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Superhero Spotlight, PyCon Edition: Scott Lobdell

Welcome to Hearsay Social’s “Superhero Spotlight” series, in which we highlight one employee at the company that drives our engineering, customer success, marketing, sales, and operations. These are the faces of Hearsay Social!

superhero scott

For this “PyCon Edition” of the Superhero Spotlight we spoke with Hearsay Social software engineer Scott Lobdell, who is presenting at PyCon 2014 Montréal, a Python community conference, on one the coolest programming projects we’ve ever seen: Programming an Autonomous 20 Foot Blimp with Python.

Be sure to check out his session and join Hearsay Social for other activities at PyCon!

Title: Software Engineer

Time at Hearsay Social: Nearly 1 year

What did you do before coming to Hearsay Social?

I was in the Army for 5 years, so this is actually my first civilian job. Before coming here, I was a signal officer in the Army and deployed to Afghanistan once.

That’s a big shift. What attracted you to Hearsay Social?

When I went to apply for a job, I wanted to be a software engineer, so I did a shotgun blast of applying to companies. But on paper I looked like a risky hire, so most technical recruiters wouldn’t even look at me. But Hearsay Social actually took the time to interview me. Once they made an offer, I accepted.

What were the reasons you looked risky on paper?

I didn’t have any experience. I’d never been a software engineer before. I respected Hearsay Social a lot because they actually took a second to test me, essentially.

Were you programming before you went to the Army?

I was a computer science major in college at West Point, and I programmed on the side–just for fun–my entire time in the Army. Although I didn’t actually program in the Army, I was in the most technical branch of the army. Programming is what I’m passionate about.

ScottQuote4So what does your typical day look like at Hearsay Social?

When I come in the morning depends on how late I stayed the night prior. I work on something that I want to finish or something I think is cool, so I’ve stayed as late as midnight. Typical day for me is mostly programming, problem solving, working on a project–given the amount of things that there are to do, it’s always been a project of my choosing. Very rarely am I specifically told what I need to do.

What do you love the most about working here?

There are a ton of perks. Probably the best thing is that this is the smartest group of people I’ve ever worked with. I’ve made more friends here in two weeks than in the past five years. I get paid to do something that I love. I really enjoy programming, which is why I work long hours. Another unique thing is the sports we play on the side, like volleyball and a little flag football.

ScottQuote2

Is there any specific accomplishment you’re proud of from the past year?

My proudest one so far is the “suggested time to post.” [Ed. note: “Suggested time to post” is a unique feature in Hearsay Social that recommends to you the most ideal time of day to schedule your post.] It’s neat because it’s fairly subtle: all the hard work is done in the backend to ultimately deliver you a single tool tip, which I think is kind of cool. It works by leveraging all the data that Hearsay Social has already collected, doing a little analyzing, and pushing it towards the user. It’s personalized, so it’s different per user. The reason I did that was I wanted to know the answer to that question myself. It became useful to others.

ScottQuote1What’s your best advice for job seekers?

There’s a lot of value in showing initiative yourself, whether that’s maintaining your own blog or your own application. That creates value no matter what, whether it gets you hired or not.

Time for the fun questions! What’s your favorite snack?

I eat more beef jerky than anybody else here.

Scott's favorite movie
Scott’s favorite movie is a parody starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Favorite movie?

Last Action Hero. It’s an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie where the whole thing is a parody to other action movies, so it’s just over-the-top ridiculousness the whole time.

Favorite color? #111

Do you have a superpower? I can fuse two hydrogen atoms to create helium.

Favorite song to DJ on the office Sonos?

Nobody likes my music, so I generally wait for everyone to leave before I start DJing, but it’s all heavy metal.

Who is your role model, and why?

I had an influential mentor in the army, who was an infantry officer with a PhD in computer science. He was committed to the idea of a warrior-scholar. He was extremely smart and one of the most athletic and strongest people I’ve ever met, and he was a badass infantry dude. He just had an unbreakable work ethic. Those are the traits I respect in the professional realm.

Thanks for reading! If you’re interested, learn more about what it’s like working at Hearsay Social. Oh, and check out Scott’s autonomous 20-foot blimp below. It will be making an appearance at PyCon in April.

Superhero Spotlight: Akshay Shah

This is our second installment in Hearsay Social’s “Superhero Spotlight” series, in which we highlight one employee at the company that drives our engineering, customer success, marketing, sales, and operations. These are the faces of Hearsay Social!

SHotW_Akshay_BlogTitle: Data Scientist

Time at Hearsay Social: 2 years

What did you do before coming to Hearsay Social?

I’ve been a lot of different things. I was a public school teacher for awhile. I went to med school and was an EMT for a while. When I came out here, I was a spammer at another startup for about six months–I was in the shady margins of marketing. I was doing a mix of marketing and informatics work.

That’s pretty interesting. So what eventually attracted you to Hearsay Social?

Cool data. We gather a lot of data about our clients but we’re doing it on their behalf. We have the opportunity to build really interesting products using that data.

What does your typical day look like?

Luckily, I have very, very few meetings. I think I have a grand total of three hours of meetings a week, which is pretty awesome. The engineering team as a whole shields most of us from meetings. Other than that, my day is pretty mixed. I spend a chunk of time chasing down and fixing random bugs. I spend probably half my time building user-facing features in the product, and about half my time doing data stuff, which is usually more exploratory work that hasn’t found a home in our product yet.

AkshayQuote1What do you love the most about working here?

I love that Steve is actually an equal partner in running the company, and I think that trickles down to everybody on the technical side of the business. You never really see anyone coming up to the engineering team and saying, “I need you to build this thing. Go build it.” It’s always a conversation: “Our customer is having a lot of trouble with this thing. Can we find a way to solve that problem for them?” Engineering always has a big input in what gets built, how it gets built, and how the features are designed from the very beginning. That’s certainly not the case at many companies. I think that makes this a really great place to be on the technical side of the business.

AkshayQuotes2Is there any specific accomplishment you’re proud of from the past year?

In the last two years, I more or less taught myself to be an engineer. When I got hired, I got hired into a very different role not really focused on writing code. The idea was that I was going to be more of a business analyst, but nobody had a super clear idea of what the job description was. There was some notion that I was going to do some analysis and Excel stuff and maybe write some database queries… and write code if necessary. In the last two years, I’m officially moved over to the engineering team and I’m on the team that handles site reliability. For me, that’s been a really big growth. That role could’ve gone in a bunch of different directions. It was nice that we got to choose the direction we take that in.

What’s your best advice for job seekers?

I wish somebody had told me to take a deep breath. It’s gonna be totally fine, and this is a really good time to be a technical person. I was so stressed out about finding a job that I would really enjoy. In a lot of ways, I got lucky finding this job. Programming is a lot of fun.

Time for the fun questions. What’s your favorite lunch served at Hearsay Social and your favorite snack from the kitchen?

Favorite lunch is definitely the Thai food. Favorite snack is clearly the baked cheetos. The only thing in the running are the five-pound sacks of gummi bears.

Favorite color? Orange.

Favorite movie? The Seventh Seal.

Richard_Stallman_at_Pittsburgh_University
Richard Stallman, American software freedom activist and computer programmer. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I want a prehensile tail. Think about how much easier it would be to carry three coffee cups! Cold winter day? Just wrap your tail around your neck. So many uses! If I were strong enough, I could pogo stick without a pogo stick. This has been my answer for this question since I was 19 years old.

Who is your role model, and why?

Richard Stallman. He has a bunch of really crazy ideas, but he’s the guy that made free software a thing. Our company wouldn’t exist without it.

Thanks for reading! If you’re interested, learn more about what it’s like working at Hearsay Social.