Who’s Making Meetup? Vlad Burca - Software Engineer
Vlad is one of Meetup’s newest makers. After graduating from Trinity College in June, he joined the Core Engineering team.
Did you have any experience with Meetup prior to applying?
My experience with Meetup started during the summer before I applied. I used it a couple of times - once in NYC, where I attended a hackathon at a tech company, and once in San Francisco, where I attended a social event for meeting other international travelers!
You made the decision to work for Meetup in November and didn’t start here until June. What was that waiting process like?
The waiting process was tough, mainly because I wanted to graduate and start my career at Meetup sooner! Throughout this period, my recruiter kept me updated with really useful information and I even got some Meetup swag from her! All of this kept my enthusiasm alive.
You’ve been here for a few weeks now. What’s it like being a new member of the team?
Challenging and exciting. Challenging, because I am trying to get up to speed as fast as I can with all the technologies behind Meetup and exciting, because once I gain more experience, I will be able to make meaningful contributions to the product! Throughout this process, my mentor and manager were really helpful, guiding me with help and support when I need it. My product team was also very warm and welcoming; as a result, I think I integrated myself pretty fast!
An experience that really made me connect with co-workers was the Meetup crawl. We picked several meetups around NYC and visited them, trying to find out more about their background and understand the purpose of those groups. It was a very fun, team-bonding experience through which I got to know more about the people that rely on Meetup to create communities.
What are you working on?
I am on the Communications and Connections (CoCo) team, also known as the Talk Team. I am excited about working on challenging problems and on products that would facilitate the way people communicate and interact with each other. This is mainly what we do on the Talk Team. The results of our work will come to life in the following months and I really hope that it will improve the general user experience within Meetup.
The engineering challenges that I faced so far are related to the big code base of Meetup. It just takes a while to get used and to understand the major parts of the code and also to learn all the technologies being used to implement various features of Meetup. I’ve made a lot of progress on that since I started, but there is so much more to learn! And that’s what makes it exciting for me.
Other engineering challenges that I’ve been drawn to were related to security issues, especially since I am on a team that works on communication products between users. My team is highly concerned about the privacy of our user data and of the user interactions. We want to maintain a very high standard of trust. Sometimes this creates new engineering challenges but I am excited to work on these and come up with solutions that would solve them!
What’s the best part of working at Meetup?
For me, it’s definitely the very tight community within the company. Not only that the product we are developing is empowering communities, but even by working for Meetup I feel that I am part of a strong community. Everyone is helping each other, from technical problems to more office-related ones. I can’t neglect the other parts of the Meetup community that I love: the weekly Eatups, which are our company-wide lunches where I get to eat alongside with those whom I do not work directly with on a daily basis. And the amazing MeatupstairsBBQ, our weekly barbecue, is another great opportunity to get to know co-workers better while enjoying awesome views of the NYC skyline.
Overall, I am really happy and thankful that I am part of the Meetup community and I want to contribute to it at my full potential!
Who can resist a good API?
One of the perks of working for Meetup is that we get a reimbursement for fitness related purchases. I recently used this perk to pick up a wristband activity tracker. One of the unexpected features that came with the wristband’s companion app was an extensive API. I had been meaning to become more familiar with our own API, and this set me to wondering if I could leverage them both in a small project.
After thinking about some practical applications for fitness data I decided on a simple scenario: I am a member of a walking meetup group, and I would like to have my daily step count in my profile. I’d accomplish this by writing a simple shell script that utilized the curl command line tool and run it all on a Raspberry Pi.
(Note: I firmly believe that everyone should have a Raspberry Pi on hand for whimsical side projects).
First I had to get the information I wanted from Jawbone. Using curl to access their API’s /moves endpoint I was able to grab all of my daily activity as JSON. I then ran the results through JQ to isolate the object that contained the daily step count. Once I had the number of steps, I used a stream editor to clean up some unnecessary characters and encoded everything to make it URL friendly.
Now that I had the number of steps ready, I needed a place to put it. I created a dummy group (“The New York Walking Meetup Group”) in our developer environment and gave it a profile question (“How many steps have you taken today?”). I then added a second curl command to the shell script which would update the profile question using the Meetup API’s 2/profile endpoint. I included a little flair to go before and after the step count to make it look nice (“I have taken X steps today!”). Finally, to make sure it updated regularly, I set the script to run every night at 11:55pm.
The result: It works! From my wrist to my Meetup profile with only two APIs and a little ingenuity.
Jeff is a QA Engineer at Meetup