January 25, 2018
Fred Li: Junior Software Engineer
In this edition of Tatarians in the Spotlight, we talked to Fred Li, our Junior Software Engineer, who first joined the company as an intern. He told us about his unconventional background as a chemical engineer and how he ended up at Tatari.
Tatari: “You started at Tatari as a software engineering intern, but that wasn’t your academic background, right?”
Fred Li: “Yes, I actually studied chemical engineering in college, which was completely different to what I’m doing now. I was good at chemistry, and didn’t really know what to do, so I chose that as a major. My first job was also in chemical engineering. I liked it, but I felt like something was missing—I felt like I wasn’t really challenged. So, I decided to learn how to code as a hobby, and figured I might learn something new in the process. I remember learning how to code for the first time: I was coding straight for eight hours until 3 am. I completely lost track of time, and that’s when I realized—maybe this is something what I should do in life.”
T: “So, how did you switch gears?”
FL: “I heard about coding bootcamps from my friends, so I decided to give it a go. There was an interview, for which I had to prepare in just one week. The interview was on a weekend, I got a callback immediately on Monday, and I was in! So, I quit my job, took a risk, and enrolled in the bootcamp. It was fourteen weeks long, I coded for six days a week, and learn so much in such a short time period. I loved it, but I also knew that it was only the beginning, so I immediately began looking for software engineering jobs.”
T: “And that brings us to Tatari. How did you decide to come here as an intern?”
FL: “Well, as every job-seeker, I naturally applied for many positions. But, as someone who didn’t come from a pure computer science background, I was having trouble getting interviews. I also wasn’t really looking for an internship. When I read about the software engineer intern position at Tatari, I decided to apply because it was a startup and I thought I might learn a lot. What was great about the engineering team at Tatari was that they were willing to give opportunity to candidates who didn’t have previous coding experience in the industry. Everyone on the team has had a lot of experience before, so for them, the desire to learn was more important. I really liked that, and luckily it worked out!”
T: “Your biggest project here as an intern was building the calendar heatmap module of our dashboard. How did that go?”
FL: “I was very lucky in the sense that Patrick, our VP of Engineering, really wanted me to learn how to build everything from scratch. That was incredibly helpful because he taught me how to keep the code and functionality readable and simple. I also worked with Ryan Massad, our lead designer, who taught me a lot about styling and aesthetics of the product. I learned how important it is to be precise in design, which also helped me sharpen my CSS skills. When you use websites all the time, you sort of take these things for granted. So, it was really eye-opening to work on all these aspects, from coding to design.”
T: “After your internship, you joined Tatari full-time. What is something you like the most about working here?”
FL: “Oh, that’s hard—I like a lot of things about Tatari! But, people are probably my favorite aspect of the company. It’s really great working so closely with everyone, not just within the engineering team, but from everyone across the board, whether it’s media-buying, finance, marketing, or data science. I also like that it’s a fun atmosphere. From what I’ve seen, startups usually tend to have a reputation for being serious and maybe uptight sometimes, but Tatari is such a nice working environment. We joke a lot and talk about all sorts of things, and that really matters to me. So, I would say the continuous opportunities to learn from everyone and the upbeat environment are what I like the most about Tatari.”
We think so too, Fred!