Five questions with Patrick O'Brien, Senior Software Engineer

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Written by Aoife Anderson

As a senior software engineer at Tines, Patrick O’Brien is responsible for solving ambiguous problems and developing our automation platform. Here, Patrick shares more about the most fascinating project he's ever worked on and some of the other passions in his life.

Can you tell us a little more about yourself?‍

I joined Tines a little over a year ago from Intercom, where I was a principal engineer. I live in a small town just north of Dublin with my wife and cat, Sachiko. I first became fascinated with the power of technology and automation back when I worked in a warehouse as a teenager. It was somebody’s job to manually update rows in a database, which seemed like an awful waste of human potential to me. After a bit of tinkering, I was able to automate it with a macro, and the job went from taking several hours a day to only seconds a day. I’ve been hooked on removing drudgery through automation ever since!

What do you do at Tines?

I’m a senior software engineer. I’m responsible for figuring out our more ambiguous and poorly understood software problems. This takes in everything from helping to nail down problem definitions to designing solutions and then executing on those solutions. I work a lot with product designers, customer advocates, and execs in this role. I also provide guidance and support to more junior engineers to help them grow.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve worked on to date?

I’ve been working on designing a custom expression language for use in the Tines platform. It’s pretty rare to get the opportunity to design a programming language, even a very simple one. It’s definitely been one of the most fascinating projects I’ve ever worked on.

Who or what has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

I’ve taken a lot of influence from Darragh Curran, my former manager in Intercom. He really drilled home to me how to make progress on a problem when you can’t really even define the problem crisply yet. He also helped me to understand the importance of momentum and shipping regularly in small increments.

What do you like to do outside of work?

My two most enduring main hobbies are playing the piano and running. I started playing piano when I was a young child and have had an on-again-off-again relationship with it ever since. During lockdown, I found myself at home a lot more, so I bought an acoustic piano and have been diligently annoying my neighbors with it every evening since. When it comes to running, it’s something I took up in middle age in an attempt to compensate for years of late-night hacking and junk food! I’m very slow, but I ran a marathon a few years back and hope to run one again soon.

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