Chat with Engineering: Jessica Perina, Software Engineer

We’re 38 days into 2022, and it’s high time we get back on track and start churning out some content.

Recently I spoke with software engineer Jess Perina about what drew her to FloQast, what her day looks like, and what makes the FloQast Engineering team so unique.

➡️ Check out the full video on YouTube ⬅️


Jess: Just give me a second to organize my desktop.

Vinoj: Hey, there, welcome to Chat with Engineering. My name is Vinoj Zacharia. I’m your host today as we chat with various members of FloQast Engineering to understand what they do and get to know them. So today’s episode is with Jessica Perina, a software engineer at FloQast. Hey Jess, how are you doing?

Jess: I’m doing pretty good. How are you doing?

Vinoj: I’ve had like half a can of Monster, so it’s just going to go higher and higher at this point.

Jess: I’m on one small cup of green tea, and so I’ll see if I can match you.

Vinoj: Green tea! Does that get your energy going?

Jess: Oh I’m not a coffee or energy drinker so I kind of limit myself, but there’s this like really good cold green tea that is at least to me, like rocket fuel.

Vinoj: So can you get that feeling with one green tea you’re set for the day or…

Jess: Yes, like if I — it depends on how much I drink. I only had like a very small glass of it, but if I were to drink like an actual bottle that it comes in, yes, that would be good for a long time.

Vinoj: So do you have a cut off?

Jess: Yeah, I buy it in larger bottles and then I drink smaller amounts of it.

Vinoj: Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. That’s amazing. We were just talking about mass quantities of food and so yours is green tea, right? Do you just have to ration yourself so that you can actually sleep that night?

Jess: Yeah.

Vinoj: So tell me a little bit about what you do at FloQast.

Jess: So I’m a software engineer at FloQast, I’m an SE3, I’ve been here for just a little over two years and I had been working on a team that handles you know, kind of setup, but I actually just moved to a new team a couple of weeks ago.

Vinoj: Nice. What was that like? Moving to a new team? Terrifying? Was that cool? Exciting all of the above?

Jess: It was was definitely exciting. It happened fast. I was given an opportunity by my manager. They said, you know, they’re spinning up a new team and they were curious if I would be interested to join. Kind of gave me an overview of what the product and like the responsibility space would be. Then I set up a meeting with the PM for that team and the Engineering Manager. Those were already there. Talk to them about their vision, and I thought they had a really clear idea of what they wanted to accomplish and how we were going to get there, and I was psyched to join.

There’s been there’s been quite a bit of change of focus since the time I’ve been here. And at first, being the kind of person that naturally doesn’t love change, I was trepidatious, you know, because like we, we built teams up, we split them apart. We, you know, kind of, I think, kind of like like team mitosis, you know, like you’re going to build a team that is going to be two teams. And that’s kind of how we’ve found a good way to grow while still maintaining, like our culture. And after having gone through that a couple of times, I was nervous at first, but each time it actually turned out to be pretty great. Yeah, when this opportunity was brought to me, I was like, “All right.” My experience has been that change is decent. So let me try this because I’m actually excited now.

Vinoj: So what were the things the first time through that you were sort of like, Oh, I don’t know about this, and then little by little, each time forward has sort of resolved that now you’re excited?

Jess: So the first time I was on a team called Triton and there were three of us and we were really excited to get like, finally get a fourth member because when I had come on, there had been four members and then one member, you know, super-smart guy. We needed him on another team doing machine learning. So there were three of us and we kind of settled into that. And then they’re like, all right, you’re going to get a fourth person and they are a senior engineer. We were so excited and Joe joined our team and then like a week later, they’re like, we’re splitting you into two teams. Now it’s going to be two teams of two people. And I was just like, Wait? What? Like, we just what are we going to do? We just got this guy. And I was a little I was trepidatious, but it actually it ended up working out really well. You know, we were still productive. I worked well on a two-person team, and then each of those teams started to slowly add more members.

Now we got in, we got three people and we were at three people when I shifted off to this new team.

Vinoj: Nice. Nice. And before you came to FloQast, what were you doing, and then how did you end up at FloQast?

Jess: All right. So before I came with FloQast, I was working at a company making virtual reality entertainment products like you could watch a concert in VR or watch a basketball game in VR like put your headset on and that was –that was neat. The commute was a little far for me, but I was doing backend programing and Golang, and it was a great learning experience. That company had some restructuring, so they had to move away from some of their employees. They ultimately got acquired and that is how I started looking at what I wanted to do next. And I knew that I wanted to be at a company where the customers love them, and they built a product that genuinely helped people save time money. And so like, I was not looking to work at an accounting company, but as I started to let my search leave me based more on like the kinds of products I wanted to build, I felt focused and they were a company whose customers absolutely love them. And they saved people, you know, hours, days off a task that used to keep them from their families and take them a really long time to complete. So I was like, this company actually like checks the boxes of what I want to be doing in terms of bringing value to customers. And so I applied.

Vinoj: And what was your — you know, interviews are interesting. It’s always a two-way conversation, right? It’s you interviewing the company just as much as the company interviewing you when you kind of came into it and went through the interview process — what was it that you’re like, “This feels right,” or some signals that you look for it?

Jess: So. I feel like the way I’ve been able to explain it is just I kind of got the best vibes from FloQast, and I understand that is a very not descriptive terms, but it was really it was it was #vibes. Everyone was very like open. I tend to ask questions, you know, more like, I think I asked one of the engineers that interviewed me like, “Hey, tell me about a time that you totally messed up and how and how did they handle it?” You know, and he explained the story to me. You know, he did a thing and created way too many calls to a certain API service, and we started to get rate-limited and he was like, “And you know, we fixed it and it was fine.” And I was like, OK. I just I got the best feelings about in terms of, you know, like, is this a collaborative place? Is this a place where you can learn in the open and ask what maybe you might consider to be stupid questions or where you can make a mistake. And it’s not going to be like held against you.

Vinoj: And I mean, so that’s something you can pick up in the perhaps in the interview process? And then how did that manifest when you actually came into the building?

Jess: So when I quote, “came into the building”, it manifested first in just a lot of help in getting started sharing kind of set up and also just in terms of learning what we do, how this whole process works, what accounting is, what the close is, what that means and how I can start to kind of like contribute. So it was a lot of just kind of getting to know people and people making themselves available to like chat.

Vinoj: Yeah, and how about on the technical side? Like so there’s obviously the accounting business domain that you had to get familiar with. Were you already familiar with a lot of the technical concepts over there, or were they things that you had to figure out once you got here?

Jess: So one of the other things I was looking for in my job search is I love Golang, it’s a great language, but I absolutely wanted to be working in JavaScript. And so I was looking for a company that was working primarily in JavaScript, so that was another big selling point for focus for me. So I was very comfortable with the language we use. React here, you know, with the frameworks we use Mongo.I was using Mongo at my previous company, so all of that stuff I felt pretty comfortable with. I mean, there’s always that time, any time you start a new job or even within a job, if you start a new team and you’re in a new code base, you have this kind of like overwhelmed feeling of like, I don’t know where anything is. I’m going to have to figure all this out. You know, it can be a lot of files depending on the repo you find yourself in. So that is always like a little daunting at first. But I think it’s just a matter of having the confidence that at some point you’re going to look at this and know exactly where the thing you want to change is and how to do it and just kind of diving in and slowly making yourself more comfortable with the code base and being comfortable with the uncomfortable feeling of like not knowing everything yet.

Vinoj: Yeah. And now you’re the person on the other side, right? Your new people joining your team? Tell me what that’s like being on the flip side of this.

Jess: I’m excited for it. We’ve got some, some new people actually literally starting today on my team brand new to FloQast.So I’m excited just to reach out to them and let them know that I’m a resource and help kind of guide them for things that I think that might be helpful in their first week or so. But then I’m going to try to just instill that like learning in the open because like they’re going to come to me for questions. Hopefully, I have a lot of answers for them, but there’s also a lot of stuff that I still don’t know or that I knew twelve months ago, but have forgotten, and I’m going to have to kind of relearn.

And so I’m excited also just kind of like learn in the open with them and show them places they can find help and how you can just kind of blindly throw a question out to Slack and you’ll get a lot of really great responses from across the Engineering department.

Vinoj: Yeah, it’s cool of learning out in the open, learning in public. It’s a very valuable thing. But it’s also like definitely in the Engineering Sphere right now, right? Like that and that style. And it’s good to hear that, like you’re saying, Hey, we can do the same internally as well, right?

Jess: Yeah, absolutely.

Vinoj: Awesome. All right. So I got to ask, what do you do outside of work? What are your hobbies? What are the things that you do when you’re not helping other people learn in public?

Jess: All right. So what? I’m not doing any sort of like, you know, work stuff, what I like to do, I like to rollerblade. I reacquired that hobby. Recently, I was very into it as a kid and kind of fell love when I was in college.

Yeah, I’ve been looking for a way to like, get out during pandemic times and roller blading, and a ton of fun has brought me to the beach, which I never go to. But it’s the only like long, flat, uninterrupted place to skate.
So I’ve been going over there. I play a little drums. Yeah, drums.

Vinoj: I’m not like an expert on drums. There are certain types of drums that you specialize in or–

Jess: I have an electric drum kit like if you put a conga drum in front of me, I wouldn’t really know what to do.

Vinoj: Oh, right, right, right.

Jess: Like a snare drum or a drum kit, I can mess around with that.

Vinoj: Do you make music also? Have you gotten into or delved into that because usually people tend to start with this and then, “Oh, now I’m making like beats and I’m making…”

Jess: While I’ve played instruments like my whole life, I’ve never actually bothered to record any of my music. It’s more just like learning to play the instrument and then playing along with like songs and things that I enjoy.

Vinoj: So, so. Well, Jessica, thank you so much for chatting with me today. I appreciate it. I’ll see you around.

Jess: Also was nice talking to you too Vinoj. Alright bye.

Vinoj Zacharia

Vinoj Zacharia is a developer turned engineering leader who leads with empathy to build data-driven, empowered, collaborative teams from the ground-up. He is a Director of Engineering at FloQast.

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