Associate Software Engineer
Elias Jackson has been with OpenSesame for about a year, but he came up the ranks for two and a half years as an intern; working remotely while still in college. In that time, Elias has seen a major OpenSesame project go from inception to implementation. “Thanks to our open-office environment, I met all of the company’s leadership as an intern. I made it known I was desperate to get my hands on some programming work,” Elias said. “They recruited me to continue interning remotely, working on prototypes for a secret project. That project would become Simon, which is now a significant part of the company.”
Briefly describe your role.
I work on the Simon team, where we are building an innovative platform for online courses localized in dozens of languages. As a full-stack engineer, I implement features in our user interface and our back-end logic. Our team works in an Agile manner to accomplish bite-sized tasks planned out as a group every two weeks. I’ve found it to be a swift and effective method that involves everyone equally.
What has been the best part of working in your role?
We are constantly learning, collaborating, and evolving. Our team utilizes cutting-edge technologies. While senior-level engineers have experience in many of them, many of us are new to some technologies. We’re always given the resources and time we need to learn. Our engineers are often encouraged to take on tasks outside of their comfort zone. The drive to spread knowledge is part of who we are as an eLearning company, and it’s reflected in how we work as a team.
What makes a team member successful at OpenSesame?
Good communication skills. Two of our five company values are Collaboration and Transparency, and they’re reflected in everything we do. If you’re an engineer, you’ll spend your days openly discussing plans, progress, and implementation details with your teammates. Being able to express your thoughts and opinions and being open to feedback and discussion is a key to success.
How did you get into the field you’re in?
I’ve loved computers ever since I was a kid. I knew my career would follow one or both of my passions — computer software and music. I studied Computer Science at California State University, Fullerton. In my free time, I learned about Node.js, Vue, PHP, and other technologies. Halfway through college, my godmother encouraged me to apply for an OpenSesame internship in Portland. I spent eight weeks on the Content team (now known as Curation). It wasn’t programming work, but I knew that being at a tech company would grant me opportunities. Thanks to our open-office environment, I met all of the company’s leadership as an intern. I made it known I was desperate to get my hands on some programming work. Shortly before the internship ended, they recruited me to continue interning remotely, working on prototypes for a secret project. That project would become Simon, which is now a significant part of the company and is the permanent team I work on.
Where do you get your energy, or what do you enjoy?
I love music and podcasting. One of the podcasts I host is a roundtable music industry discussion. The other is a project with a friend where we research societal and economic problems that could be solved through philanthropy, policy, and/or a cultural shift. This podcast resulted from having more free time and wanting to get more politically involved and spread knowledge.
How has OpenSesame changed since you’ve joined?
The developer office is now a separate building from the rest of the company because we’ve grown so much. The main office is just a minute away, so we can always head there when necessary. The company is continually evolving our processes and taking feedback from everyone, but I think many aspects of the company are already extremely well-optimized. It helps to have a leadership team that truly cares and who built the company from the ground up with inclusion in mind.
In what ways have you been supported by the OpenSesame team or culture?
Each employee has weekly one-on-one meetings with our managers to discuss how things are going, check in on our promotions, and voice any concerns. I’ve never felt afraid to speak my mind to my manager or the whole team about anything I think is important. My voice is always heard.
What is your favorite TED course?
One of my favorites is Why you think you’re right — even if you’re wrong by Julia Galef. It inspired me to be a better critical thinker and learn more about cognitive biases. She talks about how we often seek evidence that suits our narrative, and we see patterns where they don’t exist, even when we don’t intend to do so. Learning these skills is crucial to being an engineer, where we need to think logically and find solutions grounded in reason.
What makes working with OpenSesame rewarding?
The ProDev program is nice. Each employee spends at least 40 paid hours a year building work-related skills outside of work. For engineers, that can mean attending conferences, taking new technology courses, or reading books. It allows me to level up my career and boost my skills.