July 16, 2019

Career Path: Stephen Greenfield, Software Developer at Veson Nautical

What do the career path and day-in-the-life look like for a Software Developer at Veson Nautical?

We connected with Stephen Greenfield to find out!

Also, Veson Nautical is hiring! Check out all of the company’s job openings to the right!

Where did you grow up?  What did your parents do for work?  

When I was a kid, my dad commuted an hour into New York City each day. He left early and came home late, so my mom mainly raised my sisters and me. I think she did a pretty good job of teaching us all to be independent and hard-working people.

Where did you go to college?  What did you study and what were some of your initial jobs out of school?

I took a year of Computer Science in college, but I ended up majoring in History and Literature. For some reason, in college, I felt that humanities had the most to teach me, so I read and thought a lot about what it means to live in this world. But that made my first few years after graduating hard because my academic focus had no practical value. I worked first in sales, then journalism, then teaching for ten or fifteen years. It was a long and difficult path, but it helped me become a more diverse person, and it was only about five years ago that I decided to develop software professionally. I spent a full year coding almost every day after my regular workday. I read a lot of books on software and built progressively larger and more interesting coding projects. By the end of that year, I had a good foundation and a number of projects that I could point to on my resume, which helped me land my first software job as a junior developer.

What has attributed to your success thus far and has helped propel you to the position you have now?

I think there are three things that make someone good at coding. The first and most obvious is that you need some affinity for logic and math, but this is actually the least important thing. What's more important is a 'growth mindset', which is the understanding that you don't really know as much as you think you do, and you should always be using a healthy share of your time and energy toward learning new things. The third and most overlooked ingredient to being a good coder is perseverance. That means that when you get to a problem that you don't fully understand (which in science or engineering is often), you need to keep trying new approaches until an answer emerges, and never lose hope or optimism. Many people think that you just need to be good at math, but I think my success (and that of many others) stems more from perseverance and a growth mindset.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as a Software Developer at Veson Nautical?

I'm a back-end software developer, which means I help maintain the millions of lines of code that govern the business logic behind Veson's software. Sometimes that means fixing bugs and sometimes it means building new features. There is another team that focuses on UI controls and visual features, but the work that I do is in the logic behind that, which is mostly in C++, C#, and SQL.

Any tips for someone considering a career in Software Development?

If you want to be a doctor or lawyer, you need a specialized degree. In software, a technical degree will ease your entry into the field, but it's not required. Software is actually quite meritocratic, and there are many paths around a degree because, ultimately, people just want you to write good code, and a degree is only one of many ways to demonstrate that you can do that. My suggestion for aspiring coders is to start software projects on the side -- little games or mini web sites or anything that you find interesting or funny, build it and put it on your resume because it's a great way to demonstrate your creativity with design and your competence with code.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

I have an old lever-action espresso machine from the 70s that I use at home. It hisses and sputters, and pulling a shot feels like starting an old locomotive, so I love making an espresso or flat white with that in the morning.

What time do you get into the office? 

I drop my son off at daycare on the way in, which means I usually get to the office around 9.

What are three things that motivate you in your role?

  1. Thinking up new and compelling ways to express ideas in code.

  2. Talking with talented engineers who also enjoy solving problems.

  3. The espresso machine at the office is amazing.

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

The espresso machine is on my way in, so that's the first stop. Then, I head to my desk and see if anything new is happening on email or slack. After a few minutes of that, I'm ready to code. I put on my headphones and crank up whatever music I'm feeling (usually heavy metal, jazz, or funk). I typically leave a note on the screen before leaving work each day so I can start in the morning where I left off. Once I’ve got a direction laid out, with music pumping and coffee kicking in, I code the day through, stopping only for lunch and maybe a meeting or two.

What time do you head out of the office? 

Usually around 5:30 PM, I'll find a stopping point in my work and leave a note on my desktop, so I'll know where to start up again in the morning. Then I'm out the door and onto the subway back home.

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

Veson is great about not bothering people after the day's end. From the time I'm out the door until the time I walk back in, I'm a free bird.

Any productivity hacks?

If you use a desktop at home, try to get the same mouse and keyboard in both spots. It helps the experience in both places feel more intuitive and natural. Be one with your keyboard.

What are the three apps that you can’t live without?

  1. SmartThings (because I have automated lights at home)

  2. Soft Murmur (because sometimes ambient noise helps concentration)

  3. Spotify (

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

I built a service-agnostic asynchronous background job processor at my previous company, which was tons of fun, though not quite as fancy as it sounds.

Whom do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

I've been fortunate to have worked with several excellent engineers, so I've always had access to thoughtful and knowledgeable people when I encounter difficult problems that need extra consideration. I also have a good friend from childhood who is a programmer, and we catch up regularly to talk about new projects we're working on or interesting technologies we've encountered. No matter what you do, it's important to be involved with a community of people who are passionate about doing the thing that you do.

Colin Barry is the Content Manager for VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter @ColinKrash

Images courtesy of Stephen Greenfield

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