Has it been hard to connect with the team because of COVID?
I feel really connected to the team, to be honest. There’s not a day that passes that I wasn’t communicating with someone or without someone asking for help or even just a chat.
Sometimes it’s difficult to have a relaxed conversation with someone because there’s not been that much to do in life [with the pandemic] but I do try to find the time to book a one-on-one with people just to chat or have some lunch with some of the team online.
I really like Gather, [Valispace’s virtual office]. It was great when the lockdown was really strict and I remember that we had the 2020 Christmas party on it. Honestly, I had never heard of anyone having as much fun at a Christmas party that year.
Also, the retreat was a great way to connect too. I knew I had good relationships with a lot of people but it felt like the retreat was the spark that ignited them into great ones. We had grown a lot as a company since I’d joined and just meeting everyone for the first time was so nice. It felt great because it was a unique group of people where you could talk about anything to anyone. I got the feeling that I was surrounded by talented and super inspirational people.
How do you fix hard problems?
Sometimes it’s difficult to be frustrated with a problem or task that you’re so close to finishing but you can’t see past this little step or solve a simple configuration or whatever it is. If it gets to a point where it’s getting too frustrating and trying to solve the problem doesn’t get fun any more, I stop.
I normally work with a guitar on my side. So picking it up for a moment can help. If it’s late in the day and getting close to finishing work, I know how my brain works and I know I won’t get it. I need to leave, walk away and sleep. Next morning, I’ll have breakfast and a coffee then I’ll take a look at the problem and I know that I’ll just get it.
In fact, I did that just today! I had something that I couldn’t fix on a Friday, and after coming back to it today, it was so much easier to solve than if I kept coming back to it on the same day. I think in some ways, you have to flush the mind to solve the problem.
You need to empty yourself and think about other things, which also helps to relieve pressure you might feel. Pressure can be good, up to a point but often when I feel pressure too much I can get paralysis for analysis. It causes me to analyze too much in a way that can be completely unproductive.
What does it feel like to be writing code that helps empower engineers to build the products that are actually going to propel humankind forward?
“It feels unreal to be building software that rocket scientists use and work on. A little bit like a dream, to be honest. I would never have thought I would end up in the aerospace industry.”
I feel a lot of pride. It feels really, really awesome. It also feels like we have a big responsibility here. I mean, there are a lot of people whose work depends on our software so we do our best to make those people happy so that they can do the best work that they can.
It’s a big responsibility but it’s good, right? Some responsibilities are super nice to have and I’m lucky because I get to talk to a lot of customers in my role and I’ve seen first hand the way they are reacting to what we are doing.
Recently I was working quite closely with some customers who were having some problems on their servers. After identifying what the issue was and pumping some updates for them and the rest of our users, we were in a call a few weeks later and they said “this is awesome how much it’s changed in two weeks!” and it’s amazing to go on these little journey’s with customers that help make their life easier whilst improving the software for our other users too.
It feels unreal to be building software that rocket scientists use and work on. A little bit like a dream, to be honest. I would never have thought I would end up in the aerospace industry.
But it’s not just rockets! I’ve seen people building coffee roasters with this software which is just so cool.
Sometimes, I tell friends what I’m working on or who I’m working with or what some of our customers are building or whatever, and my friends always say something like “wow, that’s super cool”.
You know that feeling of when you’re living in a beautiful city and your friends from outside come to visit and they always tell you how amazing and nice your city is? And they remind you of how beautiful the city actually is? Well it feels like that every time I talk about my job to people.
Any advice for programmers entering challenging industries?
Yes I do have one big recommendation and that is to start from the basics.
Imagine that you’re a woodworker and you don’t know how to make a table. You’ve only ever made one once but that was long ago and you can’t remember the process. So you go and buy some tools, some expensive tools and try to start to piece it together.
The thing is, if you don’t know which piece goes where, or where each nail goes, you’ll never build that table, no matter how good your tools are.
So start from the basics and start learning from people that motivate you. Don’t underestimate yourself and don’t think that you need to take a job because it’s the only one available if there are lots of red flags. Good jobs will come and the improvements in yourself that you could make in a good place, rather than a bad one, are exponentially better.
The path you follow along is important. Being disciplined with things like learning and finding things that you are interested in are the things which are going to make you progress better.
Finally, How do you switch off?
Normally, I like going out with people (I like talking, as you can see). But in a sense, If I’m honest, I still need to learn to switch off properly, and that’s not good.
I’m not much of a movie person but lately reading and doing sports has been helping me unwind. If I’ve found myself frustrated at the end of the day, going to the gym really helps with flushing the mind! I come back like a new person.
Did Toño’s account of life at Valispace give you an urge to work here too? Visit valispace.com/careers and send a spontaneous application today