Advanced Software Engineer Pablo Arias began his coding career building a website for his aunt. Today, he’s at the heart of a multidisciplinary team at NavVis.
People are the soul of NavVis. We’re more than the innovative technology we’ve developed; we’re a dynamic, culturally diverse, close-knit group supporting each other to achieve remarkable things. In the NavVis Employee Spotlight, we showcase life at the company to future candidates, and the inspiring people you might be working with.
In the fifth post in a series, we chat with Pablo Arias, an Advanced Software Engineer in the Navigation team who hails from Colombia. From an accidental career as a teenage web designer to a passion for Salsa dancing, Pablo is a modern-day renaissance man who relishes the challenges of his job at NavVis.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today?
I grew up in Colombia. When I was younger, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. In my early teens I thought I’d end up becoming a lawyer. Then I remember one summer, my aunt approached me about creating a website for her small business. She assumed that all young people knew all the ins and outs of web pages and the internet. In fact, I’d never programmed before, but I was willing to give it a try.
I remember buying a book on basic web design for complete beginners. The result was a very primitive website, but at the time I was so proud of what I’d achieved. My aunt gave me a few pesos for my work, and that was the point where I really started to think about programming as a career. I just started creating web pages for everything, and it never stopped from that moment. I was hooked!
After finishing high school, I wanted to study computer science and I came to Germany to continue my studies. It made perfect sense to me, as I went to a German school and could speak and write fluently in German.
Q: What attracted you to working at Navvis?
I discovered Navvis through the Technical University here in Munich. I was looking for part-time work, and I wanted to do something with programming. I was attracted to what they do at NavVis because they have a unique way of gathering and generating data. When you can scan a space so efficiently on such a large scale and with such richness of data, this opens a massive range of use cases and challenges. I think for myself and many of the other talented engineers that work here, the appeal is the uniqueness of the problems we get to solve daily.
"For myself and many of the other talented engineers that work here, the appeal is the uniqueness of the problems we get to solve daily."
Q: Take us through a typical workday for you.
Our days are very dynamic. We are basically free to structure our day the way we want; the only constant we have is our daily stand-up. There are some days we discuss how to solve a problem and brainstorm on the whiteboard. Other days are spent coding and reviewing each other’s code. We also spend a few hours a week on personal development. We’ll assign time to do an online course together or develop our skills in some other way. Then we present our learnings back to the team to share our knowledge.
Q: How is your team structured?
In the Navigation team, our work is based on the idea that you can determine the position of a person via visual information. After you have scanned an indoor space and have gathered visual information, you can teach the computer to recognize and identify each area.
To solve indoor positioning by visual data is a complex task that requires many different areas of expertise plus different technologies, different platforms. Our team requires various professional and academic backgrounds – we have people who have very strong mathematical backgrounds, people who have been in the industry for many years, specialized mobile developers – a very diverse team.
These diverse skills and experiences are necessary to get the job done, but we also have to work very closely together. Communication and teamwork are crucial.
"What I like here is we have the flexibility and freedom to use our own tools and customize them as much as we want."
Q: How is your workspace set up?
Like most developers, I’m very specific about how I set up my workspace. I think customization makes things so much easier. What I like here is we have the flexibility and freedom to use our own tools and customize them as much as we want.
Most programmers use an IDE (integrated development environment) which helps you with a lot of tedious tasks and saves you a lot of time. However, I like to use an old-school tool called VIM, a text-based only application. Some other programmers laugh at me for using it, but it works for me because it allows me to develop remotely on a different machine.
Q: Is there any one you rely on to get things done?
Our team is divided into two sub-teams. One half is more focused on the mobile side and the other half more on the backend, which looks at the servers and the infrastructure that runs the data processing that receives the images and processes them.
I’m at the backend, so I rely a lot on my team Jukka, Manu, and Mark, and of course our team lead Basti. We develop the backend together. Mark is our in-house machine and deep learning expert, and such a huge source of knowledge, along with Jukka and Manu who have so many professional years of experience.
"I can guarantee that you won’t be bored here at NavVis. For me personally, it’s been a very exciting and rewarding experience."
Q: How do you like to recharge or take a break?
I enjoy Salsa dancing, so I guess that makes me a stereotypical Latino! Where I’m from, dancing is a huge part of our culture. Any social gathering you go to revolves around music and dancing, so it’s something I grew up with. I didn’t particularly enjoy dancing Salsa before though; that started when I came to Munich and joined a class.
I also love to unwind while watching Latino Drama Soaps on the TV; my favorite is the telenovela genre. It reminds me of home a little, so I enjoy it even if it is a little cheesy or cliché. And I like to work on a lot of personal technical projects. I started writing a blog about two years ago. I have quite a few followers now, so this lets me combine my passion for writing and technology together.
Q: What would you say to someone thinking of joining the NavVis team?
You have nothing to lose by giving it a go. You could be missing an opportunity that’s just right for you. I can guarantee that you won’t be bored here. For me personally, it’s been a very exciting and rewarding experience. I’ve tackled challenges I never thought possible, so it’s been a constant process of development. I’ve met so many talented and experienced people, so it’s been really gratifying to work here.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room. As I learn a lot from my co-workers and continue to do so personally and professionally, I can really relate to this advice. The key takeaway is to surround yourself with people who will push you forward! That's how I like to live my life.
Would you like to join Pablo in a work environment that's dynamic, flexible, and inspiring? Check out our open positions now!