The job front

In the last couple of months I’ve had a bit of a change job-wise (Franci said it was about time for me to write). I had been a software engineer for Oyster.com — now part of TripAdvisor — for just over six years, and decided it was time for a change and some new work experience while we’re here in the States.

So I started looking around, and interviewed with several companies: Google, Paperless Post, and a couple of others. Google was interesting to interview with, but they said no (at least for the role I was looking for). So I was looking pretty hard at the Paperless offer, but then my boss offered me a new role within TripAdvisor working on a different team and with different technologies … and for various reasons, that’s the role I ended up taking. TripAdvisor is a really good company to work for.

The role is with Jetsetter, another sub-company of TripAdvisor, and it’s still software development, though I’m not managing a team anymore. Jetsetter, like Oyster, is a hotel review website, but they’re more focused on “travel inspiration” and at least traditionally a bit more of a luxury brand. I’m using different technologies (see below) and the team culture is somewhat different, but oddly enough I’m sitting only a few metres away from where I was before. So a substantial change, just not a geographical one. :-)

For the tech geeks among you: to date Jetsetter is mostly written in Scala and Node.js and React, and has a microservices approach on the backend. (In constrast, Oyster has an almost exclusively Python-based, monolithic backend.) I’m introducing some Python on the team with my first project, a new photo import system and image web server.

I’ve been with the new team for about a month now, and it’s been good so far!

In other news, I’ve signed up to teach a computer programming class at our homeschool co-op. It’ll be an hour every second Friday, starting in September, continuing for the full school year. I plan to do a few lessons on computing history and the basics of how computers work (binary, computer maths, what a programming language is), and then spend the rest of the year teaching basic programming skills while working on a project — a little computer game or website or some such. Franci will be sitting in on the class too, which is cool.

Thanks for listening, and signing off for now!

HannahHolder.com, fine art from a fine artist

My cousin Hannah Holder has a lovely website detailing some of the fine art she has done (and can do). She now has her very own domain name, so browse on over to HannahHolder.com and see it for yourself.

From lovely black and white drawings:

To colourful pieces like this one (the original of which is mounted in our NYC apartment lounge):

To amazing Escher-esque paintings like this one she made for my unicycling brother and his wife:

Oh, she does some really good calligraphy, too.

I’m pretty sure you can purchase her artwork (copies, and originals in some cases). And she may well be available to do the odd piece of commissioned artwork — I’m sure you can contact her here if you’re interested in something beautiful!

Working at Oyster.com

As most of you know, I’m now working for Oyster.com in New York City. Oyster is a small (15 staff) startup company that runs a website which lets you review and book hotels. Apart from offering good rates, one of the main things that sets Oyster apart is its thorough reviews and top-quality photos, allowing customers to really see what they’re getting before they book.

Most hotels have 100’s of photos, for example the Marriott Wailea Resort in Hawaii or The Greenwich in New York City — click the Photos tab to see all photos, and if you click “View Large” on a particular photo, you can see how high-resolution they are.

Anyway, now that I’ve sold you on their product :-), I’d better tell you a bit about my role. I’m one of the software engineers who works on the “dynamic” features of the website, meaning the features that let you book hotels, create an Oyster account, save your favoUrite hotels, etc. I do the behind-the-scenes stuff that makes those things tick — other folks do the make-it-look-pretty stuff. For the techies, the dynamic features are programmed in Python, the static content in C++, and we use PostgreSQL as our database.

I’m really enjoying the type of work, and the fact that what you do is (hopefully!) usable and on the web within days of coding it. Fast turn-around times, and having your stuff “visible” like that is really rewarding.

I work with three other software engineers, I have a great boss, the CEO is really switched on, and it’s an all-round neat place to work. Everyone’s good at what they do and keen to see Oyster go places. We get free snacks, good medical insurance (pretty necessary here in the States), and a bunch of other perks — in short, they expect a fair bit, but give a fair bit in return. And yes, if you happen to be a software engineer looking for work in NYC, we’re hiring.

I’ll have to do a post about the interesting and somewhat crazy building we work in at some stage, Chelsea Market (Google’s NYC headquarters are in the same building).

One more thing: if you think you’re ever going to stay in a hotel in the U.S., you can click here to join Oyster.com and get $50 off your next hotel booking.