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I’ve watched Jungle grow for the past 5 years - here’s how I grew with it so far

I’m Nelson and I’ve been a Software Engineer at Jungle for almost 5 years now. From intern, to Software Engineer, to team lead: here's my journey so far.  

I’m Nelson and I’ve been a Software Engineer at Jungle for almost 5 years now (to put into perspective, that’s almost a fifth of my time on planet Earth so far). I like exploring remote places and being surrounded by nature, playing rogue-like video games and living an happy life with family and friends.

How I joined Jungle

In the spring of 2017, as I finished my Bachelor’s in Computer Science, I decided there wouldn’t be a better time to put my skills to test in the industry, so I applied to a lot of interesting companies through a summer internship programme promoted by my university.

The application platform didn’t allow me to apply to Jungle, because their opening was available for Master’s students only. But seeing as, of all the companies listed, Jungle was the one I resonated more with, I overrode the platform and emailed the company directly.

The first contact Nelson had with Jungle, in 2017.

Back then, I felt the need to focus on a single thing at a time, so I could give it my best and not burnout. As such, I was left with opting for one of two possible paths: I could either continue studying and chase a Master’s degree, or I could try my luck in the industry and join Jungle as a Data Scientist. So what made me decide?

I was really into machine learning at the time, reading lots of articles, doing some MOOCs, writing some small experiments of my own. One thing lacking in the Master’s was that the curriculum didn’t appear to touch on many of the recent subjects I was seeing in online courses. I ended up explaining these concerns to Alex and Sílvio, Jungle co-founders, and they told me to join them, gain some field experience and do the Master’s later, with the argument that the additional professional experience would make my Master’s experience even better. That idea sounded really good to me.

On top of that, at the time machine learning was showing great results in computer vision and natural language processing but what really interested me was applying these techniques to data coming from machine sensors and trying to improve their performance. Match made in heaven: that was exactly what Jungle was doing.

It’s been almost 5 years now and I don’t think I’ll ever get back to the academy to do my Master’s. I’m a firm believer that hands-on experience is the best way to learn and, in a growing startup, there’s plenty of things to keep you busy. I am very happy about my choice back then. The environment that Jungle provided me with was full of opportunities that helped me grow both professionally and personally.

The little intern that could

So - I joined Jungle for a data science internship. I was excited for this new chapter but, being fresh out of college, I was also anxious and filled with imposter syndrome as to whether I’d be up to the job. At the time, we weren’t that many on the team, so apart from helping with data wrangling in some projects, I also tried to develop libraries that could be used by the company to speed up and automate some of our processes.

Right away, I had to adapt myself from how I used to do things in university, where there was no time pressure - I had to detach a bit from “the best practices” and what is considered optimal in theory while programming. Being limited on resources, but still having to show customers results requires you to be pragmatic and critical of how much and where you apply your time to reach said results.

One of my early responsibilities was to be in contact with one of our customers: regular meetings and emails asking questions about the data, showcasing results, and aligning project direction. This put me outside my comfort zone, but I like being pushed out of it, as that is where I feel I learn the most.

Nelson (circa 2018), known for his creative seating choices.

One of the things that helped me while I juggled all of this was the friendly people that Jungle housed. I think of Jungle as a family, as I have spent a lot of great times with the people that make it up. Some have left, new ones have joined, but I’ve been able to learn with all of them throughout it.

Late TGIFs and ping pong nights, dinners with investors, company retreats, the countless lunches and walks, the office moves: all of these moments made me feel part of something familiar and I’m very grateful to Jungle for this.

Rediscovering myself

As more people started joining and our technology stack improving, I realised something: although I really enjoyed machine learning, there were people better equipped to deal with our models than me. On the other hand, there was also a growing need to organise all of the data that we were ingesting into our systems and to create some sort of platform that our data scientists could use to easily deploy our models.

Nelson and co-founder Silvio at Jungle’s annual offsite in Mérida, 2018.

So I ended up taking that opportunity to distance myself from the data science role and focus more on a Software/Data Engineering role.This is when I found my thing.

For me, Software Engineering is a passion. Personally, I really appreciate optimising development processes, developer experience, and making sure everyone is able to easily contribute with software that is easy to maintain. This can be challenging to accomplish in a very fast-paced and dynamic company, such as a startup, but having the right systems in place helps your team perform at its best and meet the company business needs. The effort you put into these areas is usually neglected as the short term impact is minimal, but you can only ignore it for a while, until technical debt comes knocking at your door and you can’t move anymore.

So, there’s a certain balance between how fast you move and deploy stuff versus how well it can keep growing (as with a lot of things in the software engineering industry, this is also very contextual). In Jungle, I have the freedom to test different and new technologies. I’m not restricted to legacy code monoliths and that makes me a happy Software Engineer.

Moving forward

I’ve recently been promoted to a new position where I get to manage a small engineering team - something I’m dealing with better than I thought I could (hurray for impostor syndrome again) - mostly thanks to the people here, who made the transition gradual and smooth and helped me get to where I am now.

For me, the greatest upside of being in a management position is getting more opportunities to help others around me grow while at the same time learning from them.

To this day, I continue growing with Jungle and will keep doing so as I believe in our vision to help improve machinery performance and optimise the use of resources on a global scale. Five years in, I’m committed to helping this ship fly faster and higher than ever.

Nelson Rodrigues

Software Engineer

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