Q & A — Startups, Software Engineering, Jobs, iOS

I thought I might share some of my thoughts and experiences by taking a moment to answer some questions that I’ve been asked related to iOS development, software engineering and working at startups with a quick Q & A. I hope you will find some of this useful if you are just getting into software engineering or working in the world of startups. Also, just a post to say “Hi!”.

A little about me

Hi! 👋 I’m Colin McArdell. I’m a software engineer and I’ve been heading up iOS at Beme for the past year and a half. I’ve been building iOS Apps for about six years. I’ve also spent quite a bit of my life teaching, sound designing and working in recording studios: recording, mixing, producing, and remixing. My personal projects tend to revolve around audio, music, art and electrical engineering.

Sweet. How about some questions and answers?!

Questions & Answers

You were a Recording Engineer so what sparked your interest in software engineering?

I’m not one hundred percent sure what it was that drove me towards software engineering as a career path. My work had me gravitating towards software for quite a while. I will say that musicality and software blend together well.

When I started making iOS products, learning to build a product with software was easier for me when I figured out a way to relate experimentation and discovery to things that I already understood. So that was audio. I built a lot of my early learning projects and throwaways with audio related core concepts. This really helped drive learning and pushed me through the hard parts.

I think what drew me to iOS was the fact that it’s a powerful, well organized handheld computer. iOS saturation and the sheer volume of devices getting into people’s hands really weighed in a lot.

Beme is a small team. Is a small team more fun than a large one?

I don’t think I could plot a graph where `y` is `fun` and `x` is `team size` 🤓😛.

A well–balanced small team of focused, sharp, multi-talented, collaborative, chill people is second to none. Also, way beyond fun.

Working for a larger team is great and comes with a lot of benefits, like the ability for team members to split up and work on multiple substantial things in parallel, general velocity… things like that.

I personally seek out small teams. I find that there tends to be more opportunity to stretch out and experience a number of things at once. The ability to take on multiple responsibilities and help craft the story.

Is there anything one should keep in mind before starting a career path as a software engineer?

The things that I keep in the front of my mind are fundamentals that I apply to anything I’m working on:

  • Do great work.
  • Always push yourself and encourage others around you.
  • Be kind.
  • Apply constraints to your work to keep an eye on the goal (time restrictions are always a good start).
  • Solicit outside opinion and feedback, early and often.

Process evolves, but these things tend to stick around for me.

I like to work on things in stages where each one has a focused “mantra”. Being able to point to something hanging on a wall or hearing a phrase in my head that reminds me what I’m doing. Often I dig so deep into the details of what I’m working on that I need to look up and remind myself what the end goal is. This also works well for rallying a team around a common goal.

What is your advice for future college graduates? Find a job, look for an internship, travel?

This is a big one.

I jumped at the opportunity for an internship while I was still in school. No question there. Find an internship where you have opportunities to learn (and make coffee, tea, or whatever is needed). Surround yourself with people that are doing the things you want to be doing.

Equally important is an apprenticeship or mentorship. Officially or unofficially, locally or remotely. Study the work of someone you respect. Learn from their successes and failures. Continue to learn outside of an educational institution.

Always be learning.

I travel much more now than I had when I was fresh out of school. I’ve moved around a lot within the United States but I would like to spend some time living abroad.

✈️ = 👍, do that.

I know it might seem obvious, but it’s important for me to highlight that finding interest in and loving your work should feel more natural as you learn more about what you like and what you are good at. If you can afford to explore the job landscape, do so.

Try everything.

What is something you absolutely hate & love about your job?

I can’t say that I hate this, but I do dislike working in front of a computer all of the time. I am always into the idea of moving around, working remotely, changing things up.

I love working on product related problems and seeing a positive effect on a user. Hitting the submit/deploy button knowing that I’m pushing out improvements and new features that will engage excited people that enjoy a product as it’s growing is very rewarding.

What is on your bucket list for your career and life in general?

I love making things that help people create. The continued opportunity to build empowering products that allow people to be creative is important to me.

At some point I do want to get to a balance of software engineering and audio centric work, game and/or music production related. When it comes to sound and music production workflow and process there is so much space for products to be invented or improved upon.

In my life bucket list, travel is probably highest. Right now I have my sights set on spending some time in Iceland and Japan. I would also like to get back to Berlin. The world and it’s people are pretty darn amazing.

Is it easy to balance work and hobbies, especially in New York where the pressure is high?

New York is nuts (in a good way). I do occasionally struggle with work-life balance. Living in New York hasn’t made that any different for me than living in other cities with less reputation for high stakes. I get excited and passionate about my work, hobbies, studies.

If you are planning on relocating to New York, things are demanding for a while as you plant roots, but adjusting yourself and rebalancing will become natural if you tough it out through the bumpy parts.


High Fives

Cool! Thanks for the questions, @sofeigarage and good luck!

Best, 
Colin

Questions and comments welcome! Also, hit me up on Twitter at @colinmcardell