What is the best thing about being an engineer?
One thing I really like is the continuous opportunities for improvement, growth, and fresh problems. There are so many ways to get better, learn more, and completely change gears that I know I’ll never get bored or stagnate.
What was the most exciting thing that happened this month?
I’m really excited about the new engineer, also a good friend of mine, who joined our team! It’s really great to have him on board and been fun seeing his perspective on what we’re doing and how we operate as he’s shadowing me.
Who should every engineer be following right now?
I think “engineer” is way too broad of a category for this, but maybe I’m just not following the right people! I do have a favorite talk to recommend to people who haven’t already seen it: Constraints Liberate, Liberties Constrain by Rúnar Bjarnason.
What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
I’m proud of the work I’ve done to rearchitect and standardize our team’s build system and continuous integration, in a way that we’re hoping to extend to the rest of the teams in EDABI and even eventually generalize it to cover how we define our computational pipelines.
What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
I really love working with the amazing people on my team, learning from their different expertise and perspectives, and applying that skill and energy to problems with real-world impact
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to first discover the mechanisms underlying intelligence and consciousness in the brain, and then invent devices to enrich our experiences and make us smarter. I still do think I want to try some of that eventually, but I think I’m constitutionally allergic to academia.
What is the hardest thing about being an engineer?
I find it challenging to navigate the tradeoffs between quality and agility. I think in general gaining a reliable general intuition for the costs of a hack is a career-long process.
Best career advice that you’ve received?
Something I think has definitely made a huge difference my whole career, that I internalized growing up from my dad, is “it can’t hurt to ask”. Applies to asking questions when you’re confused (“no stupid questions”), to when you want to do something you’re not sure you’re empowered to do (including job applications!), and to when you want something different from someone else than you’ve been getting. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as the one-liner implies, sometimes it definitely can hurt to ask, especially if you don’t ask the right way, but I think we as a culture tend far too strongly in the direction of trying to figure it all out ourselves and stick with the status quo.
Dogs or cats?
I have both and love both, but if I had to choose I’d say dogs. I feel like my relationship with my dogs is more emotionally invested and we have more fun together.
What is your superpower/unicorn flavor?
Something that’s always felt fairly natural to me but I’ve learned comes hard to others is an ability to identify the right people to solve a given problem, coordinate their efforts to solve it, and make sure the right kind of communication is happening.
I have no idea what a unicorn flavor is and googling doesn’t help. Is this what getting out of touch feels like?
A good friend of mine once wrote a post talking about how she tries to avoid superlatives when possible, because they often say more than you really mean, because it’s rarely that useful to your audience, and because avoiding them pushes you to give more details about the thing you’re describing. So for these questions I tried to avoid giving a direct answer to “best” or “favorite”, instead talking about something good or something I like.