Avid motorcyclist, dabbling artist & designer, bilingual speaker, polyglot coder…Lisa Gray is a master of many crafts. She reflects on her journey as a Portland-based Cloud Software Engineer and gives us some epic video game recommendations.
Lisa Gray has been surrounded by Technology from a very young age. Raised by parents with degrees in IT and Electrical Engineering, and a father who founded a company based around software he’d written to manage wet processing benches for semiconductors, Lisa’s interest in technology and computers developed naturally. From the days of playing with Lego Mindstorm in her childhood home, to learning to program with GameMaker 7 in high school, to hacking her way through a Computer Science degree, Lisa’s passion for Software grows as she continues to hone her craft as a Cloud Software Engineer (CSE) at Cloudreach.
Since joining Cloudreach as the organization’s first Oregonian, Lisa has not stopped learning and strengthening her skills. With 2 AWS certs (AWS Certified Developer, AWS Solutions Architect – Associate) and her Google Cloud Professional Cloud Architect cert under her belt, Lisa’s knowledge of cloud & software systems is simultaneously broad and deep. Her team leaders know her to go above and beyond to assist customers and to always help out and mentor fellow CSEs.
Technology has always been a part of your life, but when would you say computer science grew from an interest & hobby to a passion & career path?
After a game development class in high school, I didn’t do much programming until the Intro to Computer Science course required by my Electrical and Computer Engineering major in college. After finding enjoyment in assisting my Computer Science classmates and not really enjoying the circuit analysis parts of ECE, I realized it was Computer Science that I was really passionate about. So I transferred to Portland State University (PSU) and switched majors to Computer Science.
At PSU I joined the Computer Action Team (the IT team for the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science) as a volunteer and participated in their Braindump program, a year-long weekly 4-hour session that taught IT skills on a plethora of platforms and services. This is where I would say I fell in love with Linux, open-source, and gained a lot of skills the average person would assume (and have accused me of in a coffee shop) as “hacking.”I also worked as a Lab Assistant for the introductory CS courses, competed in the Intel NUC Challenge, scheduled a few events as part of the Association for Computing Machinery, and spent my free time assisting anyone that had questions. After graduation, I worked at a non-profit where I began my journey with cloud technologies. It was then that I received my first certification with Amazon Web Services.
What’s your typical day as a Software Engineer look like?
Since I have a modified 3 by 12 hr schedule with 4 rolling hours, every week is a bit different. However, most of my days start at 7 am with a coffee or green tea and looking over PRs, story tickets, and emails. Our daily standup is at 8am mainly because most of the team I am currently working with is on EST timezone. After standup and any subsequent meetings, I work on tickets assigned to me and assist anyone needing my help throughout the day. I try to use the morning to assist those that need my help, and the afternoon the most to get things that I am working on solo done. During my off days, I like to still meet for morning standup so that I’m kept in the loop, and then dedicate the rest of my day to personal appointments and tasks that help me maintain a good work-life balance.
What’s your workspace like?
As a remote worker, I mainly use my multi-functional room as a home office with the following:
- MacBook pro – Cloudreach provided
- Raspberry PI 4 running Manjaro (Linux) – for personal and professional use as sometimes Linux is required for specialty tasks.
- Kinesis Freestyle2 Blue keyboard with a VIP3 Kit for tenting; Logitech MX Master 2S Bluetooth mouse
- What is great about the mouse and keyboard combo is that it allows me to easily switch between 3 separate computers quickly. I also highly recommend everyone use an ergonomic keyboard with tenting if they have to spend most of their hours typing as it really removes a lot of hand strain.
- 4 x Dell UltraSharp U2414H monitors mounted in a quad setup (bottom 2 monitors MacBook pro, top 2 RPi 4)
- Plugable Thunderbolt 3 Dual DisplayPort adaptor for MacBook.
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II
- A rolling whiteboard
For the current project I am working on, I have a mini server rack of 6 Raspberry Pi 3s sitting next to me as well. While I try to keep my desk fairly clear it becomes difficult from time to time.
There is a small park near where I live that I like to go to when I need to get away from all the screens and will attempt to clear my head of whatever I am probably working on, but I tend to fall into the trap of just thinking about it. A change of environment is usually helpful when stuck on a problem.
What’s your favorite coding language?
What would you say are your technical super skills?
My experience with software systems is simultaneously broad and deep. AWS & GCP, Web-based (FE and BE) systems, Infrastructure Automation, Containers, IoT-based systems, CI/CD pipelines, Automated testing, legacy and greenfield in a variety of languages. Being a generalist, I have the ability to dive deep into any complex problem in a manner that is productive. I have recently worked on a legacy driver written in C# without having previous experience in the language. Legacy systems are scary — it is difficult to make changes to something that isn’t fully understood by anyone. It can be like exploring ancient ruins where there are many hidden traps. However, someone has to explore it and make it safer for the next developer to go diving.
Favorite Cloudreach Slack channel?
As an owner of a Blue 2018 Yamaha YZF-R6, I would say #chat-motorcycles.
What are you passionate about outside of work?
Motorcycling, Video Games, Japanese Language.
I have a feeling you’re sitting on tons of good media recs. Lay ‘em on me!
- Video games: Factorio and Kerbal Space Program are both enjoyable masterpieces that focus on complex problem-solving.
- Books: I enjoyed Test-driven Development by Kent Beck, Manna by Marshall Brain and a couple of fun reads tech-focused was The Manga Guide to Microprocessors and The Manga Guide to Databases.
- Youtube: CrashCourse, Fun Fun Function, Itchy Boots, and Kurzgesagt. For music while I was sharpening my kitchen knives, I found the song Nagare or “Flow” performed by Satomi Saeki to be a beautiful experience. I also enjoy the acid jazz genre, some classical piano pieces, and various other genres to listen to while programming.
- TV/Movies: the most recent one that is now completed would be Bojack Horseman, I also enjoyed Better off Ted, Violet Evergarden, Brooklyn 99, Wolf Children, and 5 Centimeters per Second.
What crazy futuristic technology do you think we will see realized in our lifetime?
Well, I am 26 years old and the global life expectancy is 72 years, meaning that I have 46 years left to experience what could be realized in our lifetime. The craziest futuristic technology (defined as “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes”) would be the use of automation, recycling, robotics, and nanotechnology to create a new world that is a place where one is free to pursue whatever they wish to excel in a do-no-harm manner regardless of their background and where it becomes unnecessary to hoard things like wealth, knowledge, and power because instead of focusing on short-term goals humanity shifts its focus to the long-term bettering of humanity as a whole. But if I can’t have that, my second option would be Reality Simulating devices.
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