Two years ago, you would’ve found Peter Tountas sitting behind an equity options trading desk teaching himself how to code -- he took long, manual processes done by portfolio managers and traders and automated them. Fast forward to present day and he’s a software engineer at Shiftgig, and changing the way people work.
Peter, a 31-year-old Chicago native, didn’t always have a passion for engineering. After playing baseball in college and bouncing around in the minor leagues for a few years, he was offered a job working at a trading firm in Chicago. His manager offhandedly suggested he try learning the coding language, Python, which ended up being a pivotal point in his career.
He taught himself to write his first line of code, which said, “Hello World.” Peter remembers thinking: “This is it, this is awesome. I can’t believe I made a computer do something.” “Up until then,” said Peter, “I was fairly aimless in my career, with no clear idea of what I wanted to do or what role I wanted to play professionally.”
Hard Work Pays Off
While working at a different trading firm in Chicago, he expressed a strong desire in joining the engineering team but was told, “You will never be a software engineer, well, at least not here...” Shortly thereafter, Peter left this job to pursue his new interest, not letting those sentiments discourage him.
He quickly found that a computer science degree or previous experience in software wasn’t required, but a desire to learn and hard work was -- which didn’t scare him. After almost a year of teaching himself more about engineering and building a web application for his sister’s business, he found an open position at Shiftgig.
Peter was hired in March 2018 and quickly found a place with the rest of the engineering team. With a goal to become a senior software engineer, he has focused on continuing his education by taking various online courses and workshops.
Every morning, after his usual routine of going to the gym and reading tech articles on the bus, Peter starts his workday by doing a coding test so he can get warmed up. From there, he joins the daily scrum with the rest of his team to talk about their to-do lists and any blockers. For the rest of the day, he works on tasks that need to be completed before the next sprint.
More Than Just Coding
Peter clears up a common misconception about engineers, which is that they sit and type away on a computer all day. “When you’re talking things out and brainstorming, that’s when the real engineering work happens. Writing code is just executing the solution you came with up as a team.”
Peter feels that the hardest part of his job is sorting through all the questions that come along when working on a solution to a problem. He summarizes this feeling through a quote by Bertrand Russell: "Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise."
But the stress of the (sometimes) endless questions doesn’t bother him. It actually plays a role in his favorite part of this profession: “I just love building things. It’s fun to work through all those questions and find a solution that works. That’s cool.”
He offers some advice for other people interested in engineering, saying, “You don’t need a degree to get started, there’s a class for everything you want to learn, and if you want a job, show somebody what you built and what it’s trying to solve.”
When asked his favorite part about working at Shiftgig, Peter doesn’t hesitate: “I love the fact that our product helps people pick up money and work how they want to work. The people using it [the Shiftgig app] are probably just like me, people who just want to work.”
At the end of the day, Peter goes home, works on his sister’s platform (pro bono, so he can try out and practice new skills), and makes sure he gets a good night of sleep because tomorrow, he’s got a lot of work to do.
Are you passionate about problem solving like Peter? Good news, we’re hiring engineers. Check out our available positions.