Get to Know Flexport Engineering: Stephane Young

Stephane joined Flexport for his internship with the University of Waterloo. He will graduate in the Spring of 2017 and then start as a full-time Flexport employee.

How did you become interested in coding?

My first time coding was actually in college, in a programming class during my first year. I was always into computers, though; when I was young, I would just take computers apart and look at what was inside.

What were you doing before Flexport?

I was doing the Waterloo grind — internships and school, pretty much nonstop for the past four years.

How was your Waterloo internship experience at Flexport?

This is a special place because the industry is so different than anything I’ve seen or even heard of. Everyone says freight isn’t sexy, but you only have to work here for a little bit to realize that it’s a really cool place, and the industry is super complex — there’s always something new to learn.

I also appreciated that Flexport flew down to interview us in person. Even big companies don’t always fly out, but it makes such a huge difference. That’s one of the big reasons why I decided to come; it seems like people care. You’re not just some Waterloo intern.

Do you prefer working on front end, back end or full stack?

Front end, for sure. Full stack is nice because you can build stuff out all the way through, and you have control all the way through. But for me, user experience and design are really interesting, so working on the front end is fun.

People get the wrong impression about the front end, that there’s not as much to learn or it’s not as deep. In the front end, though, the problems are more nuanced, because it’s little things that you don’t necessarily think about, from the user perspective.

Have you worked on any side projects outside of or before joining Flexport?

I have a hard time programming at home after I’ve been programming all day, so most of my side projects end up being problems in my life that can be solved by writing a program of some sort. For example, I have a small mp3 player that I use when I work out, and I need to have its music synced with my phone and computer. So I wrote myself a program that basically syncs music across all the devices.

What’s the been the worst (or best) whiteboard question you’ve ever had?

I’ve gotten tough ones that are knowledge-specific or memory-based, so that you wouldn’t be able to answer the question if you’ve never done it before. For example, How would you write a certain class in Java?

My favorite was a question Desmond (Engineering Manager) asked me during my Flexport interview. He gave me a piece of code and said, “Find the bug.” It was enjoyable. I like questions that are more related to what I might do every day.

What are your favorite languages? Libraries? Tools?

Javascript and React. I worked with Angular before, and I thought it was really good, but then you start digging into it and you realize there are so many problems associated with it. It feels like React did the same thing but did it better; they did it right. I like Javascript because that’s the first language that I started programming in.

Lodash is a library that gives you a bunch of helper functions. I just used it today to remove unique elements from a list. It has something for everything.

As for tools, I like modern text editors like Sublime and Atom.

What has been your favorite project at Flexport?

I really enjoyed working on Marketplace [our central system for pricing and quoting], because the problem that we’re trying to solve is really big. There are multiple parts to this problem and we’re segmenting it one issue at a time. It’s something that will really change the game.

Also, it’s brand new, so we got to do everything the way we wanted to do it; we weren’t restricted by any old code. It’s actually being used now, too, which is exciting.

Why is engineering (or even just working) at Flexport awesome?

The people, and the problems. The people are super nice; everyone is friendly and helpful. I bug people all the time with questions and everyone’s always down to help you. People are, of course, really smart, and i’m learning stuff every day.

Our app is giant and it does so many things. We’re changing the game, changing how people think about moving freight. No one has done what we’re doing. It’s really exciting to be a pioneer, solving the hard problems.

What is a framework, language, or library that you want to learn or build?

I want to learn Go, because i’ve heard good things about it.

I still kind of want to build my own video game someday, too.

What advice would you give to someone who has never coded but is interested in starting?

Just do it. There are so many programming courses out there. There’s so much knowledge out on the internet, so if you have a good idea, you’ve just got to have the persistence to go out and try. It will be hard, but if you can Google the problem you have, someone will have the answer. If you don’t have a good problem, there are tons of ‘learn to code’ places that are an excellent place to start. It all comes down to practice.

Do you have a coding routine to get you in the zone?

For me it’s blasting EDM. I eat something, I drink a coffee, then the headphones go in, and no distractions.