Category : Culture

True Confessions of a Research Scientist: My Experience Working with Software Engineers

I’m Tara Chiatovich, Panorama Education’s Research Scientist. My work generally fits into one of three buckets:

  • Thinking through opportunities to incorporate research in our product, from proposing new research-backed features to ensuring data visualizations are accurate and informative
  • Using research and data science to gain insights from our data that can inform what happens in schools
  • Supporting team members through research, including sharing articles and answering questions on research topics

Before joining Panorama, I had good experiences working with all kinds of people: researchers; non-researchers; tech-savvy teachers, principals, and instructional coaches; tech-phobic teachers, principals, and instructional coaches; and, of course, university professors. Notice that “software engineer” is not on that list. All of my preconceived notions of software engineers came from the one intro to computer science course I took at Stanford. I took it as a grad student, with zero prior experience programming in Java, and felt not-smart for all of it. I spent countless hours not doing any doctoral research to eventually earn an A- in the course. It still stings. And in the class, we heard stories about former students from that very same class who had sold their startups for seven figures. Software engineers in my head were something more than human. So I didn’t know what working with them would do to my self-esteem. 

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A reflection on our first co-op semester

In my first months as an engineer at Panorama, I eagerly looked for opportunities to bring prior experience in and have a big impact. I thought about the things my previous employers had done really well and how I could bring what I learned there to help make our engineering team better. What stuck out to me the most was that my last company had a really strong co-op/internship program, and we didn’t have one at Panorama yet. 

In past experience, co-ops and interns were a great hiring pipeline for full-time engineers. Having students join a few times a year provided opportunities for other engineers to mentor and teach them about how our systems worked and what life as a software engineer is like. Additionally, one of Panorama’s core values is that we contribute to our communities, including the Boston community, the education community, and the startup community. Giving these students an opportunity to learn from us through a co-op experience is a great way to do that. With all of these benefits, starting a co-op program at Panorama was an easy sell.

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Engineering in EdTech: How We’re Building a Better Future for Students

At Panorama Education, we’re aiming to provide a robust MTSS software solution to give educators the tools they need to reduce busy work and make the data they need easily accessible so that they can spend more time focused on helping students. MTSS (multi-tier system of supports) is already used by many schools to identify struggling students and create interventions to help them get on track, but the process is often undertaken with spreadsheets and lots of manual work.

MTSS tiers of support
MTSS tiers of support

Our engineering team is split into several squads, and mine, Intervention Squad, is tasked with making our vision for MTSS a reality. I couldn’t be more excited to be part of a project that will impact so many students across the country, and I’m confident we’ll succeed in this work is because of the culture at Panorama.

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Musings of a New Grad Engineer

I joined Panorama Education as a Full-Stack Engineer fresh out of grad school. I’ve been very fortunate to have had a positive experience with my first job out of college, and wanted to share some of the important elements of day-to-day work that have made this an enjoyable experience. The following is a brief snapshot of what I’ve learned and am continuing to learn based on my own personal experience.

Engineering is collaborative

Back in school, coding was usually a thing you do yourself. Sometimes you’re working on group projects, but most of the time, it was me and my laptop. At Panorama, I’ve learned that there are parts of software engineering that are done individually, but there is a huge part of work that is collaborative. There are many opportunities to dig into a problem as an individual, but nothing can really get done without at least one other person. It is impossible to build and maintain something of large scale and impact alone.

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My reflection on being the first designer at a tech startup (Letter to Julia)

Hi Julia,

Hope you had a great weekend. It’s so great to hear about your new position! (Can you share a link of your new company? Would love to check it out!) Here are some of my thoughts as the first designer in a tech startup.

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What I’ve learned after half a year of working remote

Early last year my wife and I got the great news that she had been accepted for a research fellowship at the NIH in Bethesda, MD. Although very excited for the opportunity, that unfortunately meant that we had to move down there and leave Boston. At the time I had been working for Panorama for just a few months, but it was definitely enough time for me to get hooked with the company’s mission, its energy and above all my coworkers who I already called friends.

It has been over half a year now since I went remote, and with the new year I feel it’s time for a little retrospective.

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Our Engineering Book Club

Every Wednesday afternoon you will find the engineers at Panorama huddled by the couches or gathered around the desks by the projector. Why? It’s Book Club time!

The Book Club started back in June 2014 when we realized that all of us had favorite programming/technical books which we loved talking about and wanted everyone else to read. So we decided that we’d all read a book together and then share our thoughts, learnings, questions. And then, every Wednesday, we discuss for half an hour what the chapter taught us, what we agree or disagree with and how can we incorporate the learnings in our daily work.

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