Welcome to our Meet the 50 Team series, where we give you the lowdown on how the people at 50onRed get stuff done. This time we’re sitting down with the 2015 RedLabs Interns, Irem Öz, David Lakata, Max Luzuriaga and Bob D’Errico!
Okay guys, give us your basic stats, first-day-of-class style:
David: David Lakata, 20, junior at Penn. I like to play chess.
Max: Really? I’ve never seen you play chess before.
David: Maybe one day…
Max: I’m Max Luzuriaga. I’m 19, and a sophomore at Brown. I don’t like to play chess. [all laugh]
Irem: Irem Öz, I’m from Turkey, 20 years old, junior at Penn, and I like giraffes.
Bob: Bob D’Errico, 34, from South Jersey. I’m a former music teacher starting a new career, and I have two little girls at home.
How did you first get involved with coding?
Bob: I’ve always been interested in computers and coding. I basically got started by making Excel and Access do things that they weren’t originally designed to do. And from that point on, I realized that I really liked tinkering with things like that, which is how I moved to web development and ended up here.
Max: I’ve always been interested in computer stuff. Basically just a little nerd as a kid. I ended up being curious about how things worked and ended up teaching myself from the Internet and online resources.
Dave: I started off liking hardware more than programming, but after actually doing hardware stuff, I realized I liked programming more, which I think is a pretty natural progression for a lot of people.
Your first 50onRed project was developing “MusicBot” for our company Slack account. Can you tell us about it?
Irem: Basically, the office had Sonos speakers that were hooked up to a music app, but not everyone in the office had access to it. So through MusicBot, we were able to give everyone access to the music they were listening to.
Bob: Whenever I talk about the project, I always refer to it as “democratizing music.” It was definitely a challenge at first because I don’t think any of us had really worked on something like this before. Basically, we had to get Slack, Spotify, and Sonos to all talk to each other. There were lots of challenges at first, but eventually we figured it out.
Who are your mentors here, and what have they taught you?
Irem: I think it’s different for all of us, actually.
David: At the Q2 company outing, Slush (Craig Slusher) gave me some pretty insightful advice about how to approach programming. He said that, instead of reading the documentation of a library, it’s better to delve into the source code and actually understand what it’s doing. I haven’t worked with him that much directly, but that piece of advice has really stuck with me.
Max: I worked with a lot of different people on the Engineering Team because I had a number of different projects. I’ve been working with Rob a lot recently, which has been really interesting because he has so much experience with Traffic Platform. It was a cool perspective to have because he’s been here since the beginning of that project, and he was able to speak to how things change and how the style of code in the project changed.
Bob: My main mentor has definitely been Tim Miller, mostly because I knew him before coming into this internship. I owe a lot of where I am right now to Tim, especially with how he helped me out in the beginning and continued to help me throughout the internship. I’ve also worked with Matt Parke and Steve Dorazio, and they’ve both been really great resources. It’s amazing how much you learn working with people who really know what they’re doing and are so experienced in the industry.
Irem: Wait, I want to add Steve to my list too! He was really great.
What are you guys involved with outside of 50onRed?
Bob: Regarding coding, I volunteer for an organization called CodeForPhilly, which specializes in what I guess could be called “civic hacking.” Basically, it’s a bunch of programmers who work together to better the city of Philadelphia. When I first started back in May, I happened to join a project that was just starting–something called “Yadaguru”, which is an app that helps college students through the application process. It’s been great working with that because I’ve been part of it since day one. Other than that, I’m mostly just doing stuff with my family. Hanging out and eating in Philly, that’s what we usually do.
Max: At Brown, I’ve recently become involved with Hack@Brown, which is Brown’s annual hackathon. I’ve been working on the website for it and helping organize the event and the overall experience. It’s been interesting because I’ve attended a few hackathons, but I’ve never been involved in the actual organization of one. I’m working on code stuff, but also giving back to the community that has helped me so much. Outside of that, I also write for The Brown Noser, which is basically Brown’s version of The Onion.
David: At Penn, I’m co-director of Penn Labs. We’re sponsored by the university to work on software that the whole student body will presumably use. I also like to play the trumpet in my free time. I’ve been doing that for a while.
Bob: We should do a duet!
David: [laughs] You’re probably way better than me since you were, you know, a music teacher.
What’s the most valuable thing you learned while working at 50onRed?
Bob: Do you mean hard skills or soft skills?
Both. Either. Whatever you’re walking away with that you think has made you better.
Bob: From a technical standpoint, Python and Flask. I didn’t know anything about either of those before working here, and now I want to build something just for the opportunity to use them more. As for a soft skill, I learned that it’s okay to ask questions. I guess I’d always looked at it as a form of weakness and assumed people would think, “Oh, he’s asking questions, so he must not know what he’s talking about.” But that’s rarely the case. I’ve noticed a lot of people in this industry like answering questions.
Irem: I definitely learned more about Python as well, but I also learned a lot about databases in general. For soft skills, I learned from the company’s ability to be agile. The fact that we could move quickly and effectively within a project, even when we were making really big decisions, was really impressive.
Max: For hard skills, definitely the same as what others have said, like Python and Flask. I think the biggest thing for me was learning how to work as a team within a software engineering group and how to work on existing coding bases. Most of the projects I’ve worked on in the past have either been from scratch or just maintaining my own projects, so learning how to work with someone else’s code has been valuable.
David: IntelliJ has changed my life. It is quite literally the future. Slush’s advice has taught me that the quality of code actually does matter and, for that reason, you have to write code in the correct style so everyone can understand it. Even if code is functional, it has to be readable.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Irem: Like what country? [all laugh]
Max: I really want to be working on interesting projects and be in a position where I can always learn more. That’s something I really appreciate about working at 50onRed: There’s always an opportunity to push yourself further.
Bob: I see myself working at a place like 50onRed. I look at what the Senior Engineers do here, and I would love to be where they are in five years. I’d love to be one of those people who’s mentoring interns down the road. I think I’d also like to work on building something that no one else has thought of yet. I think that’s a cool goal.
Irem: I’ve definitely enjoyed working at 50 because it’s nice to be a bigger part of what was going on. Even as an intern, I still feel like I’m making an impact. Plus, advertising technology is such an emerging industry. It’s nice being able to work for something I believe in.
David: At this point, I don’t really know what industry I’ll be in five years from now. It’ll have to do with computer science, definitely, but along the lines of what Max was saying, I want to be at the forefront of technology. 50onRed has managed to use the best practices and latest technology, which can be much easier said than done. As long as I’m working on a project that’s using the latest technology available, I’ll be happy.
You guys participate in something called “Food Truck Tuesdays”. Do you have any recommendations?
All: Gus’ cheesesteak cart right outside 30th Street Station. He’s the best.