A Day In The Life Of A Rover Engineer: Allison Northrop, Software Engineer
Below is an article originally written by Brianne Killinger at PowerToFly Partner Rover, and published on October 5, 2018. Go to Rover's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
This is the fourth post in a series of interviews with our team of engineers at Rover. We'll introduce you to one of our Rover engineers, share their daily work and give you a peek into what it's like to work for Rover. If you're interested in an engineering career at Rover, check out our PowerToFly page.
As a full-stack engineer on the Rover engineering team, Allison Northrop creates operations efficiencies by working with internal groups at Rover that often work directly with customers.
What do you do as a Rover engineer?
Northrop: I work with internal teams at Rover such as customer experience and our booking assurance team. Our goal is to create tools to fix things on the site so that they can do their job faster and for Rover to scale efficiently. For example, if our customer experience team receives a flurry of calls about one particular problem or there's a lack of functionality, we work to find them a solution to ensure they're not getting bombarded. We work closely with our product manager to prioritize their needs and analyze what's the most plausible to address now versus later.
How long have you been at Rover?
Northrop: I've been with Rover for a little over a year. I started as an intern through Ada Developers Academy, a program funded by technology companies with a goal to encourage women and non-binary people to start careers in software development. Rover has been a sponsor of Ada and we have quite a few Ada grads working here currently.
What's an example of how you help these teams?
Northrop: Previously, once a stay was booked, you couldn't personally edit the stay. If your flight was delayed or you had to come back early, you would have to call customer experience to get it changed. It wasn't addressed for a while because it was very complicated to fix on the backend. Addressing this issue required five engineers, including me, over the course of three to four months.
What's your favorite thing about working at Rover?
Northrop: There's so many things that I love! Apart from loving to work with dogs, I love the product. I love that my role as a software engineer here actually makes a difference in people's (and pet's) lives. A friend of mine recently posted on social media that she started sitting with Rover and I know she's a parent and she wanted a more flexible schedule. It's great that I work on a product that helps people and helps dogs. I love the people who I work with and the mentorship I've received in my career.
How do you feel you make an impact in your role? What excites you?
Northrop: Even though everyone on my team has more years of experience in software development, my tenure at Rover is the longest. It's been rewarding to be able to answer questions and contribute a lot. I did a lot of ZenDesk integration work early on in my time at Rover and now I can help people with code related to that. I've also done a lot of customization and performance work in our admin tool, which is Django's built-in admin, so I help bring people up to speed on tickets related to that.
In terms of what excites me, I really love working for teams within Rover, while also impacting our customer base. I think it's satisfying to make people's jobs less of a hassle through the things that we roll out.
What's it like working across teams at Rover?
Northrop: Our product managers are incredible because they make working across teams really seamless. I think that it's important to have engineers interface with people that they're making solutions for and Rover's done a great job ensuring that happens. For example, when I was an intern, I had the opportunity to work with the quality assurance team who vet and approve our sitter profiles. I was able to sit with them, learn about the tasks they handle on a daily basis and listen to their suggestions on how their tools could be better. I was partnering with a product manager and she worked closely with me to prioritize solutions for them.
Tell me about a recent project you worked on that impacted Rover's customers or your team?
Northrop: When we were about to start the project to enable sitters to edit a booked stay, my mom called me and told me one of her friends needed a cat sitter and they did it through Rover. They booked it and plans changed. Her friend was really frustrated that she couldn't change the booked stay on her own and I thought 'if one of my mom's friends is having this issue, it's clearly widespread.' Working on that project goes back to the commitment that Rover has to make it easier to own a pet. Now that we've enabled the option to edit a booked stay, we've seen a dramatic 30% decrease in tickets related to that issue.
What's a technology you are especially excited about and why?
Northrop: Not sure if this counts, but since I use it every day I'm going to give a shout out to my IDE. I love PyCharm because it makes it so much easier to navigate through a large code base and helps me keep up good code quality. Some people use Atom, Visual Studio, or something else. There are so many options and here you don't have to use one in particular. Rover is really flexible in what IDE you choose.
What's your favorite meeting at Rover?
Northrop: I really love Tech & Treats! It's a meeting we have once a week where people across the tech org present on things they've worked on, how to fix performance issues, how to use tools we have, etc. You get to see so many things that people are working on or little tricks that people have learned. It's expensive to have all engineers in a meeting for an hour and it's nice that Rover is willing to invest that time. It's a great place for knowledge sharing.
Favorite spot in the office?
Northrop: Wherever Fondue or Freya can be found! I'm a big Bernese fan. I also am a big fan of my office space buddy Willie, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.
Are you a mentor or mentee?
Northrop: I just love how much mentorship happens on the tech team. I have been mentored by tons of people not just on my team but across the organization. One example that comes to mind is a ticket that was much more search-related, but it touched one thing on my team and we ended up getting the ticket. Search is not what I've worked on so I messaged someone on the team asking them questions. They came over and paired with me for 15 minutes and explained how it works and reviewed my code once I submitted. It probably would have been faster if someone on the search team took that ticket but they were willing to invest time to teach me about it. And now I can talk a little bit about our search filters!
Something also unique at Rover is that we also have "office hours" that different platform teams hold on a regular basis. I also took advantage of a weekly introductory React class that Rover hosted over four weeks. It was great that they created this curriculum – not every company will do that.
What are some of your passions outside of the office?
Northrop: I love to climb. There's actually a Rover climbing community on Slack. I'm not nearly as intense as most people and I just go to Vertical World. Whenever I go there, I always run into someone from Rover! I also like going to tech meet-ups like PyLadies and PuPPY and I'm still fairly involved with Ada through tutoring folks currently going through the program. I also have a orange tabby cat named Vincent. I'm happy that Rover is giving cats their rightful space in the codebase and that "cat" soon will not be listed as a type of dog breed.
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