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Q&A: My First 6 Months at Tidal

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Q&A: My First 6 Months at Tidal

Q&A: My First 6 Months at Tidal

I sat down with Justin Barclay today to discuss his first six months on the job as a Tidal Software Developer. You think you know a person, and then you find out they use emacs. I am constantly surprised by our team!

What made you want to become a software engineer? And why did you apply to Tidal?

I’ve always loved computers & technology and I’ve always been curious about learning how things worked. As I’ve gotten older I’ve also discovered the love of problem-solving. For me, being a developer is a perfect intersection of those three interests.

I was drawn to apply to Tidal because:

  • They used mature and developer-friendly open source technology

  • Their dev stack was full of technologies I had come to love using or was interested in learning more about such as Ruby on Rails, ClojureScript, Sass, React, and Postgres.

  • The domain of their product was based on an area of growing interest of mine: cloud computing

  • They were a start-up, so I knew that would give me an opportunity to wear many hats and allow me to explore this industry rather than focus on a subset of it.

I’ve actually quit programming several times and pursued other opportunities

I’ve actually quit programming several times and pursued other opportunities

What was different about the hiring process with Tidal?

I liked how they were a very personable organization. That when we talked they were more interested in my potential to grow into the role. In previous interviews I had, they focused on how many of their checkboxes I hit: how well I knew a particular programming language or framework. I liked how having a work-life balance was something they valued as well. Again, at the previous companies I talked to, they liked to brag about how hard and late their developers worked, and that just wasn’t something I was interested in.

Did you have any particular role models — someone you looked at and thought, “I want to do what that person is doing”?

I’ve had friends who have mentored me during my journey in programming they’ve both inspired me to have a deep understanding of functional programming and one of them helped me become a better engineer by challenging me to better understand the systems and thought processes that go into creating software.

What’s been the toughest part of learning to be a developer? Was there ever a point where you were close to throwing in the towel and taking things in a different direction?

I think there are three tough parts in creating worthwhile software: persistence, the ability to look at a problem from many angles, and learning to name things.

I’ve actually quit programming several times and pursued other opportunities, however, over the past couple of years, programming became my major focus again and I’ve been enjoying life more than ever.

I’ve been enjoying life more than ever

I’ve been enjoying life more than ever

What is the most challenging or exciting aspect of your job at Tidal?

The most challenging aspect for me is always trying to keep the big picture in mind and to be more user-focused when making development decisions. Too often I want to do a deep dive into a problem or a bug and craft the perfect solution, but this is not always the most effective approach.

The most exciting part has always been the opportunity to learn a new problem space and explore different solutions. As a relatively new engineer or someone new to corporate application architecture, I don’t see myself running out of new things to learn for a long while.

How was the company culture upon hiring versus 6 months later?

Since I joined Tidal, the workplace has always been open and collaborative. When we run into issues or problems, everyone is very keen to work together to find solutions for us and our customers. As we grow, we are aiming to be more deliberate on how we grow as a team, and we’ve started organizing monthly social events where we can get out of the office and have fun together.

Have you ever worked for a startup before? If yes, how would you compare this experience to the previous? If no, what has surprised you the most?

This is my first job working for a startup or software company. The biggest shift I’ve experienced was dealing with how open communication is here. At Tidal, we like to use Slack, Trello, and the Google suite of software to ensure that all of our communication and information is out in the open and easy for anyone in our company to find. This is in a stark contrast to my last place of employment where a lot of company info was siloed in everyone’s inbox.

What project, that you have recently worked on, do you find you have a love/hate relationship with?

I have a love/hate relationship with visual design. I’ve been working on our front-end application a lot recently and I find it quite hard to create something that I think looks nice and is also functional. I believe I am at that point in learning how to do visual design, where I know what works and I know what doesn’t work, but I don’t know why something doesn’t work.

Is there anything you accomplished at Tidal that you would be proud of? Big or small

I think I’m proud of the work that I have done on our app’s “application assessment view”. Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of my time fixing bugs and adding polish to these views.

What does your development environment look like?

I do a lot of my daily driving on MacOS where I use Emacs, Docker, git, and fish. Though, I do use VS Code when I want really good tooling around JavaScript. I’m also finding Terraform a lot of fun when I need to set-up some AWS resources.

— Arsha Tahir