From passion to profession: How engineers at 6 LA companies got into tech

by Michael Hines
June 14, 2019

What inspires a person to pursue a career in engineering? For some, it starts at a young age with a love of tinkering and problem-solving. Others discover their love for engineering only after they’ve begun to build software and apps of their own. Regardless of what got them interested in their careers, engineers share one thing in common: a passion for tech.

We recently spoke to engineers at six local tech companies to learn how their passion became their profession and what they love most about their day-to-day.

Snap Inc. Los Angeles tech jobs
PHOTO VIA SNAP INC.

It wasn’t until her second internship in college that Emma Wang, who majored in computer science, saw firsthand how impactful and rewarding software development could be. Fast forward to today and Wang is a software engineer at Snap Inc. where she’s helping the camera company build products that change the way millions of people around the world communicate.

 

What got you interested in a career in engineering?

Back in high school, it wasn’t very clear what career opportunities I would have after getting a degree in computer science. But since they didn’t have a program for super-scientist-of-everything-and-president-of-the-world — my 5-year-old self’s dream job — I enrolled in computer science. It was during my second internship that I came to realize the real-life impact software could have. I worked for a small consulting company building internal applications for freight transportation. I met with users weekly to demo what we’d built and discuss how we could improve our solution to better assist their workflow. It was very rewarding to see the impact one piece of software could have.

My favorite professor in junior year, Michael Terry, said to us that in the history of tools, there is a cost that scales with every copy. To make more hammers, you need more material. But in software, the tool you build can be distributed an infinite number of times at no additional cost. I am very excited and motivated by the scope of impact I could have.

I feel energized and purposeful contributing to a product used by millions of people around the world.

 

What do you love most about your work?

My favorite days are the ones that just fly by. Most of my job involves hands-on coding. Getting into the flow of coding is the best feeling. I feel energized and purposeful contributing to a product used by millions of people around the world. I feel lucky to be working with people who are intellectually curious and truly kind. I feel comfortable brainstorming ideas with my teammates and asking for help from other teams. They make me feel supported.

 

Relativity Space Los Angeles tech jobs
PHOTO VIA RELATIVITY SPACE

Relativity Space is an orbital launch company that’s building the world’s first autonomous rocket factory and launch service. Oh, and did we mention that Relativity’s rockets are all 3D printed? While building rockets is rewarding on its own, Lead Avionics Hardware Engineer Bryce Salmi said he also really enjoys the team-building and culture aspects that come with working at a young and fast-growing startup like Relativity.

 

What got you interested in a career in engineering?

I’ve always been a tinkerer. Ironically, I wasn’t terribly good at math growing up. In my sophomore year of high school I got my technician class amateur radio license (with Morse code credit!) and within one year I had my general and extra class licenses, which I still hold. I helped found my high school’s amateur radio club and ran the amateur radio club at the Rochester Institute of Technology, K2GXT. During this time I was more interested in experimenting with building electronics than talking in most cases.

In high school I’d try reading tons of project articles and books about electronics. I didn’t understand the math but was fascinated by the concepts. Learning concepts before math actually seemed to help quite a bit in college. Taking stuff apart and scavenging equipment for my projects was super helpful and really honed my skills. Not having the exact parts meant I needed to learn the concepts and figure out substitutes everywhere. When I realized someone would pay me to do this and that I could work on projects that were bigger than myself, I was sold.

When I realized someone would pay me to do this and that I could work on projects that were bigger than myself, I was sold.

 

What do you love most about your work?

I love seeing systems built up of smaller solutions come together. It’s also fascinating to see a circuit that I designed the schematics for do exactly what I thought it would on a real circuit board, especially during extreme thermal and vibration environments, such as during a rocket launch.

Being in a lead position at a startup is extra rewarding because of the huge team-building and culture aspects. In addition, getting to set precedents and figure out how we solve problems is something not really done once engineering departments are established. I’ve built many circuit boards from concept to production, and even flight to space in many cases, but it’s actually pretty amazing to get to figure out how we, as a startup, want to build boards.

 

GOAT Los Angeles tech jobs
photo via goat

GOAT is the world’s largest marketplace for buying and selling sneakers, from general releases to almost-impossible-to-find exclusives. Senior Software Engineer Daniel Hour said that he got into engineering by accident — more on that below — but quickly became obsessed with the creative possibilities of coding. When it comes to his work at GOAT, Hour loves how the company’s culture enables team members to learn from mistakes and keep moving, which in turn fosters an environment where creativity flourishes.

 

What got you interested in a career in engineering?

My career in engineering actually happened by complete accident. I started out in collegiate athletics, recruiting student athletes to attend the University of Washington. I had an idea for an app to help with the recruiting process, but I couldn’t pay anyone to build it. So I taught myself how to code and completely fell in love with the creative process of engineering. What started out as a means to an end became an absolute obsession. You have a blank canvas to paint on and the only limits are your own imagination.

What started out as a means to an end became an absolute obsession.

 

What do you love most about your work?

I love working with the incredible people at GOAT. Not only are they amazing engineers, but they're also fantastic human beings. I've been in other engineering organizations, where a lot of finger-pointing and blame occurs when a bug arises. However, when there's an issue at GOAT, the culture is to fix it, learn from it and keep moving forward. This attitude and culture fosters an environment for creativity, which leads to awesome developments like the “Black Friday AR Experience” and more recently, the “AR Travis Scott Jordan 1” release.

 

Hallmark Labs Los Angeles tech jobs
PHOTO VIA HALLMARK LABS

Hallmark Labs is the tech hub of Hallmark. Its team of technologists are the driving force behind the company’s direct-to-consumer digital offerings and services, including its e-cards and the streaming service Hallmark Movies Now. Senior Director of Engineering Jason Borja said his love of programming began at a young age and was born out of a curiosity for solving challenging problems and learning how things worked.

 

What got you interested in a career in engineering?

Since my youth, I’ve been curious about figuring out how things worked and understanding the logic behind how they operated. I enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together. My parents would often task me with various projects, like installing new electronic equipment, fixing a broken toy or assembling pieces of furniture.  

Throughout middle school and high school, I was particularly fond of math as it fueled my thirst for solving problems. I was fortunate to also have access to computers and computer classes. Working with computer applications and learning how to program them fed my appetite for solving problems. When it came time to plan for college and think about what I wanted to do for a career, I felt that pursuing a computer science degree would give me more interesting problems to solve and empower me with the skills and tools to solve them.

One of my favorite aspects involves simply collaborating with fellow Labsters about the day’s top challenges and working together to solve them as a team.

 

What do you love most about your work?

One of my favorite aspects involves simply collaborating with fellow Labsters about the day’s top challenges and working together to solve them as a team. I am surrounded by very creative, skilled and passionate people who create products that foster a more emotionally-connected world. Another favorite aspect of my position is ensuring that not only are my teams following our development processes, but also that our processes actually work for them. While we’ve outlined standards and best practices, sometimes adjustments need to be made. Paying attention to how we execute our processes is an important way for me to help facilitate my team’s performance.

Lastly, another great part of my job is that I get to oversee the development of innovative digital applications and services. I take pride in knowing that my work is helping bring Hallmark to the forefront of the digital age and that my contributions make a difference in the lives of our customers.

 

Leaf Group Los Angeles tech jobs
PHOTO VIA LEAF GROUP

Leaf Group specializes in building creator-driven lifestyle brands in sizable and rapidly growing lifestyle categories, like fitness and wellness (MyPlate) and art and design (Society6 and Saatchi Art). We spoke to one of the company’s engineers about his interest in engineering, which began at a young age, while two other teammates weighed in on the favorite parts of their day-to-day.

 

What got you interested in a career in engineering?

Ameno Osman, Software Engineer and UX Designer at Society6: My dad, he’s my greatest inspiration and the reason my three brothers and I pursued careers in engineering. He believed that thinking like a programmer was an essential life skill. He would prepare PowerPoint presentations for us to study on the weekends and assign homework. While I didn’t enjoy this as a teenager, I’m so thankful now. Without it, I wouldn’t know how much joy and fulfillment being an engineer could bring me.

I get the freedom to think about how to solve a problem and come up with what I think is the best possible solution.

 

What do you love most about your work?

Mike Funk, Senior Software Engineer at Saatchi Art: I get the freedom to think about how to solve a problem and come up with what I think is the best possible solution. I am thrilled to work on a team of great engineers who I respect. We learn from each other and create something we're proud of together, which is extremely rewarding. I also get the opportunity to learn new technologies, concepts, patterns, tools, and more, every day. With the variety of work here, there’s never a dull moment.

Ferran Poveda, iOS Software Engineer at MyPlate: Building a great application can be very overwhelming at times. But, that is actually what makes it fascinating to me. Working to deliver the best user experience and building the best software you can — and being encouraged to do so — is what makes it all click.

 

EZ Texting Los Angeles tech jobs
PHOTO BY MCKENZIE SMITH

EZ Texting is a mobile marketing platform that helps businesses of all sizes reach and engage with consumers on the devices they use the most — their phones. Businesses using the platform have sent over 4 billion (and counting) messages. Software Engineer Aman Fahimullah said a love of solving problems and building websites is what got him interested in engineering.

 

What got you interested in a career in engineering?

From a very young age, I have always had a natural curiosity for tinkering, in the sense of figuring things out and solving problems. My curiosity grew as I matured. I learned how to funnel that energy into more productive activities. By the time I turned 12, I developed a passion for website design. I was really good at creating MySpace HTML templates. In fact, my designs were really popular with all the kids at my middle school. That is the same creative energy which drives a lot of my work today. 

From a very young age, I have always had a natural curiosity for tinkering, in the sense of figuring things out and solving problems.

 

What do you love most about your work?

I really enjoy collaboration and code review. With code review, there is the aspect of learning new things from a colleague’s perspective. We love to ask questions and challenge conventional thinking. Collaboration is a way of life at EZ Texting. It is second nature! I enjoy the interaction and engagement across functional areas. I find the prospect of exploring new technologies related to how best to develop our user interface intriguing. Each day I look forward to group exercises that push our boundaries to new levels of innovation.   

 

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