Mark Boraski: Analytical Chemist Turned Software Engineer

One of our Recruitment Managers, Jamie Burgess, received the opportunity to conduct an in-depth interview with Software Engineer, Mark Boraski. We placed him at one of the biggest e-commerce companies in Austin, Texas. Mark walks us through his career path as a Software Engineer, including the highlights, as well as, being in Austin, one of the top hubs in the U.S., for technology.

1. Why did you choose the career path of a Software Engineer?
I had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit and I came from an engineering and analytical background. I had an idea for an app, but realized quickly that it’s hard to build a business around an app when you don’t really understand software.  So that’s kind of what pushed me into it, but as soon as I started to learn more about software I just became super obsessed with it.  It became way more fun than the other stuff I was working on. Regardless of the business, I enjoy programming, so I have made a career out of it.

2. So you were studying to become a Mechanical Engineer?
Yes, I was a mechanical engineer for the first three years of my college career here in Texas, but then I didn’t like the job prospects.  The work was boring to me. I like to create things and we weren’t really creating anything in school.  I was just solving homework problems essentially, so I got into chemistry and became an analytical chemist for a while.  I did research for a clinical lab mostly.  That was really nice for a while, but eventually I left to start a business and the rest is history. 

3. What do you think makes a good Software Engineer?
I really think you need to have a lot of self-discipline. You also need to enjoy problem solving or creating. Enjoying the work will give you that extra spark to deal with bugs, the constant learning, and other small hurdles.

4. You’ve been doing this for 3 years now.  If there is anything you can change in your career so far, what would it be?
I would’ve started earlier if I had to change something.  Software engineering, if it was brought to me at an earlier age, middle school or elementary school even, I may have saved myself some valuable time and headaches. I think schools are making things a bit more like that nowadays.  If I had of been shown how fun it can be to create something and pushing against any social stigmas it would have been helpful. These skills also give you access to the real power of a computer and the internet. This access is beyond valuable.  So the earlier, the better.

5. What is your career highlight so far?
There is not one moment that stands out. However, there is a huge learning curve to software engineering and getting involved with computers; especially if you come from a completely different background.  Once you hit a certain threshold, you can start to see the things that you’ve been building, the code becomes more readable, and how things work starts to come to light. There are constant little victories along the way. Like, “man I created that” or “man, that works!”  Overcoming those little hurdles are the highlights.  I feel like, anyone in software engineering knows this, but you feel terrible at some points and then godly in others.  Much like a rollercoaster.  You definitely doubt yourself when you can’t make something work, but then a moment later you may code something wonderful that works perfectly and you feel amazing. Again, lots of little highlights.

6. Sounds like my job sometimes!  Do you have any career advice for anybody entering the industry?
Definitely.  Keep an open mind.  It’s very intellectually challenging and ego can get in the way.  So my big advice would be, just be very open-minded and accepting of other people’s work.  Removing ego was hard for me at first since I’m such a competitive guy and I pride myself on my work. Don’t be overly critical and don’t take things too personally.  Remember that everyone is learning and things are moving so fast. There are going to be times when you know the most on a topic and you can provide advice to others, but there will be times when you know very little and you’re going to need someone’s help.  Try to keep that in mind because it is frustrating in the beginning.

7. In your opinion, what’s the next big thing in technology?  It’s a tough one right?
No, no.  That’s easy.  Years ago “Search” right?  Search engines became huge like Google.  It’s now predictive algorithms, machine learning, and data science.  Using a lot of data to basically predict the future and having code start to improve on itself.

8. You obviously have passion for what you do.  What things are you working on outside of your day job at your current company?
Actually, I have lots of things.  I still have that kind of entrepreneurial spirit.  So, I have my own business that I’m still building software for that I’m nearly complete with.  At least for the first iteration, and I’m also working on my own personal efficiency app.  It’s a custom app to help me schedule; help me prioritize my daily tasks and stuff.  It’s cool.  I am building a dashboard that brings all the things that I’m interested in together.  So I can now pull in newsfeeds from different sites, sports scores, financial info, etc. It’s really nice because a lot of these companies make APIs, which are basically points of access to public data.  I can save valuable time every day not having to go to several different websites for information. I can just pool it all into one place. It’s ironic because I spend a lot of time working on these apps, but they’re supposed to help me save time. I still find time to do fun stuff though. Austin’s great for that. 

9. Are you keeping that to yourself?  Any plans on getting that out to market?
Only the business will go out to market.  I guess I could…but the other stuff is more just for me. 

10. Also, we hear you are an avid table tennis (ping pong) player.  Who’s the current champion in the company?
Oh man.  I don’t know at this point.  I think I need more time here to know.  There’s definitely some talent here, so…I don’t know of a champion, but I actually have been thinking about starting a tournament here.  I figured I’d give it some time to buffer for people to adjust to me first.  I came here thinking I was pretty ok, but I have some real competition here!

11. Austin’s a big tech hub and we’re getting a lot of relocators, what do you recommend a new Austinite to do on a weekend here?
I like going paddle boarding.  I went with a co-worker this week.  There’s all kinds of stuff.  Arcade bars, outdoor bars, clubs….  I also went to the puzzle room, which I had never done before. That was fun!