The String and Key Crew: Dennis Bui

Jasmin H
Jasmin H
Oct 6, 2020 · 6 min read

As part of our ongoing employee spotlight series, we’ll be profiling colleagues who inspire us. Today, meet Dennis Bui.

Company Role: Junior Software Developer

Most likely to: Drop one-liners/jokes during a conversation

Secret talent: Appearing mild-mannered during the first impression

From chemist to coder — Dennis’s journey to String and Key is a unique one. After working as an analytic chemist for five years, he got the itch to change careers. But it wasn’t a yearning to switch to something completely random. It was more of a desire to get back to his original passion for software engineering — a passion originating from his love of playing video games growing up (and wanting to build a game of his own someday). So, with the help of an excellent coding boot camp and some serious determination, he swapped chemical structures for software systems and made it happen.

But that’s not all he swapped. Originally a Cali boy, Dennis spent 12 years in the Golden State before trading palm trees for skyscrapers. West coast, best coast? More like east coast [insert better adjective here] coast.

Now thriving — and surviving — (we’re still in a pandemic after all) in Brooklyn, NY, Dennis took some time out of his busy schedule to share all things life and work. So read on to learn more about working at String and Key from his POV, what initially drew him to the tech industry, what he likes to do for fun, and more.

What do you do, and what does your typical workday look like?
I am a software developer, mostly on the frontend nowadays. On a typical day, we’ll kick off our mornings with a daily standup. During the meeting, we discuss our work’s current progress and plan for any blockers that prevent us from completing our tasks. If I am not currently working on something, I view the task board for what needs to get done and then dive into some coding. Also, since we’ve been utilizing many new tools and technologies lately, I regularly find reading documents around implementation strategies to be part of a typical workday.

What’s your favorite part about working at String and Key?
The people I work with. For most, the first day on the job can be so nerve-wracking, especially for someone as introverted as me. That definitely wasn’t the case when I stepped into the office for the first time. Everybody was very friendly and such fun to work with. Although I love coding and the projects I work on, working alongside my comrades and team leaders makes hitting our milestones so much more satisfying. Also, everybody can speak freely and voice their opinions and still be heard despite your title or experience. From game nights to culture club to celebrations and more — all my moments, both during and after work hours, are enjoyable when it’s with them.

What excites you about your job?
I love problem-solving and the challenges that come my way. It’s also nice to know that there’s always someone around that I can rely on and go to when I need advice. Finally, seeing a product that I help built go live will be a great sense of accomplishment. It’s even more rewarding knowing that it’s a product that will help so many people.

What do you find most challenging about your role?
Trying to keep up with my colleagues! Everybody at the company has been working in this industry for years (even though some of them are so much younger than me). Trying to engineer at their level and ingenuity has been a slow yet steady progress. But by working solo on smaller projects, I can visualize the objective, churn out code at my own pace and get things done quicker. Also, working on more significant projects and amongst a larger team means a lot more collaboration, planning, and engineering on the overall architecture of the code for efficiency and maintainability. It’s no longer about working hard but working smart, that’s what our CTO has always said, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

What are the values that drive you?
Seeing the strong work ethic and standards amongst my colleagues. Everybody is eager to learn and willing to take on difficult tasks; nobody ever runs from it. Our team leaders genuinely live up to their titles; they lead. When deadlines need to be met and blockers keep it from completion, they’ll work late to get it done. When we need support in any way, they’re always available. When problems arise, there is never a finger of blame. Instead, it’s straight to the whiteboard to figure out a solution.

How do you stay on top of your game?
Simply working every day keeps me at the top of my game. The web team is always exploring new tools and tech to improve our skillset. And everybody on the team pushes everybody else to be better at what they do. We also have bi-weekly “brunch and learn” where someone from the dev team talks about anything related to the tech industry. From infrastructure configuration to design patterns to advancements in frameworks and more — we’re always learning something new.

What drew you to tech, and what excites you about the industry?
I grew up seeing so many technology products and services making huge leaps in capabilities. That showed me that the innovative potential that technology can bring to the world is limitless. Ideas for apps are endless, but a great product is difficult to develop alone. Simple apps can rise to the top (Twitter), but they can also fall into obscurity (MySpace), or barely get 15 minutes of fame (Google Plus). You can never predict what becomes the next big thing in this industry — that’s motivating and exciting.

If you could swap places with anyone at String and Key, who would it be and why?
It would have to be someone on the QA team because I love debugging code. Sometimes it’s a challenge, but I enjoy problem-solving. I spend a lot of my time polishing and smoke testing my code when working on a feature to keep it bug-free. It would be fun to step into their shoes and try to break someone else’s code, reproduce discrepancies, and find any bugs that may arise due to edge cases.

What keeps you busy outside of work?
Trying to stay healthy! I sit for most of the day. Combine that with the fully stocked kitchen we have in the office (pre-working-from-home), and my weight climbs faster than I can climb a flight of stairs. So it’s straight to the gym after work. Honestly, I need to stay healthy to be on the same level and intensity as my team. They work hard and party hard (but I can only do the former). Also, with my prior knowledge as a chemist, I can only rely on “vitamin supplements” for so long. So it’s important that I try to stay healthy. Outside of working out, when I’m home, I’m usually glued to my computer playing video games to unwind until the caffeine wears off.

Can you list five hashtags that describe your personality?
#GamingGeek, #StayChill, #CaffeinatedChemist, #LaidBack, #GotYourBack

Lighting Round:

Truth or dare?
Truth.

Pizza or sushi?
Sushi!

Rain or shine?
Rain.

Deep sea or outer space?
Deep sea.

Private island or private jet?
Private island.

Interested in working at String and Key? Join us!

Learn more about the Web Engineering team here.

String and Key

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