Perpay is a Technical.ly Talent client and reviewed this story before publication.
Perpay CTO Arik Misler’s love for coffee shapes how he approaches his job.
An original member of the Perpay team, Misler installed an epic coffee setup in the fintech company’s office (including an espresso machine and a Kyoto-style cold-brew tower). He’s spent years developing knowledge about coffee and its chemistry, researching everything he can and even conducting experiments to determine which milks best belong in a latte.
And he sees a connection between building great products and brewing the perfect cup of coffee: “Eventually, you do it by touch,” he said.
We caught up with Misler to learn more about what it’s like to work at Perpay, some proud moments from his career and — of course — the relationship between code and coffee.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day starts with coffee for me. We have our standard tag up every morning and go cover our Kanban board. We try to maintain Agile methodologies. One of the most important things we do on a daily basis is work on our infrastructure and our metrics on the performance of our product. That sort of dictates what our next move is going to be. How do we improve as quickly as possible? How do we figure out the next hurdle we need to get over? We’re maintaining the stability and performance of the site — scalable architecture, infrastructure. We’re constantly refining our requirements — what projects are on the horizon? What legwork needs to be done to keep things moving?
You can be methodical about how you approach things; while the problems are different, the way you attack them can be consistent. It keeps you on track. I’m always making sure everyone on our team has what they need to keep moving forward and identifying roadblocks to get out of the way. It’s always a “just in time” sort of scenario when you’re a smaller team. We’re a really customer-driven company, so we’re trying to figure out every day what we’re trying to improve. Our end users are also our team members; the tools they use are things we built for them.
Tell us more about the coffee situation.
Engineering and coffee sort of go hand in hand. I was so used to having all of my coffee tools around me at all times, we decided to have the same here. There are a lot of nerdy aspects to coffee that engineers tend to appreciate. When you drink a lot of coffee, you always want to drink better coffee.
What frameworks and technologies do you use?
Being a company that works in the financial world, it’s nice we get to use one language from top to bottom. We use Python, which allows us to really have one common way of framing questions and really translate our work from one service to another within our architecture. We recently moved our infrastructure to Docker, which has been incredible for us in terms of getting engineers up and running really quickly. We’re always developing on the same infrastructure on which our actual codebase is running. It’s great for our workflow because it takes a lot of the variables out of the equation; we know exactly what we’re dealing with and the time of deliverability of new feature releases is nearly instantaneous.
What is one of your proudest moments so far?
Our initial launch will hold a place in my heart because there was so much anticipation behind it and we had put so much hard work into. It was monumental in that we were up all night, everybody was engaged and our whole team was just really tied together with this one specific goal in mind. The camaraderie was great, but fighting through the exhaustion to go live was almost, in a way, a sense of relief — but then you’re always excited for the next version.
Also, there was a moment when the maturity of our product, infrastructure and methodologies truly got into stride, allowing us to release features with such a quick turnaround time. It was really a turning point for me where I was proud of what we overcame to get there.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in this role?
In a startup world, you don’t always necessarily know what’s next, where you have to go and what you have to be doing. The challenge is trying to determine how to get there and overcoming some of the fear that’s involved with possibly making the wrong decision. It’s getting over the fear of failing in order to test a hypothesis or take a calculated risk. Then you assess the results and get to what’s next. That’s also difficult, coming from a larger company to a smaller one; goals and requirements are often very steadfast [in a larger company], whereas we’re always trying to feel out what we have to be doing.
How do you solve problems across teams?
We often schedule meetings just to figure out the pain points of our coworkers; that’s honestly a more formal way that we try to approach some of the overarching, larger issues that may be part of our everyday lives.
Because we’re small, we’re constantly engaging issues almost immediately. We’re always right next to one another; whenever something’s bothering someone, we hear about it. Our goal is to improve that as fast as possible. While a lot of it’s ad hoc, I think it’s great to take time to extract a lot of the knowledge we don’t see sitting at our computers every day. That’s what really results in improvements in what we’ve built. Everybody wants a balance between being able to sit down and focus, but it’s also important to communicate; keeping open lines is one of our biggest assets.
What makes Perpay unique from other tech companies in Philly?
As an engineer, you always want to be collaborating and learning from other people to solve a problem that’s unique. It’s really awesome to get a team together to rally around a great cause and try to figure out how we can be disruptive and also help other people. It’s easy to think about your job as a job without thinking about the impact in can have on other people’s lives. As an employee, it makes your life so much more rewarding. Learning about new tech is always a great byproduct, and it’s great for the progression of your own knowledge and skillset, but if you can do something while contributing to society, that’s incredible.
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