We sat down to speak with Senior Full Stack Developer at eduMe, Simon Dobson, to find out more about his path into the role, a day in the life as an engineer at eduMe, and what he looks out for when interviewing candidates.
If you’re looking for a new role and you’re interested in what eduMe has to offer, head over to our careers page to see our open engineering roles and learn more about our team.
eduMe: What’s your role at eduMe and what does a typical day look like for you?
Simon: I’m going to use that old cliché and say no two days are the same, so it really does depend. However I can share that at eduMe I am a 'Team Lead', meaning that I both contribute to our codebase and manage the people on my team. I am responsible for a handful of junior software engineers, doing my best to help them set and achieve their goals and objectives while trying to answer any questions they might have.
I’m still also a developer! Which is also to say I’m also often doing development tasks, which can be anything from fixing a one line typo, doing some code reviews or architecting our next big piece of software. Finally we are quite autonomous here at eduMe, so I can also get involved in other areas, for example process improvements or adding functionality to our internal tools.
How did you get into Software Engineering?
I studied Computer Science at university and since then I haven’t looked back! However my original plan was to study Mathematics & Philosophy, I have an interest in both topics and after reading 'Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy' by Bertrand Russell I thought this subject was for me. To be honest now I see it as a blessing in disguise that I was rejected by my top picks to study this, primarily because I really love Computer Science & Software Engineering, but also because I’m not exactly sure what I would have done with a Mathematics & Philosophy degree.
Why did you join eduMe?
I knew Milos, our VP of Product, from a previous job and enjoyed working with him. Milos reached out and after a quick chat with him I decided to enter the application process. After meeting some of the team, asking lots of questions and checking out the product I was confident that it would be a good fit for me.
Thankfully I passed the interviews (and - was right about eduMe being a good fit).
What kind of technical challenges are you and your team working through right now?
Lots of interesting ones! We are at a good stage in my opinion, we are established enough to have lots of users (millions, to be more precise) and very constant usage of our platform – which is a good thing of course – but it comes with challenging problems to solve.
We have to think of performance and scalability with everything we build, this can be for a brand new feature or improvements to an existing one. Either way, whatever we build is now being built to last. The options on ‘what’ to build are still very vast which means there are lots of exciting new things to experiment with.
How do you keep up with technology?
Like so much else I do, I rely on others. Being a learning platform, within eduMe we are always sharing bits and pieces of info between each other, and this is true within the engineering team too. We have a Slack channel where we share the latest interesting blog posts or news that we’ve found.
I’m old enough to have contacts (now friends) at previous workplaces where we still have channels to share this sort of stuff with each other. I also follow plenty of accounts on social media (Twitter, Reddit) that share good content — it’s mainly memes... But occasionally something more useful shows up.
What do you look for when interviewing Senior Software Engineers?
Primarily I’m looking to have an interesting conversation - clear & open communication is very important for us at eduMe.
Of course there's more than that - but looking for someone who aligns with our values (respectful, results-driven, humble, transparent, and impactful) is definitely part of the process.
On top of that often I’ll ask about previous projects that someone has been a part of, asking about why it was interesting, any challenges faced etc. We’ll also talk about the ‘stack’ – their strengths and weaknesses, where they see themselves and opinions on different roles (frontend, backend, full stack).
For senior roles I’ll usually ask some questions about the different teams and organizations they’ve been a part of; what has worked well before & how they’ve best worked with other members of a software team (product design, product management, QA etc).
Finally I might slip in a technical question about a JS concept (e.g. arrow functions, promises) or something else. It might not sound like it, but there will definitely be time for candidate questions at the end.
What do you love most about working at eduMe and why should someone consider joining the engineering team?
It will sound cheesy but it’s true - I love the people. For every job I’ve had, the people I’m working next to have made the biggest impact on my ability to enjoy work, and I’m happy to say at eduMe it’s very easy to enjoy working with such an amazing team.
That starts from the very top of the company and flows all the way through, I think this is part of the reason we have such autonomous teams – which is another thing I love about working at eduMe. I’m able to find and act upon things that can be improved, without jumping through all the hoops that one usually might have to in a more corporate role.
If you’ve enjoyed reading about Simon’s experience at eduMe, why not have a look at our open engineering roles?