded. My guilty podcast pleasure is “Unqualified” by Anna Faris. She talks to celebrities and gives them her unqualified advice. And music? I’m always down for some Lady Gaga.

What’s the biggest misconception that people have about software engineers?
Everyone assumes that a software engineer is also an IT person. “Why isn’t my iPhone working?” “Why isn’t the dashboard working?” Any problem that’s technology-related is somehow your fault.

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