Q&A: The Hectic, Semi-Mysterious and Rewarding Life of a Software Engineer

Q&A: The Hectic, Semi-Mysterious and Rewarding Life of a Software Engineer

Ibrahim Landouar leads a life of perpetual change and dynamism. As the Senior Software Engineer and Team Lead at Keeper, he works daily at balancing all aspects of his exciting, ultra-busy work and personal life.

Q: What does a software engineer do exactly?

A: Developing a software solution involves a series of steps and processes, including gathering requirements, designing the software, developing or coding the software, testing it, releasing it, then maintaining and improving it. Some engineers specialize in certain steps, particularly in very large projects. At Keeper, I am involved in every step, each of which is very important to the next step.

Q: Why is that?

A: Consider requirements gathering, the first step. If you don’t do a really good job of getting the actual requirements right and knowing what it is the customer truly wants, then all the subsequent steps and development will not solve the problem the person has. I have a consulting background so I try hard to talk in business terms when gathering requirements from a business-focused individual and then I can switch to more tech-talk when speaking to an engineer or software specialist. I also am fluent in three languages – English, French and Arabic and I speak some German. I feel this helps me listen more intently and carefully when talking to my customers about project requirements.

Q: What in your background prepared you for this kind of work?

A: I got my engineering degree in France as I considered a research career versus say a career in industry. After that I got a master’s degree in security and simultaneously got an MBA. That really opened my eyes to the whole business side of a professional life. I than began my career working in eBanking, leveraging my security training then moved to the U.S. and worked as a consultant developing and consulting on solutions for the Java platform. Moving to Keeper then seemed like a perfect fit for me, as I was looking for a security-oriented firm where software was the main focus, not a side business.

Q: What communications and other tools do software engineers typically use to get their jobs done?

A: We develop solutions with requirements set by the CEO and several others in our Chicago office, so fluid communications are vital between them and our engineers in California. We have a lot of live face-to-face communications when possible, but also use video chat and Skype to enhance our discussions. However the Slack team communications tool is very important to us and getting more so all the time. We use it extensively to communicate via chat groups; we use it to create interactive product channels with our tech teams. This may sound biased, but Keeper is an important solution I use every day. It allows me to securely share passwords with anyone on my team and do so with all the security we need to keep hackers away.

Q: How do you stay current in such a dynamic technology world?

A: I attend conferences as much as my schedule will permit, but these days you can use different technologies that allow you to view conference sessions remotely on YouTube. I’ll then experiment with some of the information and knowledge I gain. You must do this because technology is simply moving too fast virtually every day.

Q: What is the hardest, most enjoyable and most challenging aspects of your job?

A: Well the most challenging can also be the most rewarding, and that is having to get certain projects done on very short release schedules, which can happen anywhere. An aggressive schedule can make a software engineer’s life very hectic and challenging but at the same time in adds that extra measure of excitement and energy. I admit there are times I can live without it! Also in a smaller company like ours, at times I have to drop everything I am doing to pitch in to help solve a crisis, like an important server that goes down. And as far as the most rewarding aspect of my work, it would be seeing the immediate result of what we do, such as seeing the new features we build getting great user reception or watching revenues tick up.

Q: What do you see as trends that will most greatly impact the work of software engineers?

A: No doubt the movement to cloud-based solutions and away from on-premises solutions will affect almost everything we do. We leverage the cloud extensively here at Keeper. If the power goes down in our entire Chicago office, we lose nothing because everything is in the cloud. Also security in general is going to continue to rise in importance. Hackers are gaining fresh research and knowledge every day, and gaining more perspective and momentum. A strong, comprehensive security system is vital. When it comes to passwords, I just cannot see why companies, especially small and mid-sized organizations, shouldn’t have a password management system. Storing and then sharing passwords on spreadsheets or using the same passwords for different devices and sites is an open invitation to attackers.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone considering a career as a software engineer?

A: Understand that this job like any other isn’t roses all the time. On occasions it can seem you are doing things repetitively, especially when building improvements to an existing a solution. But the reward can come when you figure out an automated solution. It just won’t happen the first day. Also you need to be a person willing to continually invest in your career because you cannot stop learning and researching to keep up with the tremendous rate of change. Attend conferences. Learn to network. If you stop, you’ll be left behind.

Q: What do you do in your limited spare time?

A: I try hard to balance my mental and physical lives, so I play soccer in a league. If there is any frustration or things I need to get out, that is where that happens. I also have three kids, all six years old and under. So I am a pretty busy guy!

Interested in a career in cybersecurity? Keeper Security is hiring!

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