If you’re looking for someone to play it safe, Pinnacle 21’s Brad Moran is not your man.
The lead software engineer literally runs out of his comfort zone as often as possible, competing in Olympic-length triathlons and long-distance races, and leading a team of seven in developing Pinnacle 21’s industry-leading data standardization software.
“I find that when I’m in my comfort zone, I’m not learning,” Moran said. “I’m just repeating tasks I’ve done in the past and mastered. When you get that opportunity to step out of that zone — that for me is where I learn the most and gain the best experience. It’s the same if I’m using the same old tech that I’m familiar with. I’m not gaining as much as I could if I’m pushing myself to learn more.
Though he has a “try everything once mentality,” Moran has remained a loyal employee of Pinnacle 21 for over six years. His tenure began as a freshman in college, when he worked as an intern before becoming a full-time software engineer after graduating in 2015.
On a visit to its new, light-filled office space with a “view of the water” (the office overlooks a small, scenic pond), we sat down with Moran to get the lowdown on life at Pinnacle 21.
Describe your typical work day.
I’m one of the lead software engineers, so I do a decent amount of development — probably 60 percent right now. I also manage the scrum process, plan and work on releases, as well as help build and get releases ready for deployment.
It’s a pretty flexible office in the sense that as long get your work done, it doesn’t really matter what your exact hours are. I usually get in around 10 a.m. We do scrum every morning to align the team before lunch, get on same page, talk goals and see if anyone needs help.
After lunch is when we go heads down and spend time in deep work mode.
I try to keep the team as close knit as possible, so we usually eat lunch together every day. There’s a lot of good options around here: Charlie’s Pizza, El Limon. And some weeks we do happy hour. We even have an on-site gym now and a lot of us go together on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the evening.
Tell us a bit about the products you work on.
We currently have two core products.
Our free, open source product is called P21 Community. It’s a Java/ReactJS application that has been used across the majority of the pharmaceutical industry to validate data before submission to the FDA. Community has historically been used by big pharma companies, but currently its primary audience is smaller companies, biotechs and individuals who need to run it once for validation.
The second is our paid option, P21 Enterprise. Take the core functionality of Community and add in extra reporting, productivity and optimization. This is used by the FDA and the big pharmaceutical companies sponsoring clinical trial development, as well as some CROs (contracted work for pharmaceutical companies).
As a developer, what are some qualities about working at Pinnacle 21 that are unique?
We try to create a culture that is very developer-friendly. We limit meetings to ensure there is time for deep work and as much development as possible. When we do have meetings, we focus them on certain days.
What gets you excited about your work?
There’s two things.
In terms of the company, I get excited about the opportunity to make an impact on the clinical trial process and getting meds into the hands of patients faster.
The other is the engineering team. There’s a focus around building an awesome product and team, and working to be known in Philly as a great software company.
What qualities do you look for in people interested in joining your team?
I would look for someone who is a team player, who gets along with everyone. They take the extra steps to do what needs to be done and don’t fall back on saying “that isn’t my job.”
Someone who is productive and delivers. Reliability is important.
What are the most challenging things about your job:
Personally for me, it’s building a great engineering team. One that is respected for its ability to get things done, and done correctly. I’m very focused on making sure the team is getting along, functioning at its highest, and has the right training and resources.
You’ve talked about your team quite a bit. What makes it so special?
Our team naturally clicks.
We have a “flat mentality” where titles don’t matter. At the end of the day, everybody is a software engineer. We’re all on the same team, there’s no differentiation. We all want our products to be easy to use, clean and simple. We’re all equally focused on being the best team we can be, so that we can build the best products possible.
What makes you the most proud to work at Pinnacle 21?
The fact that we’re building something really special. I think that motivates a lot of the people here.