At Spark Digital we encourage our team members to pursue the career that they want, not necessarily to develop the skills they already have (although we encourage that too). In fact, Own Your Future is one of our core values because we believe that people who enjoy what they’re doing do it better. That’s why we offer everyone the chance to develop their own individual career path and support them with the mentoring, training, and project experience they need to reach their goal.
Here’s an interview with Lisandro, a 6-year veteran of Spark Digital who started with us as an Associate QA engineer, and with much determination and effort is now supporting our clients as a Senior-Level Mobile engineer.
Congratulations to Lisandro. We’re proud of you. You have shown us all what it means to Own Your Future.
Q: How did your career as a software engineer begin?
Well, in the beginning, I started working for a small local software company while I was still in school. Then, the university offered me the opportunity to join one of the largest industrial companies in the country through an internship program where I got real-world experience, improved my communication skills, and explored different approaches to deliver value in more efficient ways. Also, the company gave me a glimpse of what mentoring programs looked like - this would later become key to my professional development.
Once the internship ended, I faced the decision of going back to the calmness of my previous job or aim for something more challenging. I chose the latter and applied for a role in a very influential software consulting firm. This, I thought at the time, would be my first step before moving into more “boutique” firms doing high-end work like Spark Digital where I always imagined I’d like to be.
Q. When did Spark Digital come into the picture?
There had been a lot of buzzing around at school about Spark Digital, and how the company had just started its operation in Mar del Plata, offering unique growth opportunities for professionals like me. Then, one day, someone from the recruiting team reached out and told me they were interested in having a conversation with me. I reviewed the website and saw the large clients Spark Digital was working with, the distinguished level of engineers the company was hiring and accepted the invitation. Spark was looking for a Quality Assurance engineer at the time, and although I was leaning more towards coding, I decided to give it a try anyway.
I had a long-term plan; I would join this company with lots of potential, perfect my testing skills, and then, with some luck, transition back to developing and become proficient in a trendy technology. Everything was sorted out in a matter of weeks, and I joined Spark Digital in October of 2014.
Q: What was your first assignment/project? Was it aligned with your expectations?
I joined the team of one of Spark’s newest and most influential clients at the time; a global telehealth company. Everyone in the group was very skilled, and this allowed me to be mentored and learn about design, cutting edge technologies, and the future of mobile.
A few weeks in, the client’s product owner shared the need for an additional QA engineer. This person would take on the responsibility of implementing strict tests required by the US health authority. I then reached out to one of the leads from a former job, and introduced him to the recruiting team. He was quickly invited to an interview and joined the team a few weeks later.
Q: After finishing that project, you moved onto an EdTech team. What can you tell us about that experience?
By that time, I was feeling the need to move back into the developer track. Working with the HR team and based on my career goals, I was assigned to a large e-learning project to help deliver a solution using Node.js. I had done a little bit of Node.js before and was eager to join the account as a backend engineer.
This experience turned out to be both exciting and challenging at the same time. Being the only back-end engineer, I understood that the dynamic with my colleague on the front-end would be decisive to present the client with a quality solution. The partnership worked, we published the app in the Microsoft Store and received great feedback from the client.
This project helped me dust off my coding skills giving me momentum for the next chapter.
Q: Tell us about your career path change. How did you manage to keep your high spirits about iOS?
Well, it wasn’t that easy, but change never is, so I did a number of code challenges and partnered with mobile mentors in the company. Additionally, I joined iOS communities on Twitter, and this allowed me to contribute to a variety of open-source projects gaining experience in the process. By that time, a Spark bench project to take on the development of a native app that would change the way we used public transport in Mar del Plata, and I was invited to be a part of that endeavor to gain experience as a mobile developer.
As a member of that team, we launched the MyBus mobility/transit navigation app for iPhone, developed entirely using Swift (way trendier than Objective-C back then). We had reached 3,000+ monthly active users and even doubled that during the summer season helping tourists move around the city. I was surprised when I saw someone on the bus using the app to follow the bus ride - it was one of those moments you don't forget.
In the end, MyBus had a tremendous impact on how the local community experienced commuting and how I would understand Swift.
Q: How did you end up joining a team working on a project for one of the oldest and most influential daily newspapers in the US?
That’s a nice way to put it, but it’s true. After finishing the Node project, I spent a few months on bench working on MyBus and honing my mobile development skills.
I used that extra time to study and got support from experienced mobile engineers within the company. Sometime around March of 2018, I became aware that Spark had placed a highly respected mobile engineering consultant with one of our major accounts. It was a big media conglomerate this time, and that consultant would play a fundamental role in my career.
Rumors of a large mobile project spread, and I was presented with the opportunity to be a part of this team, but first, I had to be interviewed by the client’s Director of Mobile Development who was an extraordinary character, with a pair of Lennon-like glasses and an endless curiosity. He created an atmosphere during the call that allowed me to have an interesting exchange of concepts. I still try to emulate his disruptive philosophy when I interview candidates today. It turns out, he liked me and I was approved to join the project. I remember feeling a tremendous amount of energy, I now had the chance of putting into practice what I had long been preparing for.
Q: What was the project like when you joined?
Well, the ramp-up felt very natural. Everyone on the team was willing to openly discuss issues giving me a great onboarding experience. I was working on the core framework of the app and started making small contributions, learning key aspects of its architecture and most importantly, its stakeholders.
A few months later, I was re-allocated to one of the client’s brands. An application for financial news. Along with a back-end engineer and an Android engineer I was now the iOS leader.
Our team achieved its objectives smoothly, but not without challenge. We had the opportunity to develop the mobile app from scratch and received great support from the client. As a part of a global brand, these teams were distributed around the world. We worked with people in Hong Kong, London, and the US. So, besides the cultural differences, every one of us felt proud of the achievement and understood the importance of this common goal.
Q: What’s your motivation these days? What are the current challenges and opportunities within the account?
I’m now working on the mobile app of one of our client’s most well known daily newspapers.
The app has more than 300,000 active monthly users, and they certainly keep you entertained. To live up to the account’s expectations of excellence, I rely on transparency, discipline, and professionalism. These values are also shared by the whole team and are present behind every decision. Our motto is to deliver periodic small and meaningful changes rather than large modifications over long periods of time.
This dynamic has taught me a lot about Agile processes and positioned me as one of the most active members in architectural discussions.
It is also worth mentioning that nowadays I have interesting one-on-one conversations with very skilled technical leads and this helps me stay up-to-date and motivated.
Almost six years after I joined the company, my long term vision, my commitment to learning and the company’s commitment to supporting my development have paid off. I’ve earned my place as a mobile engineer and feel like a valued member of the mobile engineering team at the company.
Q: Where do you want to go from here?
Well, even after reshaping my profile as a mobile engineer, I see work as a constant cycle of development and learning.
Looking forward, I want to keep growing professionally as someone who can act as a multiplier, someone who can make the work environment a place where everyone feels comfortable, can express their ideas freely, and deliver quality solutions altogether.
In short, I’d like to become a mentor and give others the support and opportunities I had.
Thanks Lisandro, we are very fortunate to have you on the team.