Work History

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Backend Engineering Lead18F (General Services Administration)Sep '14 Present

18F is a technology startup within the Federal Government, focused on bridging the gap between industry best practices and the world of bureaucratic agencies. We build a mix of shared government platforms, beach-heads for technological growth, and policy-priority one-offs, focusing on agile planning, user-centered design, and rapid, open-source development. We're similar to a private-sector contractor with a major different in incentive; we ultimately serve the general public. More than half of the employees (myself included) are 100% remote and almost all have a maximum contract of four years for ease of hiring and to bring in new ideas.

I began my tenure as a full-stack web developer, working with small teams of engineers, designers, project managers, and product owners to replace legacy software and manual processes with easier-to-maintain and more efficient versions. A bit after a year into this effort, I was promoted to "Backend Engineering Lead", tasked with improving the technical output of our backend engineers across a wide variety of projects (in addition to working on a specific product's team). In the lead role, I conducted technical evaluations, led engineering-wide discussions, and hosted tech talks. As a project engineer, I helped architect products, developed core systems, and actively participated in client relations.

Demonstrated Impact

  • Launched five new federal software systems and significantly extended six more as a full-stack developer on agency engagements.
  • Developed core architecture and designed essential infrastructure as technical lead on seven engagements; authored documentation to satisfy federal "Authority to Operate" requirements.
  • Set high expectations for code contribution, focusing on legibility, testability, and clean code; our easier-to-maintain, faster-to-update style was replicated across 18F.
  • Inspired confidence from our agency partners by delivering on technical promises, carefully learning the problem space, and communicating appropriate information.
  • Guided efforts to standardize aspects of 18F's development workflow (e.g. language selection, Docker tooling, dependency analysis) making projects more consistent and on-boarding simpler.
  • Improved our engineers' technique through numerous technical presentations & post mortems, hundreds of code reviews, and dozens of one-on-one best-practice sessions.
  • Filtered an uncountable number of resumes and interviewed nearly 50 technical candidates, ultimately leading to seven hires joining 18F.

Project Spotlight

  • api.data.govProxy layer for APIs, providing rate limiting, caching, etc.
    NodeJSLuaRails
  • ATF eRegsAn instance of eRegs for ATF regulations.
    PythonDjangoBackbonePostgresElasticSearchCloud Foundry
  • CommunicartFederal approval tracking.
    Rails
  • Peace Corps Donations PlatformDonation collection app.
    PythonDjangoSASS
  • OMB Policy LibraryA tool to find, read, and maintain policy requirements.
    PythonDjangoNodeJSReactPostgresCloud Foundry

Backend DeveloperConsumer Financial Protection BureauDec '12 Sep '14

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau aims to prevent banks, lendors, and other financial institutions from taking illegal advantage of their customers and to give the public tools to protect their financial well-being. The Technology & Innovation office furthered the agency's mission by hiring roughly thirty designers and developers for a two-year Fellowship. We spear-headed both lofty data exploration tools and more pedestrian intranet wikis, always pushing CFPB's technical bounds. We developed our tools following agile, user-centered practices, almost always in the open. While the majority of CFPB's employees were in DC, the T&I fellows were largely remote, returning to the agency once a quarter to regroup.

My primary role during this fellowship was as a backend web developer, writing tools to ingest data, APIs & templates to make it usable, and performing the devops necessary to keep it all running. I worked in small teams of developers, designers, and project managers to create internal prototypes and launch applications for the public. Notably, a slight majority of my tenure focused on a webapp that parsed, structured, and displayed regulation content. To have the greatest impact in my short term, I also fought hard for fundamental principles like open source, deploying frequently, and limiting bureacracy through presentations, discussions, and the occasional manifesto.

Demonstrated Impact

  • Shipped three multi-month software projects and two significant prototypes, cementing the success of the first round of T&I fellows.
  • Improved the team's code quality by setting a high bar; led CFPB in commits, test coverage, alignment with style guides, and depth of code review.
  • Aided government accountability through groups focused on Transparency & Communications (Co-Chair), Open Source, and Release Management as well as writing T&I's first blog post.
  • Influenced co-workers and management by creating nearly a dozen presentations, ranging from technology-specific decision-making to longer-term policy manifestos.

Project Spotlight

  • HMDApolisA game to explore HMDA data
    PythonFlaskBackbonePostgresCentOS
  • CFPB's eRegulationsAn open source regulation parser/display
    PythonDjangoBackboneMySqlSolrCentOS
  • Idea BoxAn open-source Django app for sharing and voting on ideas
    PythonDjangoMySqlSolrCentOS
  • MapusaurusOpen source map software to detect red-lining concerns
    PythonGeoDjangoLeafletPostGISCentOS

Chief DeveloperToodalu, LLCAug '10 Nov '12

Toodalu: A charity-driven rewards network, ~50 daily users written with Scala, Lift, Postgres, MongoDB, Solr, & Debian

  • Led the majority of technology decisions, such as application stacks, server security, and communication protocols
  • Navigated the code through many company pivots, from a Foursquare-like social network, to an airline points tool, to a dutch-auction Groupon-esque model, to a credit-card-tracking charity system, into a white-label rewards program
  • Designed & developed RESTful JSON web services (Scala + Lift) for user-, merchant-, sales- and admin-facing apps
  • Documented the API-first approach, which allowed our iPhone developer to work in parallel with webapp creation
  • Tested these endpoints via over 2000 Python-based integration tests as well as manual load testing
  • Developed web interfaces for these APIs, including customer (Google Maps + Lift + jQuery) & merchant (Flot) apps
  • Dived into many realms as needed, including a Swing-based, Windows app and the beginnings of an Android client
  • Emphasized user security: per-column auth encryption (BouncyCastle), password attempt exponential back-off, etc.
  • Stored API call logs (excluding sensitive information) in MongoDB, whose dynamic structure allowed easy querying
  • Created a Wordpress blog for easy content management, running Quercus for sharing Tomcat sessions with the app
  • Used Solr to provide instantaneous auto-completion/search across 1.5 million charities (to associate donations)
  • Utilized PostGIS to perform shape and position comparisons to determine which merchants were nearby to users
  • Integrated with GRS credit card payments via SOAP, SFTP, and embedded iframes to track swipes and give rewards
  • Pulled user contacts/relationships from social networks and contact lists, including Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail
  • Sent notifications to users via templated (Mustache) push messages (Urban Airship, Parse) and emails (YMLP)
  • Configured and maintained all associated servers (Rackspace) including binary/JAR hosting
  • Hosted code first on an internal subversion; migrated to Bitbucket (using git); over 2000 commits; apps build via SBT
  • Scripted routine tasks (e.g. key rotation), schema changes (scala-migrations), resizing photos (ImageMagick), etc.
  • Worked largely remotely, seeing the iPhone developer and administrative team roughly once per week
  • Stepped out just as Toodalu was acquired by Wildfire; our software would become the base for Spring Marketplace
  • Recognized as Chicago's Startup of the Month; finalist, “Best Financial Services/Payment Startup” Moxie Award

Web DeveloperNetwork Ninja, Inc.Jun '08 Aug '10

LegalServer: A webapp for pro bono attorneys, ~500 daily users written with OO-PHP, Protoype, Postgres, & Debian

  • With a team of four to six devs and a PM, added new features while improving existing code, pushing updates weekly
  • Personally contributed over 4000 commits to a shared Subversion repository, reviewed via weekly code checks
  • Implemented an automated, PHPUnit-based testing regime; wrote over 100 tests, preventing countless bugs
  • Used Postgres' trigram and soundex modules to improve a system to find similar names (de-duplicating clients)
  • Developed scripts to automate application creation and deployment, saving time and reducing manual errors
  • Wrote a module to transmit statistics to the Department of Housing and Urban Development via a SOAP system
  • Rewrote module for sending mass, templated emails; recipients were selected via a flexible yet intuitive query engine
  • Modularized many components of the platform's UI and models, allowing clients to customize it to fit their needs

Internal Tools: Admin and developer tools, ~10 daily users written with Python, Postgres, jQuery, Trac, Drupal, & Debian

  • Migrated operations from a custom ticketing solutions to Trac, greatly improving management efficiency and tracking
  • Researched, configured, extended, and wrote (where needed) plugins for Trac, contributing back useful pieces
  • Maintained the company's Drupal-based community site, including a JSON end-point for our training/event calendar
  • Created an XML-RPC-based system for viewing tickets, sending feedback, and getting help for our client sites

Teaching AssistantGrinnell College CS DepartmentJan '08 May '08

CSC105: A lab-driven CS course for non-majors with application, HTML, and Python components

  • Assisted the professor by answering students' questions and helping them debug their programs/pages

CSC201: An early course for CS majors, focusing on Linux, C, and certain formal methods

  • Wrote and taught a two-period, hands-on tutorial about the ViM text editor
  • Wrote a tutorial describing SSH (and X-forwarding) for Windows users; this tutorial is still referenced

Application DeveloperGrinnell College IT ServicesAug '07 May '08

TCDB: A timekeeping & admin tool for student staff, ~30 daily users written with PHP, MySQL, CentOS, Debian

  • Extended tool via new features based directly on user feedback, such as an HTML scraper for employee images
  • Awarded ACM Award of Excellence in the “Computing Services Internal Website” category
  • Performed server maintenance & config, learning from an experienced Linux admin; assisted migration to Debian

Summer of Code InternGoogle, Inc.May '07 Sep '07

Summer of Code: Each summer, Google pays college students to work on and be mentored by open source projects

  • Of 6,200 applications for the program, only 905 students were accepted; 7 worked on ViM, roughly a pair per goal

ViM: An open source text-editor of great note; Written in C, built with make, debugged using gdb

  • Worked remotely, in frequent communication with the project creator (Bram Moolenaar) and other students via email
  • Selected and resolved bugs, releasing over a dozen official patches, and contributing to several more; see “:help 7.0”

Technology ConsultantGrinnell College IT ServicesOct '05 May '08

  • Troubleshot, debugged, and resolved hardware and software issues for students and faculty over the phone & on-site
  • Special training for helpdesk-style support (including malware removal), Linux, and audio-visual equipment
  • Mentored and developed curriculum for additional generations of consultants, with an emphasis on the Linux labs
  • Awarded the Chad Zinn Outstanding Helpdesk Award
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