At Optibus, we are proud to bring together some of the brightest and most passionate minds in the transportation technology industry. To showcase the incredible talent within our team and offer valuable insights to aspiring R&D Engineers, we are thrilled to present the Optibus R&D Interview Series.
In this exclusive series, we provide a platform for our R&D engineers to share their personal experiences, motivations, and the fascinating aspects of their daily work at Optibus. We aim to showcase the exciting projects and initiatives our R&D engineers are involved in, highlighting the challenges they face and the innovative solutions they create. We also examine the profound impact of AI technology on their work, exploring how it enhances productivity and shapes the future of transportation.
Today, Taqi Abbas, Full-stack developer (OPS Driver Team), shares his insights with us.
What is your job at Optibus and what is a typical work day like? What are some interesting aspects of your daily work?
I am a full-stack developer on the Driver App Team and have recently taken on some additional responsibilities as the Scrum Master. Our typical day begins with a daily standup, during which the team provides updates on their progress. Following this, we transition into a brief help desk session, addressing any blockers or discussing solutions to challenges encountered that day. Beyond these routines, our schedule can vary depending on the specific day; however, we strive to consolidate our meetings to maximize our focus time on development.
This job represents my first experience with a remote-first approach, emphasizing the significance of effective communication and trust. Thanks to comprehensive documentation and the open lines of communication within our team, I personally don't feel like I miss out on the traditional "in-person" work environment, all while enjoying the flexibility to structure my day as needed. One aspect that truly impresses me is the immediate impact of our work, which is often visible on a day-to-day basis. It serves as a genuine source of motivation in my role at Optibus.
Why did you choose to work at Optibus? What attracted you to the company and its mission?
This is actually a funny story: I initially didn't apply for the Driver App team. I had my technical interview with Adam, who is now my current manager. During the interview, Adam noticed that my skill set aligned quite well with the needs of the Driver App team. As a result, he asked me if I would consider joining the Driver App team instead.
What drew me to work here, aside from Optibus' impressive work and growth, were the people. Of course, the impact Optibus has in providing technology solutions to the bus industry is also a major factor. It's a massive industry that still lags behind in technology adoption. So, for me, it was the perfect blend of a practical yet exciting choice compared to the other options available.
What do you enjoy most about working at Optibus?
Again, the first and foremost, it's the people. The team has been together through different companies actually, which shows how good the connection between them is. Initially, it felt a bit daunting to join a team of people like that, but all of them were helpful and friendly so it did not seem that I was out of place. Second is the impact, we are enabling the drivers, which are the backbone of the transport industry, to have a more informed and pleasant experience in quite a tough job.
What specific features and functionalities have you worked on with your team that you find particularly exciting or challenging?
We are presently in the process of developing a Kiosk mode for the Driver App, which includes some exciting hardware integrations. Our goal is to streamline the integration with hardware while minimizing the need for in-depth hardware knowledge, ensuring a stable and user-friendly integration.
Additionally, we plan to offer an external API for this feature, allowing different vendors to seamlessly integrate with our system. However, it's important to acknowledge that external APIs introduce security and design complexities, even though the goal is to provide a really simple interface.
Can you share an example of a complex problem you faced as a R&D engineer at Optibus and how you approached solving it?
As we are developing for bus drivers who may not be as tech-savvy as other users, simple tasks involve a lot of thinking about how we can make it as simple as possible for them. Currently, we are enabling drivers to sign-on for their daily tasks only if they are in a certain radius of the depot. We started out with a problem statement, discussing actual pain points from both the perspective of depots and the drivers. We had some wireframing sessions including all the team. Finally, we ironed out the technical details with a properly documented proposal of our approach. However, as we have a larger user base compared to other products from Optibus, it's an ongoing process to develop this feature, incorporating feedback from users and then reiterating the process again.
What kind of development tools, technologies, and programming languages do you work with at Optibus? How do they contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of your work?
Our tech stack is exclusively TypeScript. While there are many other technologies in use throughout the organization, I've primarily focused on TypeScript. For our team, this means working with React Native for mobile app development, React for the frontend, and Node.js for backend development.
Our infrastructure is managed as code, which was initially a new concept for me, but it's proven to be a valuable experience. AWS serverless has been particularly beneficial once you become accustomed to it. We conduct our testing using Jenkins and CircleCI, although CircleCI is specifically utilized for our app.
One notable advantage of React Native is its efficiency, as we can develop for both Android and iOS without the need for separate codebases. TypeScript has played a pivotal role in maintaining order within our extensive codebase. It reduces the complexity of switching between backend and frontend development by offering a consistent language and type system.
In your opinion, what sets Optibus apart from other companies? How does it create a unique and fulfilling environment for R&D engineers ?
I feel like a broken record at this point 😅but it's the people you get to work with and the impact you can have on the industry working in Optibus. You get a chance to enhance the infrastructure of cities and in some cases countries. I think of developers as creators, and it's only useful when people interact with your creation or see the difference it makes. While we continually strive for excellence in technology and software architecture design, I believe that the ability to influence a product's impact is the most compelling aspect. Our decisions can have far-reaching consequences, making a real difference in the world.
What opportunities for growth and professional development does Optibus provide to its developers? Can you share any experiences you've had in terms of advancing your skills and knowledge?
The pursuit of personal and professional growth was a key factor in my decision to join Optibus, and I must say it has been a fantastic choice. I engage in one-on-one meetings with my manager on a weekly basis, during which we review successes and identify areas for improvement. This continuous feedback loop, delivered in a friendly and constructive manner, has been instrumental in my ongoing development.
We set annual growth goals that we track and assess regularly. The tangible proof of this growth-oriented environment is that, in less than six months, I've taken on the role of a scrum master and have become the feature owner for some complex tasks. Additionally, I appreciate the company's commitment to enhancing our technical expertise. Despite being new to AWS serverless technologies, I was provided with a comprehensive course and had the opportunity to engage in sessions with our in-house expert to deepen my knowledge.
How does Optibus support work-life balance for its R&D engineers? Are there any flexible work arrangements or initiatives that help maintain a healthy work-life integration?
It's a remote-first job so that helps a lot from the get-go. We also have unlimited vacations. I think the main thing is the trust you have in each other that we are committed to developing a good product and work-environment. So that means you are free to switch around the schedule if you can complete your commitments in a reasonable time. There’s also meeting-free Fridays to help with the zoom fatigue and a quarterly ‘Take a Breath Day’ to ensure that we are not exhausted. Just the fact that you can feel heard as the management recognizes burnout is real and has put initiatives in place is a huge green flag. This makes you more focused when you are actually working and it contributes hugely to work-life balance.
What advice would you give to other R&D engineers who are considering joining Optibus or pursuing a career in the transportation technology industry?
The transportation industry is ripe for a technological transformation, presenting a prime opportunity to make a significant impact in this vital sector. I firmly believe that Optibus is leading the charge in this industry overhaul.
From my perspective, the domain in which Optibus operates is not only on the cutting edge but also remarkably resilient and stable. This is evident in the company's growth even during the challenging times of the Covid-19 pandemic. If you're seeking a chance to engage in meaningful and impactful work within this space, my advice is simple: Just go for it.
Any hobbies in life?
Answer: My main hobby is coding and tech-stuff so essentially I am being paid for my hobby here. Other than that, I like eating cuisines of different cultures and going on hikes. I also like to think I am an adequate table tennis player.
We hope you enjoyed this interview. Stay tuned as we release each interview, unraveling the secrets behind the success and innovation that drives Optibus forward in the transportation technology landscape. If you want to be a part of it: Come join our team! Learn more at https://www.optibus.com/jobs