Q&A: Harrison

What was it that led you to a career in Computer Engineering?

Honestly, my path to a career in Computer Engineering began at an early age. The ball first started rolling in middle school with my introduction to Lego’s Mindstorms. This really brought programming to life for me. These toys could be programmed to move, push, and lift stuff. I found that so cool. Around the same time, I also took my first official CS class which really cemented my interests in this area and led me to continue studying software development throughout high school, college, and on.

What is it about Belly that caught your interest and made you want to join our awesome Engineering Team?

The people, hands down.

I had kept in touch with Fred Lee, Trey Springer, and Yumin Wong from my work at a previous company. I have a great deal of respect for them both personally and professionally and I admire the level of talent they bring to a software company. When I look back at the people I have learned the most from and gotten the most joy from working with, they are all at the top of my list. When I found out they all had made their way to Belly, it naturally piqued my interest. As I began to reach out to each of them, they spoke volumes about the quality of the other members of Belly Engineering Team and the company as a whole. This made a big impression on me, but it wasn’t until I got in the door and became a member of that team that I fully understood the unique composition of talent on our engineering team and the remarkable opportunities this presents to each member of our team.

As Logan has spoken at Team Meetings and what not, he has really highlighted the importance of our core values and culture. Many companies boast about their culture and core values, but the two really are the results of the employees, they aren’t just words or images up on a wall. Until the people in your organization live out your core values and culture, they are meaningless. Because of the key role that the team members played in my decision to join Belly, the culture has definitely been the main factor in keeping me engaged. Our core values are embodied by all of our employees.

At other companies, you can find individuals with passion and what not, but it is rare to see it displayed across an organization as a whole.

What is your role at Belly?

I am a Senior Software Engineer on the Platform Team, primarily working on our backend services. We have an interconnected set of backend services, each of which fulfills a different role within the Belly product. I am particularly interested in helping to grow and maintain this set of services in a performant and maintainable manner.

A large platform like ours is sort of like an orchestra, it’s composed of many independent members each of which has a well-defined responsibility. Although these members are playing very different roles, when they work in unison, they can create beautiful results. However when they get out of sync or offbeat, it is immediately apparent and can be painful to observe.

With close to 30 independent services in our platform, this creates a complex system to manage and maintain. When I first joined the team, I noticed our developers had to run each of these services independently, which seemed like a significant bottleneck to their efficiency. My first reaction was to develop a small script to automate the process of launching all of these services at once. When my fellow engineers caught wind of this they were excited by it and encouraged me to take it a step further, adding great features like the ability to start and stop services on demand, the ability to attach to and debug services, etc. This type of camaraderie and encouragement can make the difference between being a motivated team that’s building a great product with passion and being a 9-5 team that’s just looking to meet the minimum set of expectations to get the product out the door.

What are you most excited about working on while you’re here?

Taking the platform to the next level both in terms of the efficiency with which we can implement new features and the ease with which we can develop and test our system is what most excites me. The features we have coming down the pipeline will be great to get into the application and are certainly exciting in and of themselves. However there are things we as engineers can do to make these and future features much easier to implement. These types of changes span process, technological, and organizational boundaries, and although they tend to be very challenging to implement, are what I find most rewarding to see in action.

I’m also looking forward to investing in the team we are building here at Belly. This includes assisting new Engineers as they come on board and get up to speed, taking advantage of pairing opportunities, sharing knowledge through Tech Talks, etc. For any growing product and team, there is a balance to be struck between the desire to implement new functionality quickly and the need to manage technical debt and knowledge sharing proactively. While these two objectives can often be at odds with one another, as a team there are steps we can take to set ourselves up for success in both arenas. Doing so will offer big wins down the road as we continue to add team members and functionality to the system. I look forward to helping us to walk this balancing act.

What do you want to work on next?

Fred’s mission is to build one of the world’s top Engineering Teams. Aligned with that, is the importance of and ability to acquire new developers. The ease of working with the products at Belly, significantly contributes to our Engineer’s happiness while working here. In line with this, my goal is to make sure our platform is a dream to work with and develop against.

As a first step toward this, I have been working on developing a framework/platform that allows our team to effectively manage the services that Belly supports. We have 30 or so services that currently, all have to be managed separately. I am working on creating one control platform to control all 30 services. I think it can serve the role of giving an Engineer insight into how to control all those services. This would save a lot of time and frustration. It is a long ways from the dashboard point that I would like it to get to, but it is getting there and currently moving on positively.

What has been your favorite moment at Belly over these past two weeks?

The lunch and learn has probably been the highlight. To see a company of our size, with an aggressive timeline for where we are going and what we are doing, stop for a minute and say, ‘hey what we are doing here at Belly is aggressive, important and challenging, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t focus on our people’, is amazing. It really impresses me to see the poise and leadership that we have here drawing attention to the importance of feedback and personal development and not let those things fall through the cracks.

Are you familiar with our core values? Which is your favorite one and why?

I like all of our core values because I see each one displayed in every person on the Belly team. Values are a great thing to have but they are only as good as the degree that they are lived out in an organization. I was excited about our core values when I first heard of them and was excited to immediately see each one of them represented throughout the organization.

My favorite core value is, “make lemonade”. Not in a way like, ‘why is life giving you lemons?’ (in a negative manner). Rather, with a company in our situation with the state that we are in, the road isn’t going to be straight, flat and easy going. You can count on the road being very bumpy. As an Engineer, I am going to want to do things cleaner, but that may not always be possible to do because we have short deadlines and what not. Those are the situations that I see as lemons.

I think that it is important for us to be pragmatic in those circumstances, not just from a technical perspective, but also in looking at all constraints. Our core value of making lemonade is saying we aren’t going to act like this is going to be some rosy parade at Belly, but rather look at what we are going to accomplish and realize that there will be challenges, or lemons. However, we will work to turn those lemons into lemonade. Take a realistic approach in situations.

Fun Facts

Harrison travels a ton! He met his wife in New Zealand while studying abroad. Harrison has traveled to Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, France, Spain, UK, Cambodia, Laos, Peru, Argentina, Fiji, Central America, and the list goes on! Harrison and his wife are thinking that their next trip may be to Greece or somewhere in the Middle East!

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