A Day in the Life at KORTX: Engineering

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Stephanie
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Let’s start with your background – where did you attend university and what did you study?

I attended the University Of Pavia, and studied Computer Engineering there.

When did you realize that you wanted to focus on software engineering?

It must have been minutes into playing a video game. To be honest, I didn’t get to any serious coding until my late teenage years, as perhaps I liked video games a little too much. The real breakthrough there was buying a Mac, as the inability to play games somehow channeled my focus and got me interested in coding the Mac in my free time.

When did you move to the US and what helped drive that decision?

I moved to the US around the end of 2011. I had a desire for new challenges and there was a relatively stale job market in Italy. At the time, the offer I received couldn’t have been matched by any company in Italy or Europe and it seemed like the right thing to do. I didn’t over-think it and I said yes.

What were some of the first software engineering jobs you had after university?

I took two engineering jobs while in Uni, one frontend, and one full stack, and released a small independent app for the Mac. More and more enticing job offers eventually drove me away from college. Last time I walked on campus I only had two physics classes to go. Yikes.

Was there a person/mentor or unique experience that had a strong influence on you early in your career?

One day my friend Davide showed me how he was making games on his Commodore Amiga in the early 90s. He was making the music, the graphics, and the code, all on this magic machine, and honestly that was the coolest use of a computer I had ever seen. I had the same computer and mine only had games installed, so I had to change to a more productive use of the machine, which I did eventually.

When and why did you decide to transition into digital marketing?

Digital marketing is such a natural choice for web application designers! First of all, there are no limits or red tape, and the industry is very competitive with a mix of big and small companies. Secondly, I found it to be very rewarding because large challenges became learning opportunities. I finally stumbled upon digital marketing in 2015 and have stayed in the industry ever since. Once I learned the patterns and the specifics of how digital marketing worked, I was offered better opportunities and here I am at KORTX.

What aspects of our company made you consider joining KORTX?

I’ve found that the goals, code, infrastructure, and business rules stay mostly unchanged among marketing companies. What really changes is the people and their idea of what a company is. I liked the philosophy of KORTX and I am familiar with our mission, and this really ends up influencing the day-to-day tasks more than a job title or the workload.

Tell us about a typical workday – what types of projects are you involved in?

My workday always involves taking a look at the state of our running applications, checking in with the team, and working on tickets. We receive business concepts in business lingo, we translate it into software with the help of analysts, split the software into bite-sized tasks, put those on a board, and then commit (bet) that we’ll be able to code it all in a 2-week sprint.

In this current sprint, I am working on improving the existing infrastructure. We run a complex machine that includes a real-time stream, reporting systems, and user panels that all need care, attention, and software updates so the business stays strong! Those need attention from time to time. We’re doing sprints all year round! We’re always sprinting!

What do you enjoy most about working with your KORTX teammates?

I work with reactive people and don’t feel like I am having the same technical conversation twice. Each time we work on something new we don’t forget to bring forward what was good about the last cycle into the next. It makes me feel like we’re moving fast.

What are some traits you look for in a successful software engineering team?

I’d look at how the time is spent in terms of fixing bugs vs creating features. All unresolved questions in engineering will come back to haunt you. In other words, you introduced errors in your systems, you will find out as the system will start to fail and ruin your day. Because of that, a team that spends time writing new features and handling existing systems in a healthy and balanced way will always look successful to me.

How do you unwind after a long workday – any hobbies that you’re passionate about?

Most weekdays I’ll do some light exercise, eat then proceed to work on side projects. I think coding without deadlines counts as meditation. My side projects have historically been all over the place, but a few years ago I thought I’d learn 3D modeling well enough to write simple games… and now it’s more fun than playing the games! So these days whether it’s sketching, visuals, or sound engineering, my side projects revolve around making a game.

What are a few of your favorite brands right now? 

Apple and Onitsuka Tiger. Two things I’ve had around and used daily since college.

What’s a fun fact about yourself that your team might not know?

I learned English because no one translated computer software until the late 90s. I learned English playing the Playstation 1. It wasn’t until the PS2 that more games would get localized with language, so in order to play the fresh games, I needed to be able to understand English.

Now that things are opening up, what activities are you looking forward to?

Movies, restaurants, hikes, bonfires, Mario Kart projected on the side of a house… lots of things. I am happy to say I checked a few boxes already. Let’s keep the good work up to keep quarantine in the past!

What advice do you have for aspiring software engineers?

Start with a fun engineering side project soon, or right now, and here’s why: you’ll learn engineering and the discipline that’s needed to work on projects. Because once you become a real engineer, you won’t have as much time for the side projects, and you’ll regret not having worked on the fun ones early on.

After a busy workday, is there a recipe or meal you typically enjoy having?

An Engineering dinner for WFH days. This is perfect for those days where we’re working from home, don’t really want to tend to the stove for longer than 15 minutes, and want something cozier than a sandwich or a soup.

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Stephanie
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