As I mentioned in part 3, my only demonstrable programming experience was a PHP news aggregation app. As it turns out, the approach I took in that tool was remarkably similar to the one taken by my employer on their real estate data feed. Since I had foundational experience, I was asked to try my hand at on-boarding new data. I agreed, eager to learn something new.
Real estate data feeds typically conform to a standard known as the “Real Estate Technology Standard” or “RETS”. Each regional real estate board (known as a “Multiple Listing Service” or “MLS”) syndicates their listings to clients via RETS feed. The feed packages data (albeit loosely) into a known format, capable of programmatic consumption. The standard is not very strict in it’s content, allowing individual boards a great deal of flexibility when defining their content.
Since the feeds were so flexible, they required a great deal of translation and transformation. That’s where I (and Python) came into play. Our tool would handle requesting and receiving RETS data, perform any necessary translations to shape it into a format our CRM understood, then saved it to the appropriate databases. This tool ran every hour, so it had to be flexible enough to withstand variation in the data, and not collapse when encountering edge cases.
I found Python really easy to use. Having some experience shaping data and now freed of HTML and CSS responsibilities, I was able to simplify and streamline the data acquisition process. I can proudly say my process refinement cut the on-boarding from 2 weeks to 2 days!
For the next 6 months, I poured every working hour into the company’s new search
tool. We wrote it to industry standards, implementing unit tests and lint rules.
Webpack’d and minified,
polyfill’d. Finally, in the summer of
2016, we delivered our release. My work, the tool I spent the last half of a year
developing, was now live on 2,000 sites across the country. That was a good day.
Around this same time, I began seeing my inbox fill with recruiters looking to fill positions. I no longer considered myself a junior developer, and began entertaining the requests. It wasn’t long before I found myself transitioning from a for-profit real estate marketing company to a non-profit research institute.
At the research institute, I served as a software developer, translating academic research into real world applications. I worked on large scale statistical surveys, criminal justice research, social media analysis, and extensible public health microsimulations. I was fortunate to learn a lot of new domains and work beside a lot of very educated and well-respected individuals.
During my tenure at the non-profit, I was also able to complete both by Bachelors of Science in Information Technology (specializing in software engineering) and a Masters of Business Administration (focused on information technology management). It was a busy two years!