The String and Key Crew: Alex Shook
As part of our ongoing employee spotlight series, we’ll be profiling colleagues who inspire us. Today, meet Alex Shook.
Company Role: Senior Software Engineer
Most likely to: Be eating snacks at my desk
Secret talent: Handstands
Alex’s early career ideas weren’t necessarily ones she expected to take her into the tech field. Growing up, she dreamed of dancing for the New York City Ballet or becoming a competitive figure skater. She also dabbled with the idea of working in international business and traveling the world/living the dream. But thanks to a lucky twist of fate (for us), she joined our team and has been contributing her unique talents to String and Key projects for just over a month now.
A relative newbie to the crew, Alex has spent most of her career working at startups but actually landed at String and Key after spending some time working in the fashion tech and hospitality tech industries. But with a desire to get back to the startup life, she applied for our Senior Software Engineer role, got the job, and is now the newest member of our Web Engineering team — hooray!
So read on to learn more about Alex’s day to day life, what keeps her busy outside of work, and everything else in between.
What do you do, and what does your typical workday look like?
I spend a lot of time reading and writing code. It’s my job to create clean and simple solutions to the problems we’re solving and to help my team do the same. What that really means is I spend almost all of my time thinking. Figuring out the best solution takes time, and more often than not, the best solution is not the fastest or cleverest. Engineering is already hard, so why would we make it harder?
On a typical day, I like to check my messages before my first meeting to see if anything needs my immediate attention. I always drink at least one coffee, and my team members can attest to watching me gulp down a full cup every morning during standup. If I have no morning meetings after that, I generally do code reviews for my team and then move on to coding something myself in the afternoon. I then take some time at the end of the day to plan for the next day.
What’s your favorite part about working at String and Key, and what excites you about your job?
We embody a true people-first culture. Our work is important to us, but we also care about each other a lot — and it shows. What’s excites me most is getting to mix my existing knowledge with new technologies. I’ve been programming in some capacity since I was in middle school, and although a lot has changed since then, I love seeing the new things we come up with. I like being able to take everything I’ve learned and apply it to what we’re doing here at String and Key.
What do you find most challenging about your role?
What’s most exciting is also what’s most challenging. I like expanding my knowledge with new technologies, but the pace at which things change in tech is very fast — it can be demanding.
What are the values that drive you?
Excellence. I consider everything I do to be an opportunity to make it even better than the last thing. I’m also a huge believer in continuous improvement. Some of the smartest people I’ve worked with have always said that what got us here won’t get us to the next level, so never stop learning and never stop growing.
How do you stay on top of your game?
I try to actively let my brain clear itself out at least once a day because sometimes the harder you hit a problem, the worse your solution looks. The things I do to try to reset my brain are reading things indirectly related to my job (documentation for technology I’m interested in or an article on programming). Also going to the gym after work. I’ve even done handstands in an empty corner of the office with one of my former bosses (also a fellow yoga enthusiast). I’m a huge fan of kickboxing, too. My instructor says the point is for the class to be so hard that you can’t think about anything else.
What drew you to tech, and what excites you about the industry?
I like computers, and I have for as long as I can remember. Back in the day, having a computer and an internet connection could open up the world for you. As a little girl in a small town in the suburbs, I felt like I had magic.
What’s one thing — either industry-related or not — that you’ve learned in the last month?
I just started doing scorpion pose in my yoga class. There was a time in my life when I thought I would never be able to do this pose, and I let that limiting belief define me for far too long. To be fair, I also used to fall over all the time (in all honestly, for the past ten years), but now it’s totally good. I can balance for at least ten seconds and then maybe fall over.
If you could swap places with anyone at String and Key, who would it be and why?
I’d swap with our Office Manager, Tahina. I’m not suited for working on other teams like QA or Creative at all. I am, however, very interested in operations. I want to find out what it takes to run a company both day-to-day and in the long term. It’s something that I haven’t had much experience with in the past, so maybe it’d be better if Tahina took me on as an intern.
What unexpected subject could you give a one-hour presentation on with no advance prep?
I’m not a yoga teacher but could give an introduction to backbending in yoga. Backbends aren’t just the fancy poses you see people doing on Instagram, and there are a lot of options for all different levels of strength and flexibility. They’re also an excellent way to get unstuck or give yourself a quick boost of energy.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
I’m usually found doing one of three things: yoga, kickboxing, or eating. Equinox is like my second home, and before the pandemic, I half lived there. If I’m not in a class, I’m probably meeting my friends for dinner. I love restaurants and would be happy to go out for lunch or dinner pretty much every day.
Can you list five hashtags that describe your personality?
#Technologist #Foodie #Balanced #YogaEnthusiast #GreenHairDontCare