Before they sat down to speak with me, Airbus Aerial’s Back End Development team: Terri Chu, Nick Keller, Rob Gilliom, and Valarie Regas, ran simulations on a new piece of software. Their product is constantly changing and growing, and it is necessary to ensure that it runs as efficiently as possible for clients. Not only that, but the product must be intuitive. Any challenges that arise are welcome, because they present another opportunity for the team to go above and beyond for their clients.
Airbus Aerial’s Back End Dev team lives, breathes and dreams programming. In her free time, Terri learns Mandarin and makes android apps, including a renaissance insult generator. Nick hopes to one day control his whole house from his phone without the help of Alexa. Rob wants to create a way for university sports teams to connect with prospective students, as well as to help educate parents on the recruiting process. He’s been programming since 1994. “You’ve been programming almost as long as I’ve been alive!” Nick exclaims, and a collective groan erupts. Valarie forces herself not to code at home. “All of my outside hobbies are physical, I’ve done judo for 20 years and got into muay thai and MMA a couple years back.” She is also working to create a game show for developers that consists of coding challenges.
The Back End Dev team subverts the expectation that you have to decide on a career when entering college and stick with it. Terri was able to study programming in high school and graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with an engineering degree, but completed an additional bootcamp in order to enter the world of web design. Rob began at Ohio state studying aerospace engineering, determined to be an astronaut, switched to electrical engineering, then finally settled on Computer Science. Nick is the only team member who studied CS at Georgia Tech from the beginning, by nature of his father being a software developer. He is currently working towards a Master’s in CS from Georgia Tech, supported by Airbus Aerial. Valarie received a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of West Georgia and became a stay at home mom before completing a coding bootcamp and Georgia Tech. It appears that, if one is willing to put in the work, there is no shortage of opportunity.
So what drew these talented developers to Airbus Aerial? There is no shortage of technology companies in Atlanta, ranked #3 in startup growth in the US. The team agrees that the small size of the company is a plus, making it easy to get to know coworkers quickly. It’s also easier to effect change. Nick adds that due to the team’s size, they’re able to “touch all pieces of back end code,” which helps to create a more cohesive product. Terri says that it’s the diversity of team members, across age, gender, and ethnicity.
“I think that the more diverse your team is, the better your product.”
Rob says that he has always liked the idea of creating something from scratch, like Aerial has done with their remote sensing platform. He also became interested in drones and satellites while studying aerospace engineering. “I own a couple of RC planes, and when I heard about this startup style development team in Atlanta that worked with drones, I immediately wanted to apply.” Valarie enjoys the collaboration between teams, as it presents opportunities to learn all aspects of development work.
The passion of the Back End Dev team is obvious: after working full days, many of them head home, only to delve into program certifications, complete homework for Master’s programs, or just code for fun. They entered the world of tech from a variety of backgrounds, each at their own pace. They challenge each other’s ideas, but are able to freely discuss struggles because they feel staunchly supported.
by Chisom Awachie
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