Software Engineer, Getaways Engineering
As a leader, innovator, wannabe weatherman, and champion of LGBT rights, Kevin McIntosh is the guy to go to make the connections. He strives to take ownership of programs and progress at work and to provide leadership in being an ally to the LGBT community.
Tell us about your job! What do you do exactly? What do you love about it?
At one point, I was introduced (with a group of others) to our CEO Rich Williams. The technical director introduced each person giving their title. When he introduced me, he said: “This is Kevin, and his role is…well, I am not sure, but he does everything.” And honestly, that is what I do. I am a Full-Stack Software Engineer who focuses on back-end systems for Getaways Engineering (but I never shy away from front-end work) while leading Pride@Groupon (as co-chair), and organizing our Culture Club here at Groupon Seattle, where we coordinate, fund, and organize awesome activities for the office.
Let’s talk about your involvement with Pride. Why is it important for Groupon to champion and support Pride@Groupon?
Because even with marriage equality, there are still issues in corporate America that need to be addressed. Employees still are concerned about bringing their whole selves to work and being able to come out. This includes our transgender coworkers and peers, who nationally still struggle in deciding if they can take the step forward to transition at work. I still recall (even for myself as a gay man) in years past that I have self consciously not talked about my husband at work. Instead, I used the term “spouse” in fear of reprisal. When employees are able to bring their whole selves to work, it has shown that (1) they are more productive and (2) happier. That is why it is even now still important for us at Groupon to step up and support our LGBT employees.
Have you ever worked for a company that accepts, champions, and supports the LGBTQ+ community before? How do you feel about it?
Yes, thankfully I am lucky enough to work in a time where it is not uncommon to be at a company that supports LGBT employees and I have only worked at companies where equality is a part of their policy. That being said, we (all tech companies) still have a long way to go in not just setting policies but adjusting employee and business cultures to fully accept LGBT employees. In my opinion, Groupon still has ways that it can improve, but it is also far ahead of the curve from the competition. 🙂
What makes Pride@Groupon unique?
We are goofy as heck, we have an unhealthy love of RuPaul Drag Race gifs in all of our slideshow presentations, and we support each other unequivocally. We also love a good party and a good drink. 😀
How are you celebrating Pride Month personally? Professionally?
Personally? I will be wandering around Capitol Hill in Seattle, partying, having drinks, and celebrating what makes me, me. 🙂
Professionally? I will be getting Groupon employees to march in the Seattle and Chicago Pride Parades and getting them exposed to the LGBT community. I will also be getting many of our executives to march in the streets with us, advocating for LGBT rights, and showing support for all of us in the community.
Who are some notable figures (historical or otherwise) you’d like to recognize for Pride Month?
Alan Turing – a British Computer Scientist and member of the Allies’ WWII effort. He was key in deciphering the Enigma Code, which was instrumental in turning the tide of the war. However, years after the war, he was persecuted for homosexual acts, was convicted and later was chemically castrated. Unfortunately, years later, he committed suicide. Even though he was a war hero, his country turned his back on him, so I always find it paramount to tell his story, whenever possible.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve worked on?
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to lead a large project where my team was integrating with one of Groupon’s external partners. While the documentation was robust, the direct support by the external team left something to be desired. If it was not for the support of my team, architects, and mentoring guidance from my manager, I’m not sure that I would have been successful. Despite that difficulty, I was able to deliver. In the process, I learned prioritization, how to write emails more effectively, better architecture practices, and numerous tips and tricks in Java.
What was your first impression of Groupon?
At first glance, I thought that Groupon was another fad. After joining, I discovered that it was much more than that.
What do your parents think you do?
Mom: He is an SD2 for Groupon Getaways and really enjoying what he’s doing. In his job, he gets to combine computer science, engineering and analytical skills to design and evaluate software, functionality, and work on teams that are improving the interface between Groupon and the customer. Pretty cool, who knew? Dad: I know that you were hired as a programmer for Groupon’s Getaways. But beyond that, I don’t really know… I could have said that you appear to run the LGBT program for Groupon… at least that’s what I hear. 🙂
How does your work connect to Groupon’s mission of being the daily habit in local commerce?
I work in Getaways, so the daily habit is a bit more “nuanced.” In this case, our goal is to inspire travelers through exploration of our pages and deals. We actually have a lot of inventory throughout the United States and the world (including tours), so there is always something for everyone. I have actually taken a tour through Getaways myself and I highly recommend it.
What’s been surprising about working here?
Engineers have surprising weight in saying what direction the business should go. We build the software, are close to the data, and understand what needs to change. Also, during engineering discovery phases (like designing out systems), we are empowered to make the changes that we see that are important.
What’s your favorite part about your team’s Software Development process?
Our ability to support each other. Got a pull request? Sure, one of us will review it. Don’t understand the process? Let’s schedule a 30-minute meeting to whiteboard it out. Need to go for a walk and just hang out? Let’s go now 🙂
Where were you before joining Groupon? What brought you here?
Previously, I was at Intel in Folsom (outside of Sacramento). While the 4.5 years that I spent at Intel taught me a lot, I found myself yearning for a quicker software cadence that a hardware semiconductor manufacturer could not yield. In addition, I wanted to expand on my full-stack web experience. Groupon was able to meet that need for me.
We're hiring in Seattle!
Vim or emacs? why?
Vim, more straightforward and I love all the keyboard commands. At the end of the day though, I find myself gravitating to Visual Studio Code.
Name your favorite programming language.
Tabs or spaces?
Spaces – let’s be honest, you would say the same thing.
What’s your favorite local business?
Taqueria El Asadero. It’s the best Mexican restaurant I have found this far north. And they let me practice my Spanish, which is awesome!
Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I have an unhealthy obsession with how weather systems work. Honestly, I wanted to be a weatherman when I was growing up. Currently, in my downtime, I will pull up Google Maps, turn on Satellite View, and look for interesting mountains, vegetation, coastlines, and then cross check it with climatological data I can find online. Then I cross check it with research on influencing factors of that area. Some of my favorite findings was discovering that Colombia has a desert! SO COOL!
Have you won any awards during your time here?
Getaways Engineering “You Rock Award”, for leading and designing a new deployment proposal with production, operations, and senior architects during the post-holiday moratorium.
What’s unique about Groupon’s Engineering culture?
I have three words: ownership, ownership, ownership (it sounds redundant, but it really is that important). At Groupon, we take pride in the fact that we all want what’s best for the company. However, rarely will things get done unless you own a part of the process. The rest of the engineering team will support you if you take ownership.
For example, I developed a tool (as a part of a hackathon) for detecting flaky front-end integration tests. In my leadership, I was able to show teams where the flaky tests were with an MVP tool I quickly hacked together; a handful of front end teams embraced my results. Eventually, the idea was reformulated, built out, and integrated into our CI systems. As of today, this solution is one more data point in helping teams understand where the issues are when a build fails. By me taking an aspect of the process and owning it, I was able to make a difference in the end for many of the front end teams through driving change in the process.
What’s your favorite Groupon memory?
My team was really pushing for many months to ship a big change to our Getaways purchase pipeline. It took a lot of work, but we finally succeeded. So, like when all big projects come to a conclusion, we wanted to celebrate our achievement. I came up with the idea of just hanging out at a nearby bar called Flatstick Pub, where we could play some mini golf, have some drinks, and just hang out. As the night went on, I figured out why I love my team so much: these were really genuine people who were all hilarious in their own special way. We stayed there for an hour longer than we were supposed to, learned more about each other’s backgrounds (we are all from different countries), bought rounds of beer and plates of food for each other, and just would not stop laughing (although I am sure that was a little bit of the beer talking).
What was your first role here? How did you get to where you are now?
My first role is the same role I have always had: Full-Stack Software Engineer. I was able to take a brief stint as a Technical Product Manager for three months, but in the end, I moved back to where my love is: nerds, coding, and an in-depth technical discussion.
Where can we find you outside of work? What are your hobbies, side projects, or interests?
A friend once told me that my heart is always in the mountains. He was not wrong. When the city is too much, I retreat deep into the Cascades. There, I disconnect and hike my butt off and I have done that for most of my life. When I was young, I started in the Boy Scouts and from then on, I have hiked in the Philmont Scouting Ranch and along the John Muir Trail (220 miles). Later this summer I will have hiked the Wonderland Trail around Mt Rainier (93 miles). I also have a huge fascination with public lands. My lifetime goal is to visit all 59 US National Parks; I am at 20 so far! So if you don’t find me in the Cascades, I’m probably in some US National Park.