Elizabeth is our Engineering Director. She joined us from Amazon, where they dubbed her with the noble moniker “Responsive Royalty” as she led the charge on modernizing Amazon's mobile web experience. Previous to Amazon, she worked at IBM, studied Computer Engineering at University of Wisconsin, and spent a year and half living in Japan becoming fluent in Japanese.
Tell me about the path that led you to join the Comfy team.
I’ve been into computers for as long as I can remember. My father started a small software company in the '80s that’s still going strong today, so growing up I was always surrounded by them. When I was a kid he would bring home an armful of broken laptops, let me take them apart and reconfigure them to make one working machine, which was just so cool. I can also distinctly remember the first time I did any sort of programming. I was 12 and had just joined an online message board community for a series of books I really liked...and no I will not say which. Anyway, everyone else on the website had these really fancy signatures, so I learned HTML so that I could make one for myself. It was in Comic Sans, of course, and every letter was a different color. It was seriously the ugliest thing ever.
I ultimately went on to study computer engineering in college, which was primarily centered around hardware, designing circuit boards and transistors and things of that nature. So I figured whatever I did after college would be in some respect focused on that. But things never turn out the way you expect them to and I ended up graduating during the height of the “Great Recession,” and nobody was getting jobs. It's pretty crazy looking back, I remember only about 25% of my graduating class had something lined up on graduation day, but I was incredibly lucky and got an offer to work for Amazon on their mobile web team. It was an unexpected, but interesting opportunity because at the time, the largest user of the Amazon mobile website was Japan and Japanese was actually my second major! I wanted to be able to use my Japanese in the workplace so that was a plus, and figured if I couldn’t do embedded systems hardware, a phone is closer to an embedded system than any other software. It was also fun because we were solving a lot of problems that people were having with frontend development and helping them make their products work better.
I was still working at Amazon full-time when the opportunity came up to help SDH and Andrew create their website. We had been friends for years and they were in real need of a front-end developer. I started working on Comfy in the evenings and weekends, but about 3 months in, things were moving so quickly and eventually it became clear that this needed to be a full-time job. It was a tough decision to leave Amazon because things were going well there. But when I thought about where I was having more fun, where I was most appreciated, and where I felt like I was having a real impact, it was obvious that I needed to join Comfy...and I haven’t looked back!
"It's really important to me that we are supportive of each other and create an environment where people can ask questions and even make mistakes every once and awhile."
What is your favorite productivity tool or hack?
I work remotely from Seattle, so video chat is huge for me. I make very heavy use of Skype, especially the built-in screen sharing functionality. We also have an office robot that lets me “walk around” Comfy HQ, chat with people, and occasionally hunt someone down. It's not quite as good as being there in person, but on the plus side, if I really need to focus on something, I can just turn everything off and dive into a project without getting interrupted, which isn’t as easy to do in an office full of people.
Describe the Comfy office culture in 3 words.
I’d say definitely supportive, collaborative and...this is more of a phrase, but very open to new ideas. It's really important to me that we are supportive of each other and create an environment where people can ask questions and even make mistakes every once and awhile. This mentality allows each person to grow individually, and subsequently for us to get better as a team and thrive as a company.
Where do you think building technology is headed?
Oh gosh, there are so many different directions in which building technology could head. I think that’s one of the really exciting things about the position we’re in as a company, because there is so much untapped potential and ways to do innovative things that no one's really thought of before. There’s a lot of really neat stuff you can do with things that already exist in buildings, like how Comfy uses infrastructure that’s already there, and creating something that's very lightweight, effective, and easy to deploy. I do think, and hope, that with the advent of new technologies buildings are going to become increasingly more eco-friendly and I’m really looking forward to seeing that unfold. That’s one of the things I love about Comfy, that there are these other really awesome benefits of the product that make it very attractive to buyers and simultaneously helps them reach their energy savings goals.
What can you geek out on for hours?
Well, if it wasn’t obvious already, I’m a complete computer geek, but what you might not know is that I’m almost as much of a music nerd too! I first started playing piano when I was eight, then I added saxophone at ten, and by the time I was in high school I had tacked on clarinet, flute, and a handful of other instruments. Now, I play saxophone in a few local groups here in Seattle and am taking lessons to learn how to do jazz improv. I’m pretty sure that is by definition super nerdy, but I absolutely love it!
Want to work with Elizabeth? Well, we're hiring! Check out all open positions and apply here.