By Justin Farris

Inside Phosphorus: Meet Teddy, Software Engineer!

Hey Teddy, tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hey :-0.

OK well I’m from Pittsburgh (go Pirates!). Before I came to Phosphorus I studied Philosophy in Montreal and then worked in China for a few years as a client manager / project manager in manufacturing quality control. I originally learned how to code in my spare time from free online tutorials because I was a frustrated user of my previous company’s legacy system and wanted to build something better for them.

What is your title at Phosphorus? What do you do for the company?

My job title is Software Engineer. I help to build and maintain software for operational things like tracking samples in our lab. I also work on software for clinical genomics that analyses the output from the laboratory machines and transforms it into the human-readable reports we send to doctors and patients.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

This job is so great because it takes tough and interesting challenges such as building a generalized clinical genomics platform and brings the most capable colleagues I’ve ever worked with together to address those challenges. It’s inspiring to collaborate with and learn from talented coworkers spanning disciplines from software engineering to bioinformatics to clinical lab management.

What have you learned from working at Phosphorus?

I’ve learned so much it’s really hard to narrow down. Aside from specific programming languages and frameworks, there have been a lot of lessons about how to move fast as a team and divvy up work with as little overhead as possible. I wouldn’t say I’ve learned the solution so much as learned that it’s a tough problem.

What has been your favorite project so far?

My favourite project so far has been working closely with the rest of the software team on an act for the company variety show. We did a cello/guitar/electric-harmonica/vocal rendition of “The Rainbow Connection” with interpretative dance. I’m extremely proud to say that the act won one of the top awards given out by the judges.

What is your typical workday like?

We have a team “Standup” meeting in the morning where everyone shares what they are working on. After that I start writing code, mostly in Scala, SQL, and Ruby. If I need clarity on what I’m building then I chat directly with end-users. It’s usually a challenging negotiation between what they ideally want us to build versus what we actually have the time and resources to build. Our team requires code to be peer-reviewed before we ship it so I also spend a lot of time reading through my colleagues’ code and leaving passive-aggressive comments.

Do you have a personal mantra?

“If you liked it then you shoulda put a test on it.” I think I got that from a tweet by @ananelson. It’s kind of Inception-y but software is supposed to have extra “test” code for checking whether the main code works or not. Sometimes certain people (who will remain anonymous haha) get lazy and leave out the test code. But if you want your feature to continue working correctly as the software evolves and changes around it, then you better write some tests for it ;-). Or else :-0.

Tell us something about you most people don’t know.

I used to have long hair down to my waist in high school. It wasn’t a fashion statement – at the time I just felt it wasn’t a good use of time to get a haircut. Most people in NYC don’t know about that and most people from Pittsburgh have either forgotten or blocked it out of their memory.

What is one thing you are looking forward to in your free time this next year?

I have a whole to-do list of things to do. The top two items are to sign up for a boxing class and to get bagels at this place called Steve’s Hot Bagels. Probably I won’t get around to either of those though. Mostly I’m just looking forward to staying home and reading some nice books. I have been meaning to read “Capital in the 21st Century” but in the end I’ll probably be lazy and choose something shorter. I just read “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein and it was great so maybe I’ll find something else by her. I’m halfway through “Far From the Tree” by Andrew Solomon so I definitely want to finish that, too.

Do you have any hobbies?

Recently I’ve been doing dance classes twice a week, and I play jazz saxophone. Historically I’ve been really into cooking and baking bread and cookies (my Grandma’s recipe), but in China I didn’t have an oven and right now we are using our NYC apartment oven as storage space, so it’s hard to keep up the baking.

Tell us a funny or interesting recent sleep dream you’ve had.

I dreamt my old boss and my old roommate were fused into one person and they were being exploited working at a bank that hadn’t paid them since going bankrupt during a global financial crisis. I tried to do a Robin Hood type thing and stole a bunch of gold nuggets from the bank vault to give to my boss/roommate as compensation. But then I felt guilty and was also afraid of getting caught. But then I went back and stole even more gold nuggets and then felt even guiltier. I blame that dream on the TV show Mr. Robot.

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