Getting to know Joyent engineer Jordan Hendricks

March 09, 2017 - by Alexandra White

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Jordan Hendricks at Brown graduation

As a first year graduate student, Jordan Hendricks heard Bryan Cantrill, Joyent’s CTO, speak about OS-based virtualization, containers, and the cloud. When his talk was over, she knew she wanted to work at Joyent. “He spoke about the historical and economic implications of these technologies,” she said, “and that was interesting to me.” After all, what is more exciting than working with smart people who don’t just focus on their day-to-day tasks, but who envision a bold technological future?

Jordan dove head first into the work and has successfully delivered a major new feature in her first seven months at Joyent. Most of her work has been on Manta, Triton’s object storage and analytics platform, tackling everything from small problems to a project which will change the way our customers work: multipart upload. Jordan is the lead engineer for multipart upload, writing the RFD, designing the API additions, and building out the feature. If you met her just four years ago, she probably wouldn't have guessed that this was where she'd end up.

Early makings of an engineer

Before discovering computer science, Jordan was a chemistry major at Brown University. She grew up interested in science and writing, thinking perhaps she'd become a doctor. While her friends went off to med school or to PhD programs, Jordan wondered what she would do after graduation. Her interests outside of chemistry varied, and she didn't know if she wanted to take her passion for science into a full time academic career. In her free time after class, she wrote for The Brown Daily Herald, Brown's student newspaper, eventually earning the managing editor position.

As a senior, Jordan took a computer introductory course for computer science. A friend who had taken a different CS course suggested she take that course as well and said, "I'm afraid after you take this class, you'll regret not having been a CS major." Her friend was right. Before the class was over, Jordan knew that she had found her calling. She stayed at Brown and earned a master's degree in computer science. After graduation, she immediately sought and gained employment at Joyent.

Jordan's life at Joyent

Jordan is not someone who just shows up for work. She works hard and seeks to achieve a goal every day, which can be hard in software development, especially early on in a complex project. Before she took the lead on the Manta multipart upload project, she was on-boarded in the same way as all Joyent engineers. New engineers are assigned small projects, bug fixes, and low-risk projects, all of which must be done at some point but are not mission critical. This gives engineers time to learn about systems which may be brand new to them. Jordan often found herself spending an entire day trying to figure out single components of Manta, fully immersed in the details until she learned the ins and outs.

Though she may not always put out specific code or a code review, Jordan fulfills her need to accomplish something every day by teaching herself something new. And there is a lot to learn at Joyent.

Jordan is a visual learner, fond of diagrams. Some engineers hold full systems in their head. Jordan explains, "I prefer to be able to reference a diagram so I can trace all of the parts visually, rather than having to just think it through."

Since November, she's focused almost exclusively on multipart upload, designing the system and writing brand new code. Though solving bugs is an important part of her job, writing new code is "a different itch to scratch." It's easy to tell how excited she is about this project, which is gearing up to go into production on Triton. The multipart upload project was a way to really ramp up her work at Joyent, solving a problem that has become increasingly important to Joyent's customers.

One of the benefits of being on the engineering team and being based in San Francisco is being able to join her team for lunch. The engineers eat together daily, getting to know each other beyond technical prowess. On most days, Jordan will bring her lunch from home, but there are certain days that the team will head to 5th Avenue Deli and Market (which they just call "Boar's Head" because that's the only brand the deli serves) for a sandwich packed with the best meats and cheeses. She finds those days can often be the best days.

photo of folks at Joyent on Halloween

Facing new challenges

"The Manta components were hard to keep straight. They're all named after predatory fish," Jordan declares. She learned quickly that Joyent has a thing with naming products after sea creatures. That became all the more clear as she dug deeper into the Manta API.

Beyond becoming an ichthyologist, Jordan found her biggest challenge to also be one of the biggest benefits to working at Joyent. Joyent's culture is one of self-motivation, partly helped by the fact so many of our employees are remote. Joyeurs are trusted to get what needs to be done, done. With that, she learned to know when to spend time trying to figure out problems and when to ask for help.

"I like the fifteen minute rule. If you're stuck on something, spend 15 minutes trying to figure it out. After that, ask for help. It doesn't have to be exactly fifteen minutes, just some amount of time that you can focus. A couple more minutes may make all of the difference."

When that fifteen minutes passes, Jordan happily reports that her colleagues have been very receptive to answering all of her questions.

The culture of self-motivation as well as the dynamics of the engineering team have helped Jordan discover what type of work environment she likes. Previously, she worked at organizations which were, at times, over-managed with copious procedures required to get things done. Because Joyent is a small organization with a less "corporate" structure, she's found more opportunities to ask questions of not just her fellow engineers, but of other teams, managers, and even the senior leadership team.

Although it's just the beginning of her career, Jordan has a long future in software engineering. "In five years, I hope to still be a software engineer. I want to have spent time working on an essential project, one that spans a year or two." Jordan is a problem solver, and there's no better way to solve problems than to be the one seeking answers.

She's more than just an engineer

Her ambition to solve problems doesn't stop with programming. Jordan is passionate about cooking and discovering new cuisines. If she has something in a restaurant that she enjoys, she'll go home and try to replicate it. However, she professes, "it can be hard to cook for just me." As a result, lucky Joyeurs based in San Francisco sometimes get to enjoy the results of these explorations.

Jordan is a practical and logical person, having difficulty putting herself in realities that don't exist. When asked about what super power she'd have, if she could have any, her response was, "probably being able to see in the dark. That could be very useful." After all, as cool as it would be to have a power like flight, wouldn't it be cold?

Probably, Jordan. Probably.

The stats

  • Joyent join date: August 2016
  • Team: Engineering
  • Right or left-handed: left-handed and proud
  • Certification: BS in Chemistry, MS in Computer Science
  • Favorite food creation: Fall Fruit Pizza Download the recipe
  • Fun fact: At age four, Jordan had three surgeries at once to remove her tonsils, remove her adenoids, and put tubes in her ears. She's been strep-free ever since.

You can follow Jordan on Twitter at @itsajordansystm.

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