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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.