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October 08, 2012

Day in the Life of a Yelp Engineer

Stanford represents on the Yelp Official Blog! Forrest L. takes the hot seat in today's “Day in the Life” blog post. Yelping since the wee age of 16, his love for the site eventually turned into a full-fledged career a few years down the line. 

Favorite Yelp moment EVAR? Hackathon dubstep check-ins. But I won’t ruin it for you -- tell us more, Forrest!



What did you do before coming to Yelp?
I was studying Computer Science at Stanford, with a specialization in Human-Computer Interaction.

How did you first hear about Yelp and the job opening?
I applied for the job on a whim and got it. I have always been a foodie and have been using Yelp since the age of 16, so it was a bit of a shock to suddenly be working on this awesome product I had been using all these years.

What's your title at Yelp and how long have you been with the company?
I’m a Software Engineer on the Biz Team, which builds the website and tools for business owners (biz.yelp.com) as well as Yelp Deals. I’ve been with Yelp since August 2011.

What comprises a typical day for you?
My typical day begins with our team standup meeting, where we get up to speed on what everyone else is working on. After that, most of my day is spent programming - the specifics vary from day to day but they involve some combination of improving the reliability and usability of the site and building awesome new features. This is usually interspersed with copious amounts of Nerf darts and cat pictures.

What's the BEST part of working for Yelp?
The best part of working for Yelp is definitely the people. Everyone here is extremely smart and quirky - you'll discover that the person sitting next to you is a chess master or has written a book on HTML5 in French.

We get to experience the diverse intellectual curiosity of our peers in Friday learning groups, when engineers talk about anything ranging from CSS Preprocessors to British culture, or in small after-work clubs where people learn improv, play board games, and drink whiskey.

But despite our multifarious interests, at the end of the day we’re all working towards a common goal - to build a great site that millions of people use each day.

What is your favorite perk at Yelp?
Darwin. It’s pretty cool having the CEO’s Vizsla roam the office, trying to eat your trash and barking at intruding small children. Just give him a quick back rub as he walks by, and you’ll be on his good side.

What has been your favorite memory at Yelp?
Every quarter we have a hackathon, where we get to build anything we want over the course of two days. This is where we come up with crazy ideas for site features or just some cool toys for the office - including the legendary KegMate and a weather balloon that checked in from space. The project that I’m most proud of was where we turned Yelp Check-Ins into music. We extracted device and city information from each Check-In and turned this live stream of data into (pretty convincing) dubstep!

What separates Yelp from other places you've worked?
At Yelp, we're all about working hard and playing hard. Sure, we have all sorts of shiny toys that add to the experience, but we're still deeply passionate about the products we work on. Unlike other places I've worked at, we don't have very many meetings or bureaucratic processes that get in the way of our mission of getting things done here. Fun distractions, however, are welcomed.

Last, but not least, what would be your one piece of advice for someone interested in your role?
Build stuff. Contribute to open source, work on side projects, and let your passion for engineering show. There’s nothing more exciting than working with someone who’s built an online Pokémon battle arena in their spare time.