My Name Is John Bohn — This Is What I Achieve at Aha!
What is the best way to accelerate your career? Work in a high-growth company that challenges you and puts learning first. An unwavering motivation to continue improving and achieving is also key. The highest performers constantly pursue new ideas and seek to understand the experiences and motivations of the people around them. We can learn a lot from them.
Curiosity fuels growth — which is why we want to bring you personal stories of achievement from talented people. Our hope is that some of their ideas are useful and maybe even inspirational as you work to become your best.
Meet John Bohn, an engineering lead on the Aha! team. John is passionate about solving difficult problems — uncovering solutions that are not only correct and functional, but also efficient and easy to understand. He lives in Buffalo, New York, with his family and focuses on writing and producing music in his spare time.
Read on to learn more about how John finds joy in his work and motivates his teammates to succeed — in his own words.
What kinds of projects do you enjoy working on most?
"I enjoy working on really difficult problems that do not have an obvious solution."
"I've spent a lot of my time at Aha! working on our reporting system, especially custom pivots. Our pivots have very advanced functionality and with that comes lots of novel problems to be solved — such as how to continually add capability while keeping the system performant. It's not always clear at first how we are going to solve each issue. But we always work together to figure something out. And the solution is usually much more elegant and simple than I would've thought at the outset.
For instance, we could have a subselect in a query that is consistently causing performance issues in large accounts. Our reporting framework has gotten flexible enough over the years that oftentimes, fixing this type of issue can be as simple as rewriting the clause so the subselect is no longer needed. Ultimately this results in big performance benefits and a simpler query."
Which recent accomplishment at Aha! are you most proud of?
"One achievement that comes to mind is rolling out our workspace template functionality last year. We had heard that customers wanted a standardized way to set up Aha! Roadmaps for each of their teams — while still having flexibility and customization options.
The project required a large refactoring of how we manage workspaces, especially since every workspace in Aha! has its own configuration. We needed to make it so workspace templates could be applied correctly and efficiently to hundreds (if not thousands) of projects at a time. We also needed to create a UX that made it simple for users to see what the previous configuration was and what the new configuration would be once the workspace template was applied. I am incredibly proud that this feature is now used daily by some of our largest customers."
What have you done to help your teammates succeed?
"At Aha! there is a large variety in the types of engineering work we tackle. We do everything from large greenfield front-end projects in React to really tricky backend performance and database optimizations — and everything in between. As an engineering lead, I feel that one of the most important things I can do is keep my teammates engaged in whatever they are working on at a given time. That means listening to the team, asking lots of questions, and understanding exactly what they need to succeed."
"I make it a point to match people to projects that will encourage them to really thrive. I want to make it possible for folks to achieve great things and feel fulfilled by their work."
What is the most surprising but useful career advice someone has given you?
"Keep it simple. Even with large, difficult problems, there is usually a simple and elegant solution waiting to be found."
"As engineers, we like to solve hard problems. This is a good motivating factor — but the impulse is often to over-engineer solutions. Instead of building something that is overly complex, strive to build a solution that accomplishes your goals with the fewest possible parameters."
What advice do you have for an aspiring or early-career software developer?
"Never be afraid to ask questions. It's tempting to want to solve every problem by yourself to prove that you can do it. The truth is, no one knows everything. It's important to leverage the knowledge of others — your fellow engineers, product managers, and members of the cross-functional product team — so you can uncover great solutions faster."
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