2021 is finally here, and what better way to ring in the new year with the latest edition of Cedarians in Cafes Getting Coffee with Juan Gonzalez, Senior Software Engineer!
Hi Juan! Happy New Year! How were your holidays?
Happy New Year! So, I’ve spent my holidays being nomadic – I’ve actually been fully nomadic since the start of November. I’m officially out of New York City, I moved out of my apartment and I’m kind of living out of my SUV, but it’s been fun! So far, I was in Chicago for about a month, Atlanta for about three weeks and I’m here in Miami for a month right now. Then I’m going to Orlando, New Orleans, Austin and it’s kind of up in the air after that.
Wow, that’s so exciting! How has nomad life been treating you?
So I’ve never had a chance to do a full road trip of the entirety of America and I think this is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime type thing where I can just go for long extended periods. We’re three months in already, and it might go for another three. It might be even longer than that – who knows! I know that I’m really enjoying Miami right now, and not going back north any time soon. It’s great that Cedar has been so flexible during these pandemic times. This is a very extended mission to escape the winter and it’s working out so far.
Can’t say I blame you for trying to escape the cold! Tell me a little bit about your career path (pre-“van life”). How did you end up at Cedar?
Before I was at Cedar, I was at a company that I wasn’t very happy at. I think what I really liked about Cedar was just the mission and the people. At Cedar, we’re actually trying to improve an industry that’s so clearly broken, and the idea of modernizing it was really something I could just get myself behind. I think we’re closer to that every day, so I’m really excited about that.
Totally agree – it’s amazing how authentic Cedar’s values are! Do you have a favorite value?
That’s hard – they are all great values. But I think my favorite is definitely “no mediocrity,” just because as an engineer myself, I try to write the best code possible. But also, I think in this industry, you just see so many mediocre experiences when you go to the doctor, just in so many ways, that I think that’s part of our edge – just to have a great five star experience for everyone. I hope that we never let that value slip away.
Tell me about some of the projects you are working on these days.
I’m currently working for our integrations team and the team’s mission is to integrate our clients onto our system. And the goal is to always improve that process – make it faster, easier and error-free. If we can do this, we’re both improving our return on investment in terms of how long we’re working on a project and also we’re just making our clients (and ourselves) happier.
We are growing and scaling quickly, and we’ve realized that we need new processes in place to keep up with this pace we’re at. So, we’ve made some pretty ambitious goals to achieve this year and I’m part of that team now; we’re working to overhaul the way we integrate clients and figure out how we actually scale it in a meaningful way.
I‘m hopefully wrapping up this project pretty soon, and that’s pretty exciting. There’s still going to be continued work on it, but once that’s in, it’s going to be a great milestone this quarter.
Congrats! So what’s the next project on the docket?
I guess the next project is trying to figure out how to get faster! Right now, we’re still running into bottlenecks around how fast we can actually integrate clients, but we’re going to run into new challenges. For example, we’ve recently onboarded a lot of new Epic clients, and are working on some really innovative ways to get those clients up and running quickly.
There is also the challenge of how we onboard new engineers in the best possible way. We’re trying to figure out ways to minimize that onboarding process for our integration engineers. So there’s going to be a lot of exciting stuff to do this year.
You joined Cedar in 2018, which was pretty early on. What has it been like watching the company grow?
When I joined in 2018, we were only 24 or 25 employees. We used to work out of this one room in Soho. When I interviewed with Florian, we had only one client officially on our system. I was pretty impressed by that because by already being exposed to the healthcare industry in a previous job, I knew that hospitals are generally risk averse, so breaking into the market can be pretty tough for a new company.
There was also a product, and it worked. That was even more impressive. I remember thinking, “wow, you are this young with a product that already is competitive.” I thought this was a billion dollar idea. I was just so excited about it, even from the beginning.
What has been your favorite part of your Cedar experience?
The retreats are pretty awesome. It’s a great way for you to get to know people at the company. At the retreats, Florian challenges us all to go to one of our colleagues we hadn’t yet met and just strike up a conversation with them, which is not always easy! But in general, the retreats are amazing. It’s a great time to relax. Always great places, too – somewhere in the woods, upstate New York, or something. I’m really looking forward to that again.
Hopefully we will be able to safely have our retreat this year! On a somewhat-related note: any fun hobbies that have come out of the pandemic?
It’s pretty cliché, but I started cooking a lot more. I got more adventurous, I would say, which was kind of interesting. During the early days of COVID-19 lockdowns, I was making ramen from scratch, which I had never made before. I also made pho, which is also pretty amazing. I made Thai beef noodle soup which was pretty awesome. I like a lot of Asian food.
Same here – I’ve been doing a lot of cooking! Before we wrap up – what’s something people at Cedar might not know about you?
This is kind of embarrassing – I’m afraid to even say it out loud. Until very recently I did not know how to drive. The issue was I was so young when I left Miami (where I’m from), and I knew I was going to go to college at Columbia in New York City pretty early. I think it was kind of foolish of me to not put a high priority on it, but at the same time, my mother was kind of OK with the idea of me not driving, because of her paranoia. Basically, there was no pressure to learn. Years went by, I finished college, and I still didn’t know how to drive. I went to Boston and I thought, “I’m gonna drive in Boston,” but I found out Boston has a pretty good public transportation system, and I could literally walk to work at the time.
Then, I came back to New York City, and I think, only because of this existential crisis of knowing I was maybe leaving New York soon, this became more of an urgent issue.
I’m happy to say that I can drive, kind of, now. I have my license.
Well that’s good, since you’re currently driving across the country!
Well, not yet…so, my girlfriend has been with me and driving the entire way. In my defense, I told her this trip was going to be hard on her from the start, but she still really wanted to do it. Happy to say that she’s been OK with it. Though, she’s been very eager for me to learn and has been relieved that it’s mostly easy for me so far.
Juan is a Senior Software Engineer at Cedar. When he’s not working on scaling Cedar’s integrations, he can be found testing new ramen recipes.
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