Tag Archives: pulse energy

Quitting My Job

Engineering Area

So to celebrate my 34th birthday, I quit my job. After 8 years it was finally time to move on. I survived 2 rounds of layoffs and 2 acquisitions at Pulse Energy / EnerNOC / Yardi and am currently the longest serving employee in the Vancouver office. But I only have 2 weeks left of work.

In April, I get to take everything I’ve learnt at Pulse (storing time-series data, modelling energy, setting up monitoring tools, deploying to AWS, plus so much more) and do it all again at a new startup called Clir Renewables. The company is very young and doesn’t have a public website yet, but they’re building software to optimize wind farms. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

I will miss my co-workers at Yardi. The Vancouver office is full of talented and interesting people. But the organization as a whole does the excite me. There isn’t a push for innovation and I had stopped learning new things. My job was largely maintaining the services I had built over the past 8 years and cleaning up junk utility data. It was easy work and the pay was ok, but it didn’t motivate me to go to work everyday.

Clir Renewables is going to be a big change. As an early stage startup, they’re trying to make good infrastructure decisions and build a solid platform but are also trying to crank out features to get early sales. I’ve only seen some of the code but they definitely accrued tech debt already. I’m looking forward to getting in there and helping clean things up.

I was only casualy looking for a new job when the Clir opportunity appeared, but I was really surprised by how hot the Vancouver software job market it right now. It seems like everyone is hiring and the big names (Amazon, SAP, Salesforce, Visier) are having bidding wars to attract talent. The salaries being offered are way higher than I expected and even the startup companies are coming close to matching them. I think the low Canadian dollar is finally factoring into local salaries and US based companies are willing to pay more. It’s a good time to be a software developer.

(And I leave you with some music from Shred Kelly. Emily took me to see them on my birthday. They put on a good show.)

Developing Trex – Pulse Energy’s new Hubot

trex hubot
Every month or so at work we run a Big Idea Day where developers can work on fun projects of their choosing. For our last Big Idea Day, I paired up with one of our co-ops and integrated Hubot into our chat room. A lot of the chatter at work happens online in a chat room, it’s handy for keeping noise down in an open work environment and for keeping our remote employees engaged.

Hubot is an open-source chat bot developed by GitHub. It has some productive uses, but it’s mostly used for the inane – like pug bombing, quoting the Ferengi rules of acquisition, and littering the chat room with animated gifs. We named our Hubot Trex and in a few short weeks he’s become a fixture in our development chat room.

There’s lots to like about Hubot. It’s a free, open-source project. When I ran into a bug, it was easy to fix it myself and contribute the patch back to the community. Hubot also supports pluggable scripts. There are hundreds available online to choose from (everything from Breaking Bad quotes to hangman) or you can write your own.

I wrote a plugin to keep track of leaderboards. We play a lot of boardgames at work during lunch (King of Tokyo and Dominion usually) and Trex is now responsible for tracking the winners of every game.

On the productive side, the goal is to use Hubot to centralize some of the operational tasks we do – like deploying new versions of our software, spinning up new machines, and diagnosing problems. If tasks are done via Hubot, there’s a persistent log in the chat room that everyone can read and it’s interleaved with comments from the developers about why things are being done. It’s especially handy for our remote employees.

p.s. Pulse Energy is hiring. If you apply, mention this blog post for bonus points.

Inspiring Work

Donovan Woollard from Local GardenIn the past 3 days I’ve had a tour of Local Garden from Donovan Woollard, heard a talk by Ken Lyotier founder of United We Can, and hung out with our Fresh Roots CSA gardeners at a soup swap. All of them are inspiring entrepreneurs who are doing great work in Vancouver.

The tour of Local Garden was really interesting. They’ve built a fancy, mechanized, vertical garden system to pump out fresh greens. Their focus is on reducing the carbon footprint of traditional salad mixes, which are often shipped from California. Their Vancouver greenhouse sits on the top floor of an unused parkade in downtown Vancouver (next door to Pulse Energy), uses 1/10 of the water of traditional farming, and they ship their greens to restaurants and grocery stores by bike. How cool is that?

Fresh Roots Soup Swap DinnerLast night we hung out with the Fresh Roots gardeners, who hosted a soup swap that ended up being more of a dinner party with board games afterwards (awesome!). Ilana and her crew are the coolest, hippest farmers I know. We’ve been getting a CSA share from them for the past two years and are looking forward to another season this year. Fresh Roots grows a lot of their veggies on school grounds in Vancouver, partnering with the teachers and students to pass on their farming knowledge to the next generation.

Ken Lyotier started United We Can, a bottle depot in the downtown east side, in 1995 after years of dumpster diving on his own. Binners are now a fixture in Vancouver, collecting refundable bottles throughout the city. The social enterprise Ken started provides an important revenue stream for them. It was interesting hearing about Ken’s own personal struggles with addiction and how United We Can has grown from a small outfit run by a rag tag group from the DTES to one of the largest bottle depots in the province, employing hundreds of people.

Hearing from these amazing people helps puts the work I do at Pulse Energy into perspective. And speaking of which, you can recognize the awesomeness of our company by voting for Pulse Energy for a Smart Grid Superstar of 2013 award.

Cleanweb Hackathon – Epic Energy III

Hacking Away
On Saturday I participated in my first hackathon – the Vancouver Cleanweb Hackathon. It was a 12-hour coding marathon, or at least it was for our team from Pulse Energy. While most participants spent the first 2 hours brainstorming, pitching ideas, and recruiting team members, we locked ourselves in a board room and started coding with barely any breaks for eating or peeing. We weren’t necessarily serious or competitive. We just had an ambitious plan and only 12 hours to make it work, so there was no time for socializing.

Earlier in the week, we spent two lunches brainstorming about ideas and planning how we would build our favourite idea, a building manager sim game. We knew we were in over our heads, but we hoped the extra prep work would make up for our lack of game development experience.

Below you can see the evolution of our game as we slowly added functionality, content, and graphics. I’m impressed with how polished it looked after only 12 hours. A lot of the credit goes to our graphic designer, Tyler.

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Our biggest challenges were making the game realistic (we used real data as much as possible), fitting in all the functionality we wanted (sadly, a lot of cool features got cut), and hardest of all, keeping it fun. At 6 pm, with 2 hours left, we stopped coding and did a play-through of our game and realized it was horribly boring. At that point, we stopped adding new features and prioritized fun. We added quirky comments from grumpy tenants, a scoring system, a tweet button, and animations to make it seem more like a game and less like a budgeting exercise.

I encourage everyone to check out and play Epic Energy III, and tweet your high score. The goal is to save as much energy as possible while keeping your tenants happy (which should be explained on an intro screen, but that feature got cut). So far, my best score is 20,308. If you’re interested in the code, you can see all the commits on GitHub. Don’t worry, even if you can read the code, it’s not obvious what the best strategy is to get a high score.

We’re still planning on making some improvements to the game in the coming weeks even though the Hackathon is over. It’s good marketing for Pulse Energy and fun to work on.
Continue reading Cleanweb Hackathon – Epic Energy III

Bike to Work Week at Pulse Energy

Biker Breakfast Bait

While most of the country is preparing for snow, Vancouver is celebrating the rainy season with Bike to Work Week, which started on Monday. As the self-appointed captain of the Bike to Work Week team at Pulse Energy, I’m trying to ensure we defend our title for most commutes that we won in the summer. My job is made easy by the group of dedicated cyclists who work at Pulse and the improved cycling infrastructure, which is key to getting new cyclists to bike downtown – luckily our office is located along on the Dunsmuir separated bike lane.

On Monday, I offered breakfast for anyone who cycled in or who promised to bike in at least one day this week. I baked up some apple strudel, spinach and feta pie, and gluten-free pumpkin muffins. Considering that every morsel was eaten, we should have no problem getting lots of bums on bike seats this week. So far, the results look good – we’re close to the top in 2 categories.