Episode #7 - Noah Portes Chaikin, Senior Software Engineer at Code Climate
In this episode, we interview Noah Portes Chaikin. Noah is a senior software engineer at Code Climate.
Code Climate creates analytics software for development teams so they can evaluate code risks and tie performance metrics to code changes. In our conversation, we learned about how Noah got into software engineering without a college degree, including how he taught himself the technical skills necessary to land his first developer job.
We also discussed why Noah prefers working at startups vs. larger organizations and how that's contributed to his professional growth. Noah also shared his take on hiring, and what he looks for when hiring engineers.
What is Code Climate? (from Code Climate)
Used by over 100,000 projects, and analyzing over 2 billion lines of code daily, Code Climate incorporates fully-configurable test coverage and maintainability data throughout the development workflow, making quality improvement explicit, continuous, and ubiquitous.
(edited and abridged)
You actually did not receive a college degree. How did you get your start in tech?
I was always fascinated by computers. I always had a computer in front of me. When everyone was out playing sports I was in my basement fiddling with my computer.
I put together my middle school’s website in 6th grade when I got there. It was really just HTML and CSS but I was starting to explore coding.
Then in high school I started to play around with other web languages like PHP. I put together several apps that within the context of my high school “went viral.” I made this app called Scratch Pad, which was a little social network in my high school.
I was in and out of college for a few years after high school. I worked some odd jobs. A couple of years in I moved home and started to play around with code again mainly for survival. I thought it would be a good way to make some money.
How did you learn to become more technical?
It’s pretty amazing that anyone who has access to the internet has access to the information that would allow you to be a software engineer. I have read books on engineering and I took one class on iOS development but otherwise everything else I’ve learned from scouring the internet and Stack Overflow.
Stack Overflow is sort of the all-encompassing documentation. What I’ve mastered as a software engineer is knowing exactly how to construct the right Google query.
What do you like about working at a startup?
I really like that I get to be cross-platform. I get to touch different parts of the business and interact with other teams.
In my last two companies I’ve been able to shape roadmap and have a lot of opportunities outside of just writing code. That’s been really educational for me.
I also just like working with a small team. Code Climate is about 20-25 people and I feel like we’re going to battle together everyday. We get to learn from each other and we’re all very close. I appreciate the camaraderie.
There’s a perception that best opportunities are at these large tech companies like Google or Amazon but there’s opportunities with people working on really cool stuff everywhere.
As a software engineer, I bill myself as a full-stack engineer but I don’t think I would be comfortable with every part of the stack if I had worked for a larger company. At larger companies they have the resources to have engineers specialize in specific areas.