Rui Ni is a software engineer at sherpa° a tech startup that is making it easier for travellers to navigate the travel visa application process. We talked to Rui about his work, his company and his experience with Commit.
Tell me a little bit about your background. What did you do before you joined Commit?
I came to Canada as an international student 10 or 11 years ago. I graduated from BCIT with a bachelor degree in Computer System Technology. Shortly after graduation I joined a very small startup, mainly doing branding websites and ecommerce websites for small companies like retailers, restaurants, and other small business owners.
That was a startup with only four people. I was one of the first web developers back then to basically do everything, from gathering requirements to setting up services like GoDaddy, all those hosting websites. Shortly after that I joined my most recent company, Absolute Results, as one of the first engineers doing a lot of automobile industry related branding, marketing and data-driven marketing.
What drew you to Commit?
I stayed in my previous company for almost six years. I found my personal growth was kind of limited because the environment we were in was so fast-paced. We had a lot to do and limited time to think about whether it was the right thing to do, or if there were any new technologies or tools we should use for future scalability. I found myself spending too much time doing things rather than learning to push my ideas up to the product owners to make our product more future proof.
The reason to join Commit was that I had the opportunity to try some startups before I decided which one to join. And it provided me with financial stability, which was my number one concern. In my previous company I didn’t have to worry about my job and security because my job was pretty stable and the company has a base in that industry. So that was like a trigger for me. If I have the opportunity to try and to learn and also have financial stability, then why not?
How did you get connected with sherpa° and did you work on any projects before joining them full-time?
Not really–it was pretty fast to be honest. Right after I joined Commit I interviewed with three startups, and sherpa° was the third one. I immediately felt connected, I really liked the team and they had very positive feedback and attitudes. And then I decided to join.
The HOP project I did related to what they do. Before I joined the company I didn’t know anything about TypeScript at all. My HOP demo was a project for me to try and learn TypeScript. Right after I joined sherpa° I learned they use TypeScript. It’s kind of like my demo helped prepare me to join sherpa°.
How do you describe sherpa° to others?
Sherpa° is a service provider as well as a data provider for the entire travel industry. We provide E-Visa service for travel agencies, airlines, Airbnb, Expedia. We also gather all the information regarding travel requirements, especially for COVID, a lot of countries have vaccine requirements. COVID restrictions, test results, entry requirements, quarantine, all those kinds of things. Sherpa° started this during COVID and provides all that information as a product to the other travel companies.
What are you working on at sherpa° right now?
I’m currently working on the travel restrictions product. I handle all the COVID related stuff I mentioned. And we have another team that handles the E-Visa requirements.
Why did you choose to join sherpa° ?
I think that’s a very good quality. It makes me feel like they really care about their employees and their wellbeing and mental health. Most of the time we are working alone at our own home with nobody to talk to. The culture is to schedule all kinds of online events for you to be part of it. I think that’s really, really helpful.
What’s your team like at sherpa° ?
We have a team called Travel Rangers, basically it’s UX designers, graphic designers, the data team and the product owner, software engineers, both frontend and backend, all coming together to develop this product. We always have a meeting as a whole team. That’s important for me because I’m a software engineer and want and need to learn the product from the beginning to the end. My position is more backend-focused, but I need to understand the product to understand what they really need. I need to set up the database structure and backend structure a certain way for whatever they want to achieve. It’s important for me to learn these things from different departments.
What do you think about Commit’s mission and model?
Commit is a community that helps software engineers like me to succeed in their long-term career. I only spent three months there, but based on my experience, I think it’s pretty good.
What are the best and worst things about being an engineer?
The best thing about being an engineer is you get the knowledge and opportunity to solve real world problems using technologies that nobody else understands or knows how to use. That’s the best thing. And the worst thing is we need to be knowledgeable on both the product and the real world problem, and also the tools that we can use and the technology we use to solve the problem. Sometimes it’s very, very complex. We need a lot of attempts in order to make things work.
How do you stay up to date on the latest tech platforms and languages to know?
Before joining Commit I didn’t have any way. But after joining Commit I have this community that will share and people will ask questions. Even questions are a good source, i.e. have I solved this problem? What can I do to help? What can I find on Google? Can I maybe do some research about it? Maybe I’ll face this kind of problem later. Our team at sherpa° also has regular gatherings to talk about technologies and to share ideas to solve problems, and those help too.
What would you say to other engineers who may be interested in joining Commit?
I would say if you are in a place where you want to try new things, you want to stay up to date on the trending technologies, and if your job doesn’t have enough room for you to grow, try Commit. You will find a startup that will have much more room for your personal growth.