Interviews with Engineers: Tom McGurl

 In Career Advice

MEET TOM MCGURL – LEAD FRONT END ENGINEER @ CHARTBEAT

We sat down to have a chat with Tom about his career path as a software engineer, and what he’s been up to lately.

What was the first thing you ever built as an engineer?

The first significant app I ever built was an photo album app for android that just showed low res pictures of dogs. It was the first thing I built that friends could see and play with. I built it with colleagues at school, as part of an assignment.

I also built a craft beer cataloging app, which I’m actually now rebuilding in React Native. It’s similar to Evernote except it’s specific to beer! It allows the user to share the beer they have in their collection with others.

 

What drew you to the field?

I like everything about software development! Primarily, I love to learn, build useful projects that people could see/interact with, and the visual aspects. I like making things that look good.

 

Why did you move on from your last job to where you are now? What motivated you to make the change?

I think there was a little less support for my professional development at my last job. I found I was trying to learn and experiment with new tech and methodologies in my free time, without much guidance or opportunity through work.

Ultimately, as someone who enjoys developing for the front end and particularly developing things that other people can use and interact with, I wasn’t satisfied with only developing internal-facing products. I appreciated that I was given a lot of leeway and autonomy as the JavaScript expert on a mostly Java-heavy team, but because I was working on an internal tool, I didn’t feel like my work was making as much of an impact.

 

What are the things you had to come up to speed on to be successful in landing the job?

I definitely had to shore up my core, fundamental JavaScript skills. I think the MVC frameworks are important, but anyone who has really solid JavaScript skills can pick those up.

Overall, I spent a lot of time building my own projects on Github and contributing to open source code and documentation in an effort to learn. For instance, by building my beer catalog, I taught myself Angular, React, and Ember.

I even built a Github repo specifically for keeping up with and learning new front end technologies! It covers my recommended podcasts, learning resources, blogs to follow, books, videos, other repos, best practice guides, good meetups, and more. I find it to be a good way to manage my own learning, and now even my teammates at Chartbeat use it as a resource.

 

What are some of the things you enjoy about the work culture at Chartbeat?

I love that the company and team encourages you to learn outside of work! We meet on a regular basis to discuss trends in the industry, and also attend conferences.

I also appreciate that the team is very diverse – everyone comes from different experience, cultural, and educational backgrounds. We learn a lot from each other.

 

What are you working on now?

I was promoted to tech lead a while back. I now run all the editor-facing dashboards and other editorial products. I also conduct R&D on new products using React.

There are a lot of cool problems to solve from a technical standpoint!

 

What do you like to do when you’re not coding?

Beer!! Also, I like hiking with my dog…and playing video games.

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