Lisa Luo – Embracing The Unknown

By Cowerks

Let’s face it – computer science culture can seem rather intimidating at first. There’s so much unknown jargon to someone walking into their first programming conversation. For Lisa Luo, a Mobile Engineer at Kickstarter and Asbury Agile speaker, the thrill comes from embracing the unknown. Lisa helped build and ship Android 1.0 for Kickstarter in January 2016 – she’s come a long way since her first computer science class at Dartmouth.

“Finding your footing as a software developer begins as a game of confidence: I stumbled into my first computer science course when I was a sophomore in college and felt enclosed by those who seemed fluent in a language so unbelievably foreign to me,” Lisa said. “The thrill, however, of unlocking this skill of building (and fixing) anything from my own imagination was enough to push me through challenging problem sets, bugs, and eventually coding interview questions that led me to my internship and now job at Kickstarter.”

Fully embracing the unknown and overcoming problems or challenges seems like a daunting task but is one of the most rewarding experiences. Lisa whittled it down to a simple down to earth process.

“Build, fail, refactor, succeed, repeat—don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions along the way and volunteer to tackle the more challenging projects, and never doubt yourself as a human when your machines fail,” Lisa said.

Get out there and build something!

Kickstarting a Culture

As mentioned earlier, Lisa worked on the Android launch for Kickstarter. The path to success was (naturally) strewn with challenges. But as a team with no prior experience with android apps, building and shipping the app within a year, and using functional reactive programming during the build process – that’s something to be proud of.

“We all learned from this project that stepping outside of your coding comfort zone fosters a more exploratory mindset, one which has inspired an adoption of functional reactive programming ideas across the board of our engineering teams,” Lisa explained.

Lisa is genuinely interested in all facets of the company. She even checks out the work done by other teams, just because she’s curious.

“We’re a Github pull request-friendly engineering team so I try to read through a few pull requests from different teams every week, even if I do not understand them well, just to familiarize myself with my the work of my coworkers,” Lisa admitted.

Kickstarter has a bunch of open-minded employees according to Lisa and lots of tail wagging. “My favorite parts of working at Kickstarter are the people I get to spend time with every day. And the dogs. We’re a dog-friendly office,” Lisa said.

Having an undogmatic culture with lots of dogs streamlines workflow. Office goals.

Side Projects Rule

Lisa has a lot of side projects she likes to dive into during her free time. Check ‘em out.

Lisa told us about one that isn’t on her website yet, a project completed for Comedy Hack Day in New York City. It made it to the final six for live demo and judging onstage at New York Tech Meetup. The theme of the weekend-long hackathon was to create a functional, funny product that also made a statement.

“My team created ‘Strip it‘, a Chrome extension which strips all links from a web page. I was the principle engineer who built the extension and website, which was really fun since I got a taste of how to use javascript and jQuery and learned how to make and publish a chrome extension,” Lisa shared.

Side projects help spur creativity for Lisa – both coding and non-coding.

“A non-coding project on my site that I’m quite proud of is a short animation I helped make my senior year at college. Entitled ‘Ursinus Maximus’, the short 3D animation is about a hunter and a bear encounter. I designed the models and moose head and animated a bunch of stuff,” Lisa described.

Lisa also loves to paint and is learning Spanish via Duolingo. “I’m 22% fluent right now!”

Lisa is also working on a film documentary about her family, Hakka Chinese culture and the similar stories behind so many immigrants who came to America seeking a better life for their children.

Lisa continued to describe the work, “it’s a tough one to work on because it’s so personal, but I feel an inexplicable passion and desire to tell this story and share it with anyone who cares to hear.”

Portraying such a unique story can be difficult, but then again, so is building an app in a language you don’t know yet. We’re confident the documentary is going to be the bomb (.com).

“I haven’t spent much time in the NJ tech ecosystem unfortunately but I many of my good friends from the hackNY program went to Rutgers so I imagine that it’s pretty lit,” Lisa proclaimed.

Lisa will be speaking at Asbury Agile on October 7th at The Asbury Hotel. Stop by and learn from the best in the industry! It’s gonna be lit.

In the meantime, you can see all the cool stuff Lisa is up to on her Blog and Twitter.

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