Get to know Propeller’s world-class team in our ongoing employee spotlight. Today, we talk to Tony Luk, who serves as a software engineer on the graphics and innovations team. Tony is based in our Sydney, Australia, office.
What do you do at Propeller?
I work on what was previously known as the visualizer team. We’re responsible for building the tools for measuring worksite progress in the Propeller Platform. These are the tools you can physically see on your screen. We take information that other technical teams receive from our customers—we’re sort of at the end of that spectrum.
I specifically work on the graphics and innovations team with Chris Cooper. We deal with anything that’s visual in designs, lineworks, 3D shapes, like the red-and-blue cut/fill graphics—all that stuff is what we do.
We recently started researching more innovative ways to scale up what we do and improve the software performance on different devices, because not everybody uses a computer made this decade. All so we can provide better data for our customers and improve the performance of digital site models.
You are part of the team that brought DXFs into Propeller. What was that process like?
We already had a way of displaying 3D shapes, linework, and text in Propeller. These all come in the form of KMLs or some older formats. What we didn’t have was a way to go from this specific AutoCAD format (DXF) to what could display.
Our work on this project started off with sourcing some libraries that supported conversion from DXF to an intermediate format. From this intermediate format, we found a way to display it in Propeller.
DXFs are a comprehensive AutoCad spec, and require continuous work from us to support features in the DXF spec that our customers use.
We have recently developed a way of displaying DXFs in the Platform, on mobile, and also as a printable PDF using Lambdas (cloud computing), allowing a single consolidated codebase for DXF processing. We’ve also shifted the computational heft of processing these DXFs onto the cloud.
What’s your career background? How did you end up at Propeller?
I studied software engineering, so I’ve always been a software developer. Then I met Andy McDowell, who was one of the early engineers at Propeller, at my previous job at a TV network. It had an online presence in news, sports, and trashy articles about celebrities.
Then Andy came to Propeller and I kept working there because it was pretty cruise-y. But, at some point, I realized I needed something more challenging. Andy told me to come work at Propeller because of how exciting and challenging the work was. So I did.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Sydney, but I was born in Shenzhen, China. That’s actually where we make all of our electronics. I came to Australia when I was four or five and have been here ever since.
Before working at Propeller, what’s the strangest or most interesting job you’ve held?
Once in a while I’ll have to work at my wife’s mom’s Vietnamese restaurant. It’s very far out west in an ethnic neighborhood of Sydney, where people can be very demanding and I don’t even understand what they’re saying.
I clean tables and try to take orders. It’s one of the more interesting and frustrating jobs I’ve ever had.
Any talents, secret superpowers, or fun facts about yourself to share?
I love making video games. It’s a big thing of mine outside of daily work. I’ve got less time now to work on them because after Propeller you don’t really want to do anything technical when you get home.
They’re super casual mobile games. I like to make games that are intuitive and accessible to regular people. My mum is my number-one test subject. I try to make them really simple, but really pretty. There’s one called Sally Seas, where you guide a boat over big waves in the ocean.
What’s your favorite Propeller memory?
Our hike to Phraya Nakhon Cave on our company retreat to Thailand last year. That was just the best moment. So much fun to see something so majestic and special with this group of people, and especially with my US and Philippines colleagues, many whom I’d never met in person before.
What’s your favorite Slack emoji and why?
One of the best is the Kev one. It’s so funny. It’s Kevin Smith making a hilarious face with his mouth hanging open. It cracks me up every time. There’s always a situation were you can react with a Kev emoji.
What do you wish people understood better about Propeller or your job?
In this job, we try to be so in tune with the customer. We really are there with them, asking, What do you need? Whatever problems do you want to solve? We want to help you solve them in the best way possible. We have the people and the willingness to do it. Being able to show that to every customer would be really great.
I say this because many customers don’t know who we are. To them, we’re just this yellow and black thing on the screen. But if they knew who the team was, how all we do is research ways to make their job easier through technology and hardware and all that? I think showing them that would be incredible.
Want to join our team? We’re hiring!