The Chapter Continues

So it’s been over half a year since I posted last, and about 6 months since I started working for Medtelligent. I figured this would be as good of a time as any to reflect on what life’s been like for the past six months. Quite a bit has changed. We’ve gone to Chicago Fire soccer games, bought season tickets, and just generally became quite wrapped up in the world of American soccer. Pretty excited about all of that, but that’s basically a blog post (or perhaps a whole blog) of its own. We also moved into a new apartment that’s suiting us much, much better than our previous tiny apartment. Now we have room to move around, have guests over, and the space to even have relatives stay with us. The location is great too; close to the El, grocery store, Target, and so on. Can’t really complain much at all about that.

Really though, I kind of wanted to continue from where I left off with my last blog post. I was in the midst of changing jobs, leaving Imaginary Landscape, and going to Medtelligent. These companies are so incredibly different. As I came up on six months, I was reflecting and trying to gauge if I had made the “right decision”. In some ways even comparing the two situations is difficult just because they’re such different beasts. I’m quite happy at Medtelligent, but I was happy to some degree at Imaginary Landscape at one point as well.

Now that the first couple months of “OMG this is the best company evah!” that I had at Medtelligent, things have settled a bit. The biggest thing I like about them is that they seem to just “get it”. They understand the importance of testing, refactoring old code, rapid prototyping, and they have a strive to constantly be better. Having the right idea, doesn’t always mean you have the right execution though. We’ve had some odd cases where a prototype suddenly became treated like a production environment. Instead of making strong pushes to fix that, we kept adding features instead of trying to find a state of stability.

I get it though, I really do. You can’t always have things go perfectly. The part that keeps me happy is they realize their mistakes, and do truly work to adjust and get better. Medtelligent really tends to remind me of Contegix in how they operate. There’s always this feeling of a zillion things to do without any real end in sight. Sometimes it feels like you’re never really getting ahead, because you spend a lot of times trying to put out “fires”. On the upside, we’re getting closer and closer to stabilizing, and dealing with less fires, and producing better products as a result.

I think the best part about Medtelligent is that I get to do some pretty cool stuff. Right now we’re doing natural language processing of large volumes of data. We’re able to take data from a variety of different social media services, process it, and give users an idea of what’s being said in the set of data. As a result I get to play with nltk, MongoDB, celeryd, and RabbitMQ. It’s a fun tech stack, and working to get it to scale to process excessively large data volumes has been quite exciting. Right now the web front end to it sits on an old framework they had built before I worked there that sat on top of TurboGears 1. We’re currently in the process of converting it all to Django, so we’re also leveraging django-nonrel and the like.

I’d say probably the weirdest part about working here though, is the “culture”. They’re a small company, and there are only 4 of us that are actually in the office every single day. There is normally five of us though. The projects I work on, I’m the sole developer of. Sometimes my boss chips in here and there, but the Django conversion I’ve mentioned, I’m the only person to have viewed the source I think. The other 3 work on different projects entirely that don’t have any relation to each other, or to me. We don’t have any form of set schedules, so people come in, go to lunch, and leave at all sorts of different times. You end up with this situation where I’ve gone entire days without hearing a person speak at work.

On the upside, they do try to fix this by setting up outings. I think they realize it’s an issue, but I’m not sure they know exactly what to do about it. We’ve had a couple “happy hours” now, but with the odd scheduling situation, they end up starting sort of late. One we had on a Wednesday, we were supposed to head to a nearby bar at 5:30, but by the time everyone got together and out the door it was more like 6:45. These things happen, I understand, but for me it turned into me working “overtime” to go out for a drink. Of the three outings we’ve had now, work itself has gotten in the way of having the outing causing us to start late. I appreciate the effort, don’t get me wrong. I get the idea of “word hard, play hard”. I don’t know, I guess I find tardiness to be incredibly disrespectful. I understand five or ten minutes on occasion, but here everything runs 30-60 minutes late (meetings, parties, etc). Guess I just feel like instead of working late to have a beer, I could just go home and have a beer.

That’s one aspect that Imaginary Landscape got right. That place felt like a family, asked how my weekend was, asked how my wife was, etc. People talked to each other, went to lunch together, and had monthly meetings where everyone got together and discussed stuff to some degree. Every month there was a happy hour at 5PM, everyone stopped whatever they were doing and had a few beers there in the office rather than having to round everyone up to get them out the door. I had people to bounce ideas off of, and was probably kept a bit more honest in my code since I knew it’d be seen on occasion by other people.

I should probably wrap this up though, as it’s getting pretty length. Overall, I’m happy with the decision I’ve made, and plan on sticking with Medtelligent for quite some time. It’s a bit all work and no play, but it’s a job not a playground. I get to play with some pretty cool tech, and learn a lot of new stuff. Hopefully I’ll start blogging some more soon too. I’d like to talk about some of the stuff I’m doing with Mongo in the future, and also I’d like to talk way too much about soccer. Hell, maybe another blog for all my soccer talk is in order.