Hardscrabble 🍫

By Max Jacobson

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The Broom

April 19, 2020

Note: this was originally published on Thomas Countz’s newsletter Pseudocode, but I’ve copied it here after that website seems to be no longer up. I copied this from the internet archive in September of 2023.

Hi there, I’m Max Jacobson. I’m a senior software engineer at Vimeo, working on Vimeo OTT, a platform where anyone can launch their own paid video subscription service. Thomas asked me to share a bit about my role. In my opinion, being a “senior software engineer” means something different everywhere you go, and often means something different within the same company. Here’s a bit about what it means to me.

In February, the OTT engineering department went to the LeFrak Center in Prospect Park for a team outing (this was back when people went outside). We went curling. You know, like this thing: 🥌. We split off into teams, learned the rules, learned the basic technique, learned the terminology (it’s good to have “the hammer”), and played a few “ends”. Everyone got to try out the various roles: lead, second, vice-skip, and skip.

In the moment, my top priority was to not fall on my ass. In the weeks since, as my team has worked tightly together on a big project, I’m struck by what a good choice of activity it was to illustrate the various ways individuals can contribute to a team. As a senior engineer, sometimes you’re the skip: taking a step back to assess the state of things and offering direction for your teammates. Other times you’ve got the broom, and you’re sweeping furiously at the ice to smooth the glide path for the stone your teammate is throwing. Once in a while, you’ll throw the stone yourself.

Making software is hard, especially when you’re new. As a senior engineer, you do what you can to make it easier. That can mean all kinds of things: research, plan-making, pairing, answering questions, code review, documenting, white boarding, whatever it takes. Often, the way to have the biggest impact is to sweep the ice and get out of the way.

Some nerds on ice trying to curl Me preparing to throw a stone

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