Dev Interview: Launching a career as an enterprise developer in Austin, Chapter 4
A multi-part interview series chronicling the hopes, fears, trials and tribulations of three new enterprise developers. Follow them as they move to Austin, Texas to…
Chapter 4, Teamwork makes the dream work!
In our last Dev Interview chapter, our trio of young developers discussed what it was like joining the corporate world along with their first impressions. As a developer, you’ll often be part of a smaller squad or you may form your own squad around more personal reasons. Given Luc, Da-In and Diana all have recently moved to Austin and started working at IBM in the summer of 2019, it’s pretty natural for the three to bond together over shared experiences. And provide support to each other during such interesting times. Let’s see what Da-In, Diana, and Luc have been up to as they discuss some of the more personal aspects of life and office friendships in corporate America.
Q1 – As new employees and new to IBM, how did the three of you meet? And what were your initial thoughts about each other?
Da-In Ryoo – Developer Advocate: I was the first of the three of us to join the company. So when I first met Luc, I had been sitting alone in my cold office room by myself for a week. Our manager Al suddenly popped in and introduced the two of us. I think the best way to describe how I was feeling is “mildly threatened.” Luc is over a foot taller than me, so even just physically, I was already intimidated. Some strange, long man, towering at MY office door. I had also kind of embraced my “New Hire of the Team” role. So having this new office-mate felt like being an only child being told that: Surprise, you’re about to get a new younger sibling! I remained feeling mildly threatened for the next month or so as Luc very cordially struggled to make basic conversation with me. I don’t know why I was so stiff and guarded. But Luc persevered. Something eventually clicked and I found that I really enjoyed his company.
My reaction to Diana was oddly the opposite. The moment she arrived I felt some inexplicable need to befriend her, and as soon as possible. When she joined the team, I’d been there about a month. So with the meager office and work-related knowledge I’d already collected, I excitedly volunteered to help her with on-boarding. She had her own office but we squeezed a chair in for her at my desk. The chair was supposed to stay just while she was on-boarding, but it ended up never leaving… Luc and I absorbed Diana into our office and extended her stay indefinitely.
My favorite Luc thing is that when it inevitably gets too cold in our office (why don’t they ever turn off the air conditioning?), he’ll say “It’s chilly relleno in here!” And I used to think it was the stupidest thing, but the joke is on me now. Because every time I see “chile relleno” on a menu, I hear Luc’s voice echoing in my head. I also can’t ever properly pronounce chile relleno now. I’m always going to say it the dumb way Luc says it.
My favorite Diana thing is her intermittent veganism. You never know when it’s suddenly going to start or stop. The spontaneity of her diet keeps us all on our toes!
Luc Olsthoorn – Developer Advocate: After being in my lonely office prior to joining this team I was really excited to have an office-mate. When I met Da-In she was quiet and kept to herself. I would try to get her to open up by slowly talking to her more and more. Often times I would go on rambling about something with her polite interjected uh-huhs. Eventually I cracked the code, but it was more through that aforementioned brute-force social hacking methodology.
When Diana came into the office, I was a little intimidated. Her strong Jersey personality shone through from the get-go and I was afraid I would lose my only friend (Da-In) to her. It turns out she meshed very well with our existing personalities. As Da-In had previously said, I was surprised she wanted to stay with us in that cramped office, especially with the stench of my daily egg sandwich.
Diana Galarza – Developer Advocate Although I was the last to join, I was just glad I wasn’t the only new hire on the team! I feel like that would’ve made it even harder to adapt quickly. I was introduced to Luc and some of the other devs on the team first since they were seated together in the room across from mine. I immediately thought, “Damn, they all seem so close to each other already. I’m like the new kid at school. How am I gonna fit in with them?”
Then I met Da-In, who I was told was gonna help me set up and on-board me. I had no idea Da-In had volunteered to help actually. I thought I was such a bother to her at first because she had gotten stuck with helping me. But she was so easy to talk to and she had the same sense of humor as me and that’s when I knew this girl was gonna be my new best friend here. And now both Da-In and Luc are part of my circle of close friends. I feel like we got really lucky with each other. Most days we would all be laughing so hard in the office that it could be heard from down the hall and it was enough to even make our boss come and check up on us on occasion. Even though I had initially been given an office of my own with no other office-mates (and I know most people would kill for one) I honestly preferred to be crammed in that little room with these guys. Once I stepped foot in their office I knew I was gonna be in there most of my days.
Q2 – How have you helped each other through the first year experience?
Da-In: I think even if the three of us didn’t end up getting as close as we did, just the fact that we were all shoved together in a tiny space and sharing company in this strange new time in our lives was comforting enough. But I guess that’s actually why we did grow as close as we did. The excitement of learning our way around adult life combined with the growing sense of reliable familiarity that I came to associate with Luc and Diana’s faces. Sounds disgustingly cheesy but I loved coming into the office and seeing the light already on. Knowing that I’d be greeted with Luc’s bright “Good morning!!”, followed by Diana rolling in a few minutes later with her slightly sleepier and almost confused sounding “What’s up guys?”
Despite being crammed into an office meant for two average-sized people, our favorite mode of communication was sending Slack messages to each other silently, while literally sitting right next to each other. Not even productive messages like “Can you help out with this bug? Here’s a screenshot of my code” or “Hey what time was that meeting,” but more things like “I’ve been watching your Spotify activity for the last half hour. Why have you been listening to the same Lana Del Rey song on repeat. Are you ok?” or wordless pictorial messages constructed out of Slack emojis that Manny has likened to strange, modern Egyptian hieroglyphs. If IBM’s Slack team, or whomever is in charge, read our pointless conversations, they’d probably reconsider allowing continued use of the software.
One time, we all video-called on Slack, turned our laptop cameras towards each other to create an infinite, Droste effect on our screens with Slack calls within Slack calls within Slack calls. There was a slight lag between the screens, so we’d stare into one laptop’s camera and whip our heads to look at another laptop as quickly as possible and try to beat the lag and see ourselves from two seconds ago, staring back. I did not describe that very well but it was pretty dumb and fun.
But that was the nature of our interactions, lighthearted and not very serious. Having Luc and Diana made me look forward to going into the office everyday. If work was getting stressful or if we just needed a mental break, we were always there for each other. Inches away.
Luc: Da-in and Diana were life-savers for me. Through every corner and turn, they have been supportive. Whether it has been with outside relationships, work, or hobbies. I at one point took over Chess Club at IBM (e4, e5, Ke2), and when nobody would show up besides my colleague Eric, they would come out and play, while inviting more people to come out.
We also would eat lunch together. This was essentially a group therapy session where one of us would proclaim their issues and we would talk through them. It was always a nice break from the chaos of the office, and we had some good laughs as well. Later in the year we would eat lunch at Diana’s since she lived nearby and she had to go home to walk her dog. One of my fondest memories was me and Da-In putting on Jefe Bebe (boss baby but in Spanish for you non-Spanish speakers) and watching it while we ate. If that is not therapeutic, I don’t know what is.
Diana: The first year would not have been the same without them by my side. It felt like I had formed my second, little family here. Since none of our families live close by, I feel like we have all helped each other transition into adulthood. If I needed a hand with literally anything, Da-In and Luc were there. When I needed help debugging my code (or when I thought I had broken prod and almost had a heart attack) they were there. When I needed help building my Ikea couch they were ready to help me assemble it. They were even there when I was looking into adopting a pup which I eventually did. Luna was the perfect addition to our little work family.
I could count on them to make even the most boring or stressful work days fun. It was nice how we all sat right beside each other. Whenever we needed a break we would all just swivel around in our chairs to talk as if we were having a secret meeting. We called this story-time where we would talk about our personal life and issues. This is how we have come to know each other so well.
Q3 – What sort of social activities and team traditions do the three of you have to keep things loose?
Da-In: My favorite part of the work day was lunch. Sometimes we’d drive over to Diana’s apartment to walk her dog Luna, then come back to eat on her couch. I’d probably steal some snacks from her pantry. We’d watch some bad TV while trying to ignore Luna begging for our food. Or sometimes, Luc and I would stay at the office and go eat in the beautiful Design Studio’s break room for a change of scenery and shelter from cold weather. If weather permitted, we could alternatively head over to our special bench outside our building to enjoy some fresh air and the company of bold squirrels.
I also liked to take little breathers throughout the day and go down to our building’s not as beautiful break room. I’d fill up my water, pick up plain Lay’s potato chips for Luc and Oreos for Diana, and take a shameful amount of bananas to shove into my cabinet. I had a banana hoard in the office, where I was slowly ripening several bananas at a time. (The bananas were always too green to eat immediately when they stocked the break room.) Diana and Luc also did not snack as frequently as I went to the break room, so we inadvertently built up an embarrassing stock of Oreos and Lay’s as well.
Luc: Since Da-In touched on snacks and lunch, I wanted to bring up our special Friday events. For years, Friday has been a special day for me. In high school, I would wear a yellow button down shirt trying to be fancy on Friday. That was my Friday shirt. In college, it became floral Friday because we would sometimes go out on Friday and for the sake of reducing laundry, I would wear a floral shirt throughout the day. When I got to IBM I continued the tradition and started Floral Friday. I would come into the office and say “Floral Friday baby” doing this every Friday, people caught on and eventually the whole team started dressing up. Truly I was an influencer.
Accompanying floral Friday was Friday concerts. Da-in, Diana, and Daniel would play a song together. They however would practice the day of, and as an orchestra consisting of a ukulele, a electric sax, and a Otomatone, I made sure to wear my good headphones that day. The team’s spirit and undying support of everyone’s weird passions (including many of my own) was always a rowdy time.
Diana: Outside of work lunches and Floral Fridays, we had special work-day events that we all went to together as a team. From watching Da-In win at the Art Show or Luc trying to break a piñata at Hispanic Heritage Day, there’s never a dull moment or lack of support between us three. We even had a group costume together where we dressed up as Bed, Bath, and Beyond. We thought we were so clever and that no one would figure it out. A couple of people did. We also went to the Austin Design Studio’s Halloween Party with our boss who joined us through all the haunted houses. We’ve had some of the best times together at the office. Then there was the DEG Holiday Party which I led in party planning, we hosted it at Topgolf. That was definitely a team favorite and my personal favorite memory. Watching newbies try to swing was the funniest part. I definitely suck at golf too but it made for some great laughs and memories.
Chapter 4, Close
While we’re all part of a broader, corporate team, let’s face it, we usually have some BFFs, work-wives and work-husbands to lean on as a sounding board. As young professionals in a more mature organization, Da-In, Diana and Luc have some common ground to share in their first professional roles to help each other along, inside and outside the office. Work isn’t just about getting things done, it’s about supporting each other as a team and colleagues. In our next chapter, we’ll take a closer look at how Diana, Luc and Da-In start to adjust to their individual contributor roles and get thrown into the frying pan of developer life.