Home » Day in the Life of Justin Wilson, Senior Software Engineer

Day in the Life of Justin Wilson, Senior Software Engineer

Day In The Life of Justin Wilson

  1. How would you describe your role? What are your primary responsibilities?

I’m a senior software engineer that’s part of a six-person team. We’re comprised of a product manager, two other software engineers and two quality assurance (QA) engineers.

My team communicates mostly with other teams based out of Salt Lake City, but we sometimes connect with other Engineering teams across the company, to share best practices, successful trials and advice.

I’m working on a project that requires processes that are efficient and easy. As we on-board new Engineering team members, we want to ensure our ramp-up time is as minimal as possible. By having solid processes in place, we’re able to get them immersed almost immediately.

Part of my role as a senior-level team member is to try and simplify these tasks, making them more consistent across the board. I also mentor some of our new hires to get them acquainted and at ease with our practices.

I’m involved in evaluating potential new hires who participate in the coding challenges our Recruiting team facilitates. These coding challenges help in filtering out candidates that don’t exhibit a basic skill-set. This ensures we’re utilizing everyone’s time throughout the interview process more efficiently.

As one might assume, I still do a lot of coding, but as you can see, my job is much broader than just working on the back-end.

  1. What excites you the most about your current position and your team’s future within Engineering?

Day In The Life InterviewWith the Cox acquisition, we’ve started with a clean slate. Developers don’t generally move into an environment that doesn’t allow for creativity in its structure by choice. It’s nice to have some freedom and to be involved in the decision making process.

I think it’s a given when I say there are a lot of changes happening right now. We’re working on new best practices and a handful of new projects, which allows everyone the opportunity to contribute their own ideas.

From my point of view, that’s a developer’s dream. We all dream of working at a place where we can contribute ideas before a program, project or process is set in stone.

  1. What are a few bigger initiatives you’ve had the chance to work on over the past year?

I helped implement and leverage a tool called “Docker.” It’s a lightweight way to run and deploy applications and services. Alongside this tool, one of the biggest contributions I’ve been a part of is automating our ‘build and deployment’ processes.

Previously, a developer would write their code, throw it over a wall and say, “It’s ready!” Then, the Infrastructure team would deploy the code and our QA team would do the testing. This involved a lot of teams and it could take hours in the evenings and weekends to complete the process.

Now, we can automate the process by pressing a simple “deploy” button. As soon as the code’s done, we can deploy to our Development team (DEV). It’s much simpler and has helped speed up the development process all the way to production.

  1. What’s a challenge that you face on a daily basis?

With the recent switch to .NET, it’s not just a “run wild and do what you want” mindset. There’s still some uncertainty that comes with the unknown.

Even though we have this new automation process in place, there’s still an uneasiness that comes with a new project. It’s a learning process – we’re learning more every day.

  1. What attracted you to working at Dealertrack? How did you end up here?

Prior to Dealertrack, I worked for a paper craft company called Stampin’ Up. They’re a multi-level marketing company that sells craft supplies. They’ve been struggling financially for a few years, so when I joined Dealertrack, it was nice to be a part of a venture that’s on the rise and very profitable.

My current boss, as well as one other engineer, all used to work together prior to joining Dealertrack. Having these connections helped me learn about what a great company Dealertrack is, what initiatives were being worked on, and exciting new things to come. This gave me a great deal of insight into the engineering department here.

I received my degree in computer science at Neumont University in Utah. I was part of their first graduating class, back in 2006. It’s a unique, accelerated program where you complete 20 credit hours a quarter. It’s a lot of work, but you’re done in 2.5 years. Most students participate in an externship (similar to an internship except during your final semester of school). I was lucky enough to work at IBM, which was a stellar addition to my resume.

We actually have 5-6 graduates from Neumont that work at Dealertrack. It’s such a small world!

  1. What’s your favorite thing about working here?

I’m 1.5 miles from the office and it takes me two minutes to get to work every day. That’s a huge bonus for me. But, most importantly, the people I work with truly make this job special.

We have freedom to venture out and explore different areas of the business, while contributing our unique skill-sets and interests to certain projects. From my perspective, that’s pretty cool.

Another major perk of working on Dealertrack’s Engineering team is that you get to participate in our twice-yearly “Hackathon”. The company gives you two days to collaborate with your team members to create a product, app, or solution that solves a business problem. At the end of those 48 hours, you get to to present it to the leaders. This allows us to work on things we’re passionate about, and it’s also a great way to generate ideas. We all go back to our “normal” work projects post-hackathon feeling refreshed and energized.

Lastly, the culture in the Salt Lake office is incredible. We host many after-hour events and group activities for team members. We have a hiking club, a soccer team and a softball team, which I am a part of. There are season passes to a ski resort and golf course that team members can “check out” and use throughout the year. The company supports our well-being, and it’s appreciated by our team members. I’ve gotten to know so many other amazing people through some of these activities – it’s awesome!

  1. As a developer, how important was company culture when you were looking for a job, prior to Dealertrack?

It’s huge. For me, it’s almost at the very top of my must-have list. You spend 40+ hours a week at work. If the culture doesn’t jive with your personality, it wears on you very quickly. I’ve had jobs that didn’t prioritize “company culture” and “employee happiness,” and it’s not a fun environment. I really want to enjoy going to work every day. Working at here was like pulling back the curtains and opening the windows – it’s been a breath of fresh air.

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  1. What’s one of your favorite “tech tools” that couldn’t live without?

We’re using a tool called Docker, as I mentioned earlier. A developer can be on his machine using a specific version of software. Once he/she’s done, they take their code, deploy it and think they’re good to go. However, it might not run great or function properly on someone else’s computer, based on their specific software. Docker abstracts the code and isolates the program to ensure it functions consistently and appropriately across all platforms. It’s really valuable.

  1. What industry blogs, RSS feeds or technical forums do you follow?

I learn a lot from Twitter, Reddit and other social outlets. I used to follow blogs, but it seems as though the market is trending away from heavy, long blog posts.

  1. Are you active in your local tech community?

There are numerous technology communities here in Salt Lake City – .NET, Java, Python, Go, etc. I’ve frequented some of them from time to time. Go, which is a newer language, is one of my current hobbies.

Dealertrack gave me the opportunity to attend the Go conference last year (GopherCon), which was really informative. In my opinion, conferences are amazing because you’re learning about a year’s worth of content in just a few days, much of which is up and coming. It’s even more amazing when you can apply some of what you’ve learned at these events back into Dealertrack.

  1. What advice would you give a new hire, or someone joining the engineering space right out of college?

Try to make your career your hobby. If you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll love going to work every day.

  1. What’s something on your professional and personal bucket list?

Professional – I’ve always wanted to work on a “not-for-profit” project that would benefit a group in need. I haven’t had the opportunity to do this yet, but I’m looking at accomplishing it later this year.

Personal – As I’ve gotten older, my health has become a priority. Over the last two years, I’ve gotten into cycling. There’s a gym next to our office that has a huge cycle group. I’m also thinking about signing up for a road race in the future.

  1. Where would you like to see the future of engineering headed?

As we continue to embrace Agile, and it’s methodologies, it would be great to have production releases fully automated. Being able to deploy new features, updates, and fixes at the end of a sprint cycle, or the middle of a busy day, with zero downtime or impact on our customers would be a great accomplishment.

It would also be great to see our future slightly different than what we’ve currently planned. This shows that we’re constantly adapting to the changing tech landscape, and questioning the validity of prior decisions.


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