As a new community engagement initiative of ACELR8, we started a Getting to Know series where we interview some of the people from our ACELR8 community, both internal and external, that have been involved in our work and our overall growth as a company. The goal is to stay engaged with our network, which includes: candidates, ACELR8rs, as well as our clients.
Josh drew our attention with a CV that was hidden behind a few lines of code. Throughout the interview process he stood out, by showing a strong coding mind, high energy, business experience and an entrepreneurial drive. He works at Next Matter now and shares how he built his career.
How did your career start?
When I was 8 years old my cousin showed me an ‘Introduction to HTML’ article on Ask Jeeves - that was my first foray into writing code. I had spent the next years going to libraries, and started with learning HTML 3, and later PHP. At the end of high school I did loads of internships and got to know several companies. In the meantime, everybody else was in classes and getting ready for college, but that was something that just never appealed to me as it costs a lot of money, a lot of time and contains a lot of irrelevant topics. So I decided to keep on working and doing internships, and eventually landed a job as a software developer.
My first real job came through a dating app, and from there I moved to one of the hottest marketing agencies in Boise. During that time, I became more involved with Github and started contributing to open-source projects for the first time. This opened up a world of better jobs without needing to have a college degree. It also gave me the opportunity to help other developers and companies to do their jobs, to explore new industries and to have fun writing code.
So basically, my career is a big amalgamation of all these things: doing internships, working on open-source, working for many different companies and moving around the USA. I’ve now found a place at Next Matter in Berlin and look forward to working with the team for a long time.
What’s your typical morning routine?
So, I have not had much breakfast for years. I wake up as late as possible and I calculate my commute down to the minute - which works well in Berlin with the punctual trains. When I finally hop on the train, I am still a bit blurry eyed and need to play an intense game on my phone to get my mind going. The focus and energy it requires, gives me a kickstart in the day. Currently I am playing Magic Touch, which is a concentration game with a prioritisation aspect to it. It’s a bit different than the mindless games that only involve shooting or tapping, which gives me the mental stimulation that I very much need in the morning.
I also use it to unplug at the end of the day while commuting home. It uses up the last bit of mental energy after a long day so that I can finally feel tired and sleepy.
What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
To be honest, the most exciting part is working with Jan, the founder of Next Matter. He is so competent on the business side and shares his experience and ideas in a transparent and understandable way with the team. In my past jobs, the focus lay solely on the creative or technical side, or commonly lacked direction or vision. Especially for the engineers, the business end of things, vesting, how VC’s work, etc. is abstracted away and would normally be kept quite inaccessible. However, the more my career grows, the more I like to understand the holistic view. Jan is very good in providing this view by keeping the business area super transparent and also handling the technical part really well. Giving valuable feedback, while being open to new ideas - and even radical ideas - has made me very happy so far. So learning a lot from him and being able to look up to somebody that is above me in terms of management is (unfortunately) relatively rare - but definitely refreshing.
What challenges do you face at your company?
We are on a mission where we need to find the Holy Grail of process management. It seems simple and straightforward, but every step and choice you make forms a web of possibilities. Basically, you have to reason about very situational logic and translate that into code that actually runs well and is cost effective. Thinking ahead, it needs to be scalable and designed as if it were being used by 150.000+ users simultaneously. We are not at that scale yet, but will be someday, so we need to think about that now.
What book has had the biggest impact on your career?
‘How to make friends and influence people’ by Dale Carnegie. The one takeaway I got from it is essentially never to assume the negative in someone or some situation. If someone comes to you and asks what seems to be a dumb or rude question, or criticises your code or something in a way that sounds patronising, the worst thing you can do is assume it’s coming from a place of negativity. It sounds trivial, but you should not try to take it personally, and instead see it as an opportunity to improve or connect. Oftentimes, the person is more focused on extracting some information. This has fundamentally changed how I interact with people both online and in person, and has allowed me to understand and even defuse difficult or heated situations in a more grounded way.
Would you say this comes back in cross-cultural communication as well, where you need to over communicate to get it right?
Yes, funny that you mention it. I see this on Github a lot, where I read a ticket that seems really angry or pissed off and insulting your code. And then you realise English is not their native language. They don't know the exact word choice in order to ask for help and sound grateful at the same time. English can be an annoying language.
What’s on your work playlist?
A big ritual of mine is that whenever I have some downtime, I go to SoundCloud and listen to the tracks that are reposted by people I follow. I quickly go through maybe ten or twenty songs at a time and listen for a few seconds. The ones I like, I save in my ‘likes’ and move on. Then I can go back later and listen to them on my commute or during work.
What would you suggest to someone seeking a new job?
Well it's going to be different everywhere, but my biggest advice I wish I gave myself back in the day is that the interview process goes both ways. You should never feel like the company is doing you a favour by giving you a job - it is a mutual contract. You shouldn't be eager to take the first thing that you're offered. It is so important to not only have an interview, but to also give a good interview by asking questions and doing everything to find out whether or not you’ll be happy there. It is really important to realise you are worth something: if you don't feel like you'll succeed at the company, it's OK to say no. Feeling accomplished and comfortable and happy is the most important thing.
Want to join Josh at Next Matter? Apply here.