The String and Key Crew: John Joseph
As part of our ongoing employee spotlight series, we’ll be profiling colleagues who inspire us. Today, meet John Joseph.
Company Role: Senior Software Developer
Most likely to: Keep drinking coffee until the pot is empty
Secret talent: Excellent guitar skills
If you’re curious about the history of punk rock and hip hop, John’s your man. A musician himself, he admittedly knows way too much about the subjects. He has even considered writing a book on this music history but thinks that the market has already been saturated (we disagree and hope he’ll change his mind someday!). Born and raised in Maine, John fell in love with North Carolina after visiting his sister who lives in the state. He fell for the southern weather, moved there for good, and pre-pandemic had been working out of our Chapel Hill office.
Before joining String and Key, John worked at a few startups and agencies where he cut his teeth in the industry and made his mark. Referred to us by our Senior Quality Assurance Engineer, Kent (the fellow musician who we profiled a couple of weeks ago), he plays a significant role in developing our product features and his contribution to our team is immense. So read on to get the lowdown on John.
What does your typical workday look like?
I typically start the day by planning what tasks I’m going to try to complete. I then check GitHub pull requests and make sure any outstanding code review is taken care of. From there, I get into the fun stuff, which is actually working on new features. Throughout the day, I’m in pretty constant communication with the other team members. We regularly get on calls to screen share or talk through a problem. I love talking it over because you get exposed to different ways of thinking — and you always end up with a better result.
What’s your favorite part about working at String and Key?
There is a really high, self-imposed standard for quality of work. Everybody on the team strives to do the best job they can, and everybody has a vested interest in seeing the company succeed. Also, there is a lot of room for individuals to take ownership of their areas of expertise within the organization. This all leads to everybody being able to make a real impact every day.
What excites you about your job?
The possibility of turning an idea into a successful, widely-used product. Also, watching all the different people contributing their specific talents to the same goal is really fun. When you’re building a product from scratch, there are many different skills needed to get the job done. One team’s work builds on another team’s work and on and on. I like watching the process of collaboration develop and improve as teams continue to work together and grow.
What do you find most challenging about your role?
In software development, you need to balance the company’s higher-level business goals with the lower-level, code-specific goals of your day-to-day work. Balancing these two sides of the job can be a challenge, but it is crucial. I never want to get so lost in the technical details that I lose sight of the broader goals. For me, that means questioning the reasons behind how we are doing things. As an organization, String and Key is very open and encourages everyone to think about the why in addition to the how. I think that’s very important.
What are the values that drive you?
I really believe in the teamwork aspect of work. I think communication and collaboration not only make people happier at work but also improve the quality of the product. This is a commonly held value throughout the company, and all of the teams are very collaborative.
How do you stay on top of your game?
For software developers, the learning never ends. Every time you learn something new, you realize there is something else you don’t understand yet. I use a combination of online resources to stay on top of things. I also try not to limit my learning to just web development. I’m always trying to understand the broader tech landscape. Beyond learning on my own time, work is always providing new opportunities to learn. For example, we’re using the GraphQL query language on our API for the first time right now. It’s something that every developer has been hearing about for years, but not everybody has had the chance to work with it. We decided it is a good fit for our product, and now we’re using it every day. It’s great to be in an organization that can adopt new technologies and isn’t tied to old tech.
What drew you to tech, and what excites you about the industry?
Software development is a creatively rewarding job because of the problem solving that is involved. I was always looking for something that would provide that creative side and also pay the bills. I feel pretty lucky that I found it when I did. I’m really excited to see the continued development in VR. I’m not a gamer, but I’m blown away with how far VR has come in the last few years and am really curious about where it will go.
If you could swap places with anyone at String and Key, who would it be and why?
I think it would be DevOps. I love the infrastructure stuff. It’s something I try to learn as much as I can about, even though I may not use that knowledge every day. The ability to debug your application at any level of the tech stack is important to me. Even if I’m working mostly on front-end code, I still want to understand how the app is deployed publicly and to be able to manage the hosting infrastructure. We’re actually looking for a DevOps specialist right now, so check out our LinkedIn page if you’re interested.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
These days, like everybody else, I’m spending a lot of time at home. I’ve got a nice garden going at the moment. This is only my second year working on it, so I’m still learning a ton. Figuring out what vegetables should and should not be planted near each other. Also, getting kind of nerdy about it and creating very specific logs so that I can track all the small details of the garden from year to year. It’s been fun.
Can you list five hashtags that describe your personality?
#MaineToNC #StayLearning #SciFi #LetsJam #Dedicated