Riffyn Spotlights with Software Engineer Mary Howell

Embriette Hyde
Mary Jeans

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 Mary Howell about her past in textile R&D, the trust and respect between Riffyn employees, and the pair of jeans she made by hand. Please note that answers have been edited for clarity.

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

I have a degree in fine art, with two concentrations: one in textiles and one in photography. Once I got my degree, I worked for a company that digitally prints fabric, starting as a printer operator and then later research and development for a little over six years. The R&D included the printers, the inks, the fabrics, and the technologies that were backing all of that, which was how I got started in tech. This opportunity introduced me to web development and script automation.

Q: Why did you decide to join Riffyn?

I started hosting Women Who Code East Bay events that happened to be put on with Riffyn, and it was through that I met Lili Nader [former CTO of Riffyn]. My partner is a scientist and I saw that Riffyn was a really amazing concept, so I asked Lili if I could do an internship at Riffyn. I started my internship project building Riffyn [Nexus’] very first design system. It was an incredible learning experience. I got to work within a team, collaborate with different departments, ask all sorts of questions. It gave me this space to be creative and just build. That was almost three years ago - and I’m still here!

Q: Describe Riffyn in three words.

We care tremendously.

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

Riffyn’s values have been shaped by the employees themselves, so when I think of the values, it’s hard to think of one that doesn’t hold true as a personal value. I feel like a lot of other people that I work with, this is just who they are. Yes, it is a company cultural statement, but it's also just being human. The things that we strive to be are not always easy, but they make Riffyn a better place to work. And we take our cultural values and put them into our software to make it flexible for everybody to use. It’s all just rolled in together.

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

I think about my first couple of months at Riffyn, and the first words that come to mind are trust and respect. During that time, I asked lots of questions and people were always willing to answer and were extremely quick to respond. I remember how grateful I felt to have an environment where even the CEO would give me feedback or answer a question almost instantaneously. This is something that has been true at Riffyn ever since I started and it’s only gotten better.

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

It changes depending on the day. Sometimes it’s just heads-down coding, looking at release items that need to be accomplished or planning for upcoming projects. The Engineering, Product, Design, and Scientific Services teams all work very closely together, so I always have a lot of conversations with any number of people from those teams on a daily basis. So in short, a fair bit of coding, a fair bit of planning, and a fair bit of asking clarifying questions.

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

The biggest one that comes to mind is not sitting on your couch while working, not just for the health of your back but also in the sense of creating a space that is for work that is separate from where you relax.

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

Patience, which I'm always working on. I’ve learned that if I try to brute force the answer, it never quite comes out right, whether that’s working on a new feature or planning new features or problem solving in a team.

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

I sew and I dabble in knitting. Most recently I sewed my very first pair of denim jeans. I have been doing less sewing during COVID because it was more a “down time at home” activity and now everything is down time at home. Now I spend time cooking and baking, and I’ve picked up biking and go to Golden Gate Park a lot with my partner. But my favorite hobby is sleeping.

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

Public transit. We need better public transit for everyone in every city.

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