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Roundtable Discussion: Software Engineering: Extra Space Storage

Software Engineers Roundtable: What It’s Like Working at Extra Space Storage

Are you an aspiring software engineer looking for insight into your future career? Or maybe you’re established in your career but considering new opportunities. At Extra Space Storage, we believe the world is a better place when people love what they do. Redefining the storage industry is an ambitious goal, and that’s why we look for the best people and invest in cutting-edge technology.

In December 2020, Extra Space Storage hosted a virtual Software Engineers Roundtable. Nate Green, Director of Software Development, spoke with team members about their careers as software engineers and what life is like at Extra Space Storage. Participating in the discussion with Green were:

  • Carlos Perez, Software Engineer
  • Dakota Ruller, Software Engineer
  • Javier Nunez, Software Engineer
  • Matt Higbee, Software Engineer
  • Sterling May, Software Engineer

Below are video clips from the Software Engineers Roundtable, along with highlights from the discussion.

Q: What is it like day to day to be a Software Engineer?

Perez: We’re usually working on a specific task or a particular feature and have a lot of projects going on. We have the front end, the back end, and databases. I like to see how it all works together—all these things are connected. We support the Extra Space Storage website, where we have the information for all of our stores. It’s interesting to see how the data is pulled for all of these facilities from various sources and then presented in the way we want to the end user. If something is going on with the site, you have an idea of what’s going on or where the problem might be. I like solving issues and making things work—that’s something I like about the team and my role.

Nunez: I would say that my day-to-day is pretty mixed, and that’s good. I get to do things on different projects and talk to a bunch of different people. We gather web requirements from the Marketing team, so we have a lot of interaction with them. Then, we have to take those requirements and work our magic to show that on the website. That’s nice because not all software developers have the opportunity to see their products in a live environment. Also, we have a great team, and we all collaborate. This year, we have been on calls and meetings, pair programming (an agile software development technique in which two programmers work together), and just supporting each other to get the best for the team and the company.

Q: How did you get into software engineering?

Ruller: I got into web development about four years ago. I had always wanted to try it but just never had the opportunity to do so. I went to a boot camp and halfway through I got a job. At that point, I wasn’t really learning anything new. We were just working on projects. So I didn’t actually finish the boot camp, but I kept on teaching myself and still do today. That ultimately led me to Extra Space Storage, where I’ve utilized all the skills that I had been teaching myself. When I first came to the company, it was all C-Sharp. Then we switched to React, which is what I ultimately wanted to do. Like I said, I wanted to do something more and start a career. Everything I did led me to here, and now I’m in a great position.

May: I originally was going to school for music production engineering. My plan was to open up my own recording studio eventually, but the industry changed and that no longer was a viable option. So my next interest was with computers. I didn’t know which area of expertise I wanted to go into, so the first thing I did was play around with networking. I didn’t care that for that. Then I started thinking, well, I’m a creative guy and I like making music; what’s something in the computer industry that allows me to be creative? That led me to software development. I decided at that point I was going to school and ended up going to ITT Technical Institute. I got my first job with a small company, but it gave me a start in the web development world, and my career has grown to now being at Extra Space Storage.

Q: What are some good skills to learn to become a successful software engineer?

Higbee: I think the most important skill to know as a software engineer is knowing how to learn. You’re going to be tasked with challenges daily where there aren’t specific ways of getting it done. You have to find a possible solution, piece it together, and be creative. A lot of my time isn’t necessarily coding. I will think about a problem for literally hours and try to come up with what I think is a good solution. I will often pull other developers in, ask them what they think about the solution, and then go to work coding it. A large part of that is just knowing how to learn, be creative, and not give up when something isn’t working.

Perez: Finding a better way to do something and thinking ahead about performance and future changes is important. Your work has to be maintainable and easy for other developers to understand. You have to have passion for your work and not just do something because you have to but put all your effort into it. There are many factors to consider, and that’s the fun of it—improving every day.

Q: What kind of day-to-day interaction do you have as a software engineer?

Ruller: This year has been different and not as much interaction. As far as Extra Space Storage goes, there’s a lot of communication back and forth with Marketing. As a web developer for Extra Space Storage, they’re basically our customer. Then, obviously, there’s interaction with other developers. If you’re running into an issue, there’s communication there to reach out and help each other. We also interact with the Data Analytics team.

Higbee: I interact with our Business Analysts. They help me know what I need to be working on next and what potential roadblocks might be. I communicate with other developers on the team to help them when they need it or reach out to them and get their feedback to solve problems. I often speak with Project Managers as well. I also have interactions with our site reliability engineers. They do a great job collaborating on solutions to ensure a good website experience.

Q: What opportunities are there for growth in your field?

Nunez: One of the greatest things about Extra Space Storage is that there are many growth opportunities. We have a wide range of applications and technologies. You can be an expert on specific technologies, go the route of quality engineering, work on the site’s reliability side of things, or pursue management. There are a lot of opportunities for you to shine. I became a senior developer, and I wasn’t expecting it to be honest. It’s nice when others recognized the work that you do. I always say that when individual people grow, the whole team also grows.

May: I’ve worked at companies in the past where you get stonewalled into a position where there isn’t much growth unless a slot opens up for you to move up into a more senior position. At Extra Space Storage, it’s a lot different. They don’t have slotting in place for various roles. You can focus on yourself and your career growth and move up at the pace that you choose. I find that to be such a unique thing and one of my favorite things about working here.

Q: What are some projects you’ve worked on this year, and what’s been your favorite project since you’ve been at Extra Space Storage?

Ruller: One of the most significant projects that we worked on was a feature called Rapid Rental, which allows you to complete a rental on our website. We didn’t have that before, and COVID-19 pushed us to get it rolled out a lot sooner than planned. That was a huge project. There was a lot of learning and collaboration between developers on the web team and developers from multiple other teams as well. It was a lot of fun, and it has been nothing but successful for Extra Space Storage. Another favorite is a project that I recently worked on; I added a previous functionality to the Rapid Rental process. I learned a lot specifically on that project, especially about other pieces of Rapid Rental that I wasn’t able to touch when we initially built it out.

Perez: Seeing how the whole company had to adapt to one of the biggest challenges the modern society has ever faced with a worldwide pandemic and seeing how Extra Space Storage had to adapt by implementing Rapid Rental was amazing. Teams came together to make online leasing happen, and we got results. It was the highlight of this year, and it makes me feel proud of the team and the company.

Q: What do you like about Extra Space Storage, and how does it compare to other companies you’ve worked for in the past?

Higbee: I’ve been in this field for over seven years. Before that, I was involved in online marketing. During my time at other companies, some of the things that weren’t so optimal was how they treated their employees. If I compare that to Extra Space Storage, I feel like the company wants to invest in me. They want to keep me around, and I want to stick around. That’s the attitude at Extra Space Storage. They want people to stay and grow into other roles. Here, we even have various positions beyond just a senior developer. There are multiple tiers where you can stay a developer, and you don’t have to become a manager if you want to keep coding your whole career. Most other companies make you break into management, and some people just don’t want to do that. Here, we don’t feel that way. If you want to keep coding, do that. If you want to grow in other ways or move into leadership, then Extra Space Storage can help you do that as well. It’s more of an approach to what the developer wants to do and where their passion lies.

May: A lot of my previous roles have been very numbers-based. I was just filling the seat that they needed and could be replaced at any point. My situation was unique at my previous job because I had some medical issues that came up. They were not very understanding about any of it. They continued to have me working at the same pace and expecting the same amount of work and quality. At Extra Space Storage, I know if anything like that were to happen again, everybody on the team would not only be encouraging, but the business as a whole would be right there behind me, backing me up and supporting me. It’s just a good place to work. They make you feel like you’re part of the family.

Q: What advice would you give future Software Engineers who want to work at Extra Space Storage?

Perez: Do your work with passion. That comes naturally when you’ve got a good working environment and a good culture.

Ruller: Working at Extra Space Storage is unique and not like any other company that I’ve worked for before. They are super accommodating of anything you need. Everybody at Extra Space Storage is great—they really know how to pick and choose who they hire, which shows in the company’s culture. The second thing is, we are using a lot of cutting-edge technology. Whether you want to work on the front end or the back end, you’re going to enjoy what you’re working on. It’s refreshing.

Nunez: I have worked at other places where I had to work on old and poorly designed technology. At Extra Space Storage, you get to play with the new toys! Also, the work-life balance is unparalleled. It’s a lot of hard-working people who enjoy doing what they do and have a good personal life balance, and I appreciate that. My advice for people that want to work at Extra Space Storage is to go for it!

Higbee: My advice for working somewhere like Extra Space Storage is keeping in mind the values you have as a developer and those that correspond to where you want to be. There is also the work-life balance, which I appreciate. I can get into work, put a hard day in, be that resource for others, and grow personally, but when I’m done at the end of the day, I know I can relax and let things go.

May: I would agree that the work-life balance is awesome here. They want you to have time with your family and want you to separate work from home. One piece of advice if you were to interview at Extra Space Storage is to be yourself. Be who you really are in person because that’s what we’re looking for.

Interested in a career with Extra Space Storage? Learn more about our company culture and employment opportunities.