Riffyn Spotlights with Software Engineer AC Gillette

Embriette Hyde
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At Riffyn, we are proud that our customers see us as scientific partners. That’s because our mission is to help solve their deepest process and data challenges, and to deliver transformative long-term value. That commitment starts with people who care.

In our “Riffyn Spotlights” blog series, we’re giving you the chance to get to know the people of Riffyn that make our mission real. Today, we talk with Software Engineer AC Gillette about their experience learning to code, their appreciation for Riffyn’s inclusive culture, and their passion for helping others deal with mental health challenges. Please note that answers have been edited for clarity.

Q: What is your background what did you do before joining the Riffyn team?

My undergrad degree was in fine arts with a concentration in electronic arts. That’s how I was exposed to programming. I was making programmatic graphics and interactive art. But after I graduated from college, I decided that I wanted to pursue coding as a career, and so for a year I taught myself to code while working odd jobs.

I found a free non-profit boot camp called Ada’s Academy in Seattle for women and gender diverse folks. This bootcamp has a longer model than most boot camps; it’s six months of classroom training and then a five month internship. My internship was with a really small VR startup, and I learned that I really liked front end work.

After the boot camp I moved back to the Bay Area for a job with a biotech company called 3Scan. Before then, I had no idea about biotech, but I really enjoyed it. And after a couple years there, we went through a merger so it was time for me to move on and take the next step in my career.

Q: Why did you decide to join Riffyn?

The VP of Engineering at Riffyn knew the CTO of my previous company, and had actually reached out to him. I was really close to my old CTO and trusted his judgment, and he had great things to say about the people at Riffyn. When I did the interview process, it was completely different from most tech interviews. Usually they are very stressful, but the interview process at Riffyn was very conversational and I really enjoyed everyone I met. I also really enjoy working with scientists. I like the intersection of user interaction in complicated environments where there’s a lot of data that needs to be distilled. It's really challenging and interesting.

Q: Describe Riffyn in three words.

Collaborative. Warm. Funny.

Q: What personal values do you get to fulfill through your work?

One personal value I feel like I can have at work is authenticity, being out as non-binary, with my pronouns, and having that be respected. And also being able to advocate for myself when needed.

Q: What part(s) of Riffyn’s culture do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy being around my coworkers and looking forward to talking to them. I enjoy that I can be open about things that are or aren't working, or things that impact me. I don’t feel afraid of being viewed negatively and I really appreciate that. Tim [Gardner, CEO] is willing to ask the harder questions that come up with Riffyn culture. For example, when the George Floyd protest started up, he asked what it means to be a company during this time in the city where the Black Panthers were founded, and how to engage with that instead of just avoiding it.

Riffyn’s culture is also a very low ego culture, which I feel like is opposite to a lot of the tech industry. I appreciate that people have strong opinions without being dogmatic about it. You can always have a dialogue with someone about choices they make or why they're doing something without provoking defensiveness. Everyone’s just trying to get things done and you can always find someone who will help you. I've never been stuck on a product problem without being able to find a couple of people to pair with me and help me. I really appreciate the collaborative aspect of Riffyn’s culture.

Q: Walk me through what a work day looks like for you -- “a day in the life of AC.”

One reason why I like startups is that every day is different. Some days I’m working on UI framework. Or I might work on our design system, or on implementing mocks, or on the internals of our UI system. Also in front end engineering there's a lot of interface with design and QA, so I interact a lot with those folks. Our team also has regular meetings around our priorities.

Q: What is your best recommendation for being able to effectively work from home?

Ergonomic chairs!

Q: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your work?

There’s always something to learn and people always have something to teach you.

Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I still do some digital art, and I’m also into textiles, so I’ve been working on making generative quilt designs. A couple of years ago, I did a session at the School for Poetic Computation in New York City, called Code Society. It was a three week long evening class that was essentially a hybrid artists residency where we thought critically about technology.

I'm also a peer counselor at a free clinic, giving 30 minute free sessions over the phone to anyone who needs help. I’m also part of the collective so I help teach the next cohort of counselors. I also write a little bit — I have a baby freelance portfolio. I just always like to be doing something creative or doing something community oriented.

Q: If you could solve one major problem, what would it be and why?

The way that mental healthcare is structured in the U.S., and maybe even in the world.

If you're interested in joining a dynamic group of people passionate about helping scientists discover more, please visit our Careers page at riffyn.com/careers or send a letter of inquiry to join@riffyn.com