January 22, 2021

My Name Is Andrew Jones — This Is Why I Joined Aha!

by Why I Joined Aha!

My programming journey began in a neuroscience lab. Science must be in my genes — my dad is a doctor and my mom is a physics teacher. While studying neuroscience and behavioral biology at Emory University, I worked in several labs to investigate the neural basis of memory formation. This entailed recording and analyzing electrical activity from the brains of rats to better understand the hippocampus, a brain structure that plays a major role in learning and memory.

How exactly do people learn and store information? This question has always fascinated me.

While working in the lab, I noticed there were ways we could automate our processes and upgrade our systems. Although I had little formal programming experience, I volunteered to take on small coding tasks to improve how we approached our experiments. I realized that like neuroscience, computer science is all about problem-solving and merging concepts to construct an elegant solution. But unlike lab work, programming moves fast. It was thrilling to write code that quickly made a meaningful impact. So I switched my major to computer science.

My career as a developer began at a public health startup. I worked on a variety of automation and configuration projects, from architecting a Django application to creating models to generate surveys. I also communicated directly with clients about specifications and the relative difficulty of developing features.

In my next role, I led a small team of developers at a B2B SaaS startup. I worked closely with the CEO and head of product to iterate on an app to help companies source inventory faster. It was exciting to write code that helped people save time and do their jobs better.

Instead of studying how people learn in a lab, I was out in the real world — building applications that actually impacted people's workflows.

Having lived in Georgia my entire life, I wanted to expose myself to new perspectives and experiences. So I decided to move from Atlanta to San Francisco. I began looking for opportunities at remote companies. My goal was to work with a prolific, tight-knit team on a product that improved people's lives.

I discovered Aha! on an online remote job board and applied to an open software engineer role. The interview process moved quickly. Each person I spoke to seemed both brilliant and kind. The opportunity to join a high-performing and entirely distributed team sounded incredibly appealing.

Today I am an engineer on the Aha! emerging products team. I develop user-facing features and collaborate with the product team to better understand what our users need and how we can improve their workflows. I also help maintain system security by conducting security reviews, evaluating architectural designs, and applying updates.

So many smart people use our software to store information and share their innovative product ideas — it is a privilege to help make their lives better.

So far the biggest project I have contributed to is revamping our custom layouts editor. I spent a few months thinking deeply about all the different ways that our users customize layouts. I considered how people learn to organize information and tailor their settings in our application. Gaining empathy for the customer experience allowed me to create an intuitive drag and drop interface. It was remarkable to have ownership of such a complex project in my first year at the company.

I love that my role at Aha! is both creative and data-driven. I spend as much time thinking about how things should work as about how to implement them. And I am surrounded by a team of incredibly talented engineers. My teammates are smart, generous, and move quickly. I am constantly learning new things too.

I am happy to say that I have not left my neuroscience roots behind. My background in biological sciences still informs how I approach coding and solving problems. To commemorate my past and present, I chose cornu ammonis for my GitHub username the Latin phrase for hippocampus.

That is why I joined Aha! — and why you should too.

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