Blockchain hackathons and beyond: Here's what it's like to work on Apto's engineering team

by April Bohnert
March 13, 2018
Apto ETHDenver engineering team Colorado
Photo courtesy of Bekah Lundy, Apto. 

Engineering teams are responsible for driving much, if not all, of the innovation behind a business’s technology. The only way to do that, though, is to continue learning, pushing and exploring the next generation of tech tools and software.

At Apto, they take this responsibility seriously — while having some serious fun along the way.

Last month, members of the Apto engineering team participated in the ETHDenver hackathon, one of the largest Ethereum and blockchain hackathons in the nation. Out of 130 teams, the team finished as one of seven runners-up in the competition for its “Gas Guzzler Robots.”

We asked two members of the engineering team to share their experiences from the hackathon and give us a glimpse into the day-to-day life of an Apto engineer.

 

Apto ETHDenver engineering team Colorado
Photo courtesy of Bekah Lundy, Apto.

How would you describe the engineering team's culture and the way you work together as a unit?
Dylan Bohlender, software engineer: The Apto engineering team's culture is one of candor, coupled with a drive for making our customers' lives easier. We have a broad range of expertise, and as a result we have a lot of different perspectives. Listening to many voices and zeroing in on the best solution requires a lot of coordination, but the baseline of trust among us allows us to make the right decisions for our customers and collaborate effectively.

The Apto engineering team's culture is one of candor, coupled with a drive for making our customers' lives easier.”

What tech is your team currently using?
Bohlender: Our team uses several modern technologies — Angular, Node.js, AWS Lambdas — in addition to several battle-tested and secure technologies like Java and the Force.com platform.

 

So — tell us about the Gas Guzzler Robots.

Bohlender: Essentially, we created a cryptocollectible on the Ethereum blockchain, so that people who “mess up” their Ether transactions can commemorate them with something fun.

 

Why did your team decide to participate in ETHDenver?

Bohlender: Cryptoassets are a hot topic of discussion in the workplace, and when we heard that Denver was hosting a blockchain hackathon, we knew we had to see what it was all about. The best way to learn about something is to do it, after all.

The best way to learn about something is to do it.”

What were some of the best things you took from the hackathon?

Bekah Lundy, full stack engineer: I loved the hackathon because it was a community of people who wanted to grow together. There was a mission to create the best project in 36 hours, but I saw no competition from others. There were only strangers stepping up to help you or teach you something. I went into the hackathon never having touched solidity or the blockchain, and the community taught me what it is, how to use it, what can come out of it and why it matters. It opened a thousand doors for me.

Bohlender: I learned lots about the current state of the blockchain ecosystem and met tons of interesting and motivated people. Distributed ledger technology has huge potential, and seeing so many people working to actualize that potential gave me great hope for the future.

As a team, we've gotten closer since the hackathon. We don't work on the same product teams within our engineering department, so bridging the divide between those teams has been huge for inter-team communication.

 

How do you translate the hackathon mentality to your day-to-day work?
Lundy: Going through an experience like this hackathon helps to ignite the fire and passion that brought me into development in the first place. It was easy to apply the curiosity, intensity and work ethic to what I do in my day-to-day job. The engineering team that I am on at Apto gives me opportunities to dive deep into new topics often, so it is easy to apply those mentalities here.

What's your favorite thing about being an engineer for Apto?
Bohlender: Being an engineer at Apto gives me the opportunity to have an impact on an industry in dire need of modernization. Working in the industry also makes me a better engineer. Commercial real estate brokers are not shy when it comes to expressing their opinions, and their sense of pragmatism really defines the way they interact with software. It's fun designing products for people with high standards; it forces me and my peers to elevate our game in a way that making a generic web app wouldn't.


Lundy: My favorite thing about being an engineer at Apto is the community. Our head of engineering, Steve Neely, makes sure that each and every one of us is happy, learning and accomplishing goals. This trickles down to each team, where we have driven leaders and driven developers. The people I work with are some of the smartest and most interesting people I know and I learn from them every day. Apto makes it easy to come to work in the morning.

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