What brought you to PebblePost?
I moved to New York in March of 2017. I wouldn’t say it was a spur-of-the-moment thing, but I didn’t have a job lined up. A recruiter put me in touch with Tom [Gibbons, co-founder and VP of R&D], so I came in for an interview. I liked Tom personally and I also liked what the company was doing and the stage the company was at.
Where are you from?
I’m from Alabama originally. I went to undergrad at Mississippi State.
In your experience, are software engineers the same wherever they’re from?
Oh, yeah. Where I’m from, Huntsville, in North Alabama, is really tied in with NASA and the U.S. military. There’s an enormous engineering community there due to government and military contracts. One good thing about working in technology is that you don’t get a lot of location-based advantages. At this point, most everything is on the cloud anyways. With internet access almost universal, it’s really more about work ethic.
Are you from a family of engineers?
No. But it seemed like everyone else’s parents around Huntsville were engineers. After World War II when the U.S. brought a lot of German scientists over to work on our rocket programs, a lot of them ended up in Huntsville at the Marshall Space Flight Center. The largest civic center in the city is even named after Dr. Wernher von Braun [the Von Braun Center]. There’s also a full-scale model of a Saturn V rocket in the city to commemorate its development at the Marshall Space Flight Center. The area is deeply tied with space, engineering and aeronautics.
What made you switch from that kind of engineering to the type you do at PebblePost, with Programmatic Direct Mail®?
My previous position involved working with a government contractor and I’m not eager to get back to that. There’s so much inherent bureaucracy that you spend the majority of your day not really doing anything. The main thing I was looking for in a new position was a startup-type environment. I wanted fast iterations, fast development. And PebblePost certainly has given that to me. You get a very ready sense of how you’re contributing.
What exactly does a software engineer do at PebblePost?
In the year and a half I’ve been here, I’ve worn a few different hats. With the development of our platform, I’ve been on the back-end services team, so I’ve been developing the APIs that will build and persist the metadata that the engine will use to run the flights to produce Programmatic Direct Mail®.
Could you translate that into a real-world scenario from the customer’s perspective?
When the customer gets into our new PDM™ Manager — our dashboard — all the interactions in that dashboard are interacting with the back-end API. So, when they go into the UI and they want to create a new flight, for example, they go through the UI form and they create a flight, they attach it to a strategy and then they submit a request to the back end. Accepting that request and persisting that data is the back-end API.
OK, then. Let’s try this another way: How do you explain to your parents what you do for a living?
I try not to. [Laughs.]
Maybe you could just tell us what’s the most fun part of your job…
It’s self-contained. The API should function in isolation outside of the UI, so it makes it a fun project to work on in the sense that you know the boundaries and can really focus on solid design. There is a specific purpose and it fulfills that purpose and does it consistently well.
What do you do for fun outside of work?
I play a decent amount of video games when I can find the time and willing participants. Outside of that, I have a five-year-old husky-shepherd mix who has a ton of energy, so I spend a lot of my energy trying to get her energy out. I don’t have much left for anything else like social media. I don’t even have a Facebook account.
What’s your favorite video game?
I guess I would answer that more from the perspective of what was the most influential video game than what I currently enjoy playing the most. I played World of Warcraft all through high school really intensely. I look back on that time with a lot of nostalgia. Currently, I’m on that Fortnite train, even though I kind of hate it. [Laughs] Because everybody is playing it.
Does playing video games help you with your work?
I would say it’s more the other way around. Being a software developer, when I’m playing a game and something unusual happens, I generally have a good sense of whether it was supposed to happen that way or if it’s clearly a bug. And because I know how the development process works and I know the limitations, I have an intuition of the rules of the universe that I’m playing in.
Do you have a motto that you try to live by?
Dad always told me to “tell it like it is” and that’s always rung true to me. I think being straightforward and as clear and concise as possible is a very important attribute. That being said, English is a complex language.
Do you have a dream job in mind?
Ideally, I would have my own idea for a product or service and I would work on that. But coming up with an idea that you can believe in to that extent is difficult. I’m also risk-averse, so … it’s complicated.
You’re risk-averse and yet you moved to New York without a job.
See? I told you it was complicated.