This month, we're putting the spotlight on Robin Kim, one of the Software Engineers on our Cloud team. Robin has been at IrisVR for over two years and shares his thoughts on what's changed, what it's been like to watch the company grow, and what he's excited for in the coming year.
What initially drew you to IrisVR?
I still remember my very first interview with IrisVR. It was a cold and rainy morning. We were scheduled to meet on the 32th floor of the towering 1 State Street in New York’s financial district.
Instead of a drink, I was offered a VR demo by my interviewer. This was back when few people knew about the HTC Vive, and the Oculus Rift was only available via development kits. The headset looked like a combination of the alien from Alien vs. Predator and a sea urchin. This, in conjunction with the gray office space and jungle of wires protruding from the ceiling, made the VR demo feel like plugging into the matrix. No other startup offered this, and I needed to be a part of it.
What’s changed since you joined the team, and what has it been like watching the company scale?
It’s been wild. Imagine our company as a digital image. When I first joined we were 5 people, and each of us represented a pixel on the canvas. The picture was a little fuzzy, and everyone’s responsibilities sort of overlapped, but if you looked closely you could tell there was something special going on. Then as we added each new member, the resolution of the image increased. We became a lot more visible and a lot more diverse and a lot more capable. That said, as the team grew so did our expectations of ourselves. Size wise, we’re at 25ish employees now, perhaps more if you include our 3 office betta fish.
What does a typical day look like?
I greet my fish, grab a cup of coffee, then greet the rest of my team. The cloud engineers meet twice a week for backlog grooming, where we organize the to-do list in order of priority, as well as review major tasks we’ve completed since our previous meeting. If it isn’t a particularly urgent day, we also discuss the state of tech — cryptocurrencies have been all the rage lately.
As a generalist full stack engineer, the work itself can vary. I could be building a 3D panorama viewer when the CX team Slacks me about a user bug report, which forces me to context-switch into our server code or database. I would then run some devops commands to push the new fix into production. Overall, I really enjoy the flexibility of not being tied down to a particular “end” of the tech stack.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love my team members — they’re filled with some of the most brilliant and positive people I’ve ever met. They’re also hilarious. Everyone has such an amazing laugh. If I hear a chuckle from across the room, I could immediately tell you who it came from. And given everyone’s wide variety of disciplines I feel like I’m learning constantly. That’s the other thing — Iris places a strong emphasis on continuing education, which is so important for personal + professional growth. We have a handful of subscriptions to online courses and I’ve taken them all on company time, picking up best practices in frontend dev and learning a new language (Golang). We also get to go to conferences that are relevant to our field, so I visited React Europe back in May and Dockercon the year before.
The other favorite part of my job is my pet fish. His name is Dopey.* For anyone who has a large enough desk at work, I 200% recommend getting a betta fish. They’re gorgeous, hardy, and super low-maintenance. They’re also very relaxing to look at, particularly when you’re stuck in the middle of a bug. In programming there’s a concept called Rubber Duck Debugging, which is the idea that you can better understand a bug if you simply explain it, step-by-step, to an inanimate rubber duck. I think Dopey helps me take that to the next level via Live Fish Debugging.
*Sadly, Dopey passed away on the date of publication.
If you could enter any environment in VR, where would you go?
What’s your favorite building/space?
The nearest room with a couch and/or bed in it. I love naps.
What excites you the most about IrisVR?
When people hear “VR”, they usually think of fun entertainment or games. That’s all fun and games, but virtual reality promises a lot more than that. The elevated level of immersion provides a platform for higher quality communication, which can bring about some real disruption in slower-moving, traditional industries. We treat VR as a tool for improving existing workflows and achieving measurable goals.
What’s important, though, is that we’re solving difficult technical problems in a new field. There are a lot of VR companies these days, and a lot of noise about VR in general. But many of these companies aren’t really making anything; if they are, it’s not through defensible tech. Of course, nothing is defensible forever, so we need to continuously innovate. I'm excited to see where these innovations take us.