Get to know Propeller’s stellar team through our ongoing employee spotlights. Today, we talk to Andrew McDowell, who serves as full stack developer on the platform delivery team. Andrew is based in Sydney, Australia.
What do you do at Propeller?
Over the last six months, I moved from being 100% development to leading a development team. My job is to make sure my team has useful work to do, all the info they need to do their best work, and not too much on their plate.
I also do a lot of tech debt in the background. Personally, I don’t want to be fully away from the codebase because I’m still a developer at heart and want to stay relevant. This gives me time to do all the things we’d never get ’round to otherwise.
What are some of the things you’ve worked on that a customer would have used or recognize?
The most recent thing is design folders. With people uploading so many design files into the Propeller Platform, it was getting hard to navigate without a folder structure.
It’s not groundbreaking, but as customers use Propeller for longer amounts of time, they create lots of files. That starts to get unwieldy when you need to compare designs to the actual site. We worked hard to make sure we’re building a pattern in the UI that can be repeated across multiple things. It’s been one of our most successful recent things.
You’ve been at Propeller for half its life. What are some of the biggest or best changes you’ve seen?
Seeing Propeller grow from a 20 people in a very small office to the global company we are today is really exciting. It’s been a massive change. I’ve loved to see the product mature too. We’ve switched gears from going fast to build all of the things to focusing on reliability, performance, and making the product really good for the people currently using it.
What’s your career background?
I’ve been a software engineer for over ten years. (Wow, that is scary to think.) I did computer science at Queen’s University Belfast. I got a job straight after that building TV set-top boxes.
Then I moved to Australia, traveled, and ended up in Sydney. The first job I came across was, randomly, building a TV set-top box. Would you believe it? I walked into the interview and, having been one of the only people in the world building UIs for this, had it in the bag. I met our good friend CT (a former Propellerite) after that and moved across to Channel 9, working on their websites. That’s where I met Tony, Linh, and Mamo (they’re now at Propeller too).
A couple years after that I wanted a new challenge, so I started looking further afield and came across Propeller. Got the interview and Francis showed me a demo of the product and I was like, “yep, I want to work on that thing.”
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a very small retired fishing village in Northern Ireland. There wasn’t really much to do. Except, now when I look back and go back home, I realize there so much nice scenery around. We’re right at the foot of a mountain range, where you can hike. On the other side, there’s the sea.
Before working at Propeller, what’s the strangest or most interesting job you’ve held?
My strangest job was working in a scampi factory—yes, the battered prawns—for a summer. Frozen prawns were shoveled onto a conveyor belt that went through a battering and breading raincoat, then they got to my conveyor belt. My job was unstick any prawns that got stuck together for eight hours a day. It was really weird. When you’re standing still and looking at something moving all day, you actually get motion sickness.
Any talents, secret superpowers, or fun facts about yourself to share?
I was a bit of a circus freak for a while (and still am). Back in Belfast, I did a lot of juggling, fire dancing, and professional stilt-walking. I play samba—Brazilian drums—and my first band was a stilt-walking samba band. I still play here in Sydney, but not on stilts. Also, I can probably balance anything indefinitely on my nose. You pick that up over time while juggling. Recently, I balanced an AeroPoint.
What’s your favorite Propeller memory?
It’s the 2018 Thailand retreat. It came at a time when the US, Sydney, and Manlia teams were scaling up or coming on line. We felt like independent entities, but Thailand was a time to come together as one company, meet everyone, and hang out.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a better week with a bunch of people I didn’t know before. One of my favorite things was our pool sessions where we all cooled off and everyone gave a flash talk—where you talk about yourself for five minutes. It’s how we got to know everyone.
It’s easy to sit in your own bubble and assume everyone arrived at Propeller in the same way that you did. Getting the background and being able to see the diversity we have on the team was really interesting.
What’s your favorite Slack emoji and why?
It has to be the Kev emoji. I love a good dad joke. It’s the perfect emoji for calling out intentional or unintentional dad jokes.
What’s one thing you wish software engineers understood better about Propeller as a whole?
We just get to build cool stuff. The most basic problem in Propeller is probably the hardest problem you’re going to solve building websites for a TV company. It just feels like you up your game by just being in Propeller.
Developers thrive off a good hard problem, and our problems are so interesting. In your average day-to-day, you probably don’t get to work with 3D maps or solve mad infrastructure issues or architectural problems. We do. And for any single person, you get to make a massive impact. That’s not necessarily the case in other companies.
Want to join our team? We’re hiring!