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Coffee With: Jopwell Software Engineer Joe Cabrera

Estimated reading time ~ 4 min
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Joe Cabrera
Location: New York, NY
Job: Software Engineer, Jopwell
Education: B.S. in Computer Science and Mathematics, Texas A&M University
Twitter: @greedoshotlast

What inspired you to pursue a career in tech?

I caught the bug early. I grew up in Texas, and my aunt had a computer but didn’t really know how to use it. She encouraged me to play around with it, and as a 10-year-old, I started writing little scripts. I loved inputting things and watching the results play out on my screen – it was incredibly gratifying. I eventually started coding basic poker games and distributing them to classmates via floppy disk. I also got really into creating simple games on my TI-83 graphing calculator. To this day, my email address still includes the phrase “calc master.”

Tell us about your journey to Jopwell.

I applied to engineering roles at a bunch of small startups in San Francisco, eventually landing a position at a now-defunct digital marketing startup called Relevvant. That was before Facebook did serious targeted marketing in-house, and I was there until the lights were off. In 2014, I moved from San Francisco to New York to work at the video platform Vimeo, which was around 180 people at the time (the largest company I’ve worked for to date). Then, in 2016, I joined the growing engineering team at Jopwell as the third engineer.

What do you spend the majority of your work day doing?

Coding the backend of the Jopwell platform. While I don't interact with Jopwell’s candidates or partners directly, I write code that helps make their interactions better by applying research I’ve done. Search is a particularly compelling concept to me in that it’s about enabling people’s ability to find what they are looking for. I love seeing the Jopwell search engine play a role in helping our users discover new opportunities and leverage our product to realize some of the same aspirations and dreams that I had.

What's something about you that people might be surprised to learn?

I was never very good at math. The majority of traditional computer science curriculums put a heavy emphasis on it, which was a challenge for me at different points throughout school. But I would encourage anyone dissuaded from studying computer science because of the math aspect to push through. The grit you develop will help you in your career and beyond.

Joe Cabrera

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I'm a drummer in a rock band. Many engineers try to express themselves through code, but I think it’s also important to have a creative outlet outside of coding, whether it's writing, singing, playing music, painting, or some other form of expression.

Do you have any specific strategies you use to stay productive?

I make it a priority to block off uninterrupted periods of time to code. Multi-tasking can be extremely difficult for engineers since programming requires storing code references and relevant algorithms in your head. Having a meeting in the afternoon can destroy an entire day of productivity, so I try to schedule meetings either at the beginning or end of my day. I also make it a priority to exercise every day if I can. Sometimes the best solutions to problems come when you are working out. Exercise helps keep me alert throughout the day.

How have certain candidates stood out to you during the hiring process?

Having a solid blend of analytical problem-solving abilities and communication skills is a major plus. But problem solving does not mean having all of the CS 101 algorithms memorized like the back of your hand. It means being able to work through problems logically. Communication skills are harder to judge, but you need to be able to interface effectively with other members on your team. I think it's important for all members of a team to interview prospective candidates because you will have to interact with them on a daily basis to accomplish work together. I'd be skeptical of working at any place where your prospective teammates are not involved in the hiring process.

What have you read or listened to recently that you’d recommend?

Refactoring by Martin Fowler. For engineers, much of your career (for better or worse) will be spent refactoring other people's code, so it's an important skill to learn that’s usually not taught in traditional computer science curriculums. This book addresses that.

Any tips for aspiring coders?

Find correlations between seemingly disparate fields. I think programming is a lot more creative than people realize. You have all these different combinations of language that you can choose from to convey the same exact message in a very very different way. There's a lot of overlap between music and programming, for example. They're both very creative spaces, and I think that's something that a lot of people miss. The application of those connections can be really powerful, though. I was able to apply my knowledge of music and computer science to build a duplicate music detection system that allows YouTube to detect copyright matches. Whether it's fashion, music, or yoga, some of the best products today are coming from seeing those correlations.

Images courtesy of Joe Cabrera

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