Blog Post

Interview with Jack McCloy

Job Title:

Engineering Manager

Place of Work:

Snowflake

Industry or specialization: 

I work at B2B SaaS companies and specialize in building infrastructure and tooling that helps product teams move faster and ship higher quality software

What got you into Web Design/Development/working on the web?

I’ve always enjoyed hacking and building simple tools for myself. I never saw engineering as a real career option for me until ~12 years ago when I met my now spouse. She has a much more pedigreed CS background than I do, and when we were dating I started doing hackathons with her and some of her friends. They helped me level up more quickly than I otherwise would’ve, and I started realizing how engineering wasn’t just a viable career path for me, but also something I really enjoyed.

What does a typical day or week look like for you? What sort of things do you do?

Now that I’m a manager a lot of it is meetings, planning, writing, and working with my team to make sure they all have what they need to do great work. But I also like to stay pretty hands on, in part b/c I think having a strong understanding of the technologies we’re using helps me to be a better manager, and in part because I just really enjoy coding.

What types of web technologies do you work with most often?

These days I mostly work with Typescript and Javascript, though I’ve written a lot of Python in the past.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

It’s a cliched answer, but it’d have to be the people. Being able to collaborate with smart, passionate teammates every day never gets old. And being able to work with them to build tools and technologies that other people spend a lot of time working with, and that they get value from, always feels rewarding.

What do you wish you could change about your job?

I’m not sure how alterable this is, but one thing that can be challenging when building tools and infrastructure that other teams use is that there can be a long feedback loop between when you start working on something and when you learn how valuable it was or wasn’t. I’m always looking for ways to shorten this feedback loop, because few things are more unpleasant than spending weeks or months building something that ends up not delivering the value you want it to.

Where do you see your section of the web development/design/etc industry going?

One change that’s pretty interesting to me (and a fun wave to be riding) is the growing importance of CS fundamentals on the frontend, at least for webapps (as opposed to more static websites). As UIs become more interactive, complex, and stateful, techniques and concepts that 10 years ago were mostly encountered by backend engineers are becoming increasingly relevant for frontend engineers to learn and leverage. Some folks view this as a bad thing because it can be hard to keep pace as the field evolves, but I think it’s extremely exciting.

What technology and/or skill do you wish you learned before you entered the industry?

Oh gosh, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. As someone who didn’t study CS in a formal way I wish I learned more math and logic prior to entering the industry.

What are you looking to learn or what skill are you looking to build next?

Lately I’ve been really interested in local-first software. The UX, DevX, and collaboration benefits that working on top of local data and then syncing those changes to a remote server asynchronously (as opposed to the CRUD patterns, where a remote server is “in the loop”) are extremely compelling. There’s a lot of work to be done in this space before it becomes practical for most teams to consider adopting it, but it’s IMO one of the most exciting frontiers in web development at the moment.

What would you tell someone to do who’s looking to get into the industry? How should they best prepare themselves?

Getting into tech can be hard, but not in the way many people (my past self included) seem to think it is. It’s not hard like math; rather, it’s hard like sports. You don’t need to be uniquely brilliant, or a certain “type” of person who thinks in a particular, well defined way, to do well in tech. You do, however, need to train, focus, and work hard every day, day after day, to improve. This is empowering because it means that nearly anyone has the potential to succeed in tech – it just takes time, effort, and persistence.

Anything else you’d like to tell future designers, developers and web people?

Read. A lot. The industry changes really quickly, and it’s impossible to stay on top of everything. But if you’re not exposing yourself to new and exciting work and thought you’re almost guaranteed to fall behind. We’re lucky enough to be in a field where a lot of the best work gets shared and discussed openly. Take advantage of that. Read research papers, read HN (HackerNews), read changelogs, read blogs, read OSS (Open Source Software) code, read textbooks, read Twitter. Read, read, read.

Is there a way people can get in contact with you to ask questions etc?

I’m @jackmccloy in most of the places. Until something better/less problematic comes along the best way to get in touch with me is on Twitter

Last Question: If you had to be a zombie and you had to eat someone’s brains, whose would it be and why?

The Brain from “Pinky and The Brain.” Why just eat a brain when you could eat THE BRAIN!