Spruce Spotlight: Kevin the Web Engineer

The engineering team at Spruce is comprised of eight people who live in five different countries around the world! We sat down with Kevin, Spruce’s first web engineer, to talk about his career accomplishments, his favorite types of communication technology, and collaborating on a product from 5,514 miles away.

Kevin Smith, Spruce's web engineer

Kevin Smith

Title: Web Engineer
Years with Spruce: 4+
Location: Lübeck, Germany

Thanks for talking today, Kevin! To start off, what do you value most about working with Spruce?

There are so many things I could say right now, so it’s really hard to pick only one! The best part is definitely working closely with such great people at Spruce. I often think about what makes me want to stay here and work with Spruce. Part of the reason is that I have all the freedom I could ever wish for in a role. I can make my own decisions. I’m self managed and I can schedule my own time.

But what it really boils down to is the mutual respect people have for each other. It’s a great atmosphere and everyone is always willing to listen and help without ever being snobby. It’s also the product (laughs), but it’s mostly the people who make it great.

The people are smart and adaptable. I’ve seen people grow out of their original silos to become full stack engineers at Spruce more than anywhere else. People’s talents come to light when you give them opportunity and trust. At Spruce, when someone says they’re up for a task, they’ll run with it and see where it leads.

How do you maintain your relationships with coworkers as a remote employee? 

I engage daily through Slack conversations and Sneek, a new, convenient software we’re using that allows everyone at Spruce to engage by keeping their video open while they work. Before, we were connecting solely through scheduled video chats, which was a hassle. But now we can see each other hanging around almost like we’re in the office. If you want to talk to someone you just click on their face. There’s no delay in waiting for a connection to happen.

I also enjoy participating in weekly Donut chats with my coworkers. These happen when Spruce teammates are randomly matched each week to get coffee (or a donut!). Since I work remotely, we do these “coffee” chats over Zoom. Conversations are either work-related or personal — it doesn’t really matter. It’s all about establishing a human connection and getting to know the people beyond their role at Spruce.

One final element to staying connected with my coworkers is communicating often. It’s hard to overshare when you work remotely. I like to let people know what I’m up to, what I accomplished yesterday, what I’m planning on working on next, etc. There are a lot of tools that different remote workers can use to accomplish this type of communication, all you have to do is stick with it. It can be easy to fall off the wagon, but it’s all the more rewarding when I jump back into staying in touch. I feel right at home.

What are you most proud of in your career?

The Spruce web app is my brainchild. It’s the single project I’ve worked on for an extended period of time and I’m amazed by what’s come out of it. It is used by so many people, which is really humbling to me. When you read the reviews in our reviews channel — Spruce provides easy access to doctors, patients, etc. — that is really inspiring.

It has definitely been a challenge to work on the web app for so long and solve all of the necessary technical difficulties. I’ve grown in ways I wouldn’t have thought was possible. In previous jobs, I exercised skills I already knew. But with Spruce, I’m faced with challenges that I’ve never had before, and I have to be on my toes, on my A-game. It never gets boring!

We hear these stories, like the one where a mental health practice received a message on Spruce that allowed them to act quickly and effectively save someone’s life. That completely blew me away. The fact that I played a role in building an application that was in part responsible for saving someone’s life was really humbling. I get goosebumps every time I think about that story, and others. It’s really a meaningful product that we’re working on.

What’s your go-to coffee order?

I used to drink black drip coffee, but now I have a French Press which I really enjoy. It’s so easy and quick and you have coffee that tastes really good! But I also love a good cappuccino.

Thanks, Kevin!

If you’re interested in joining the Spruce team and working with awesome engineers like Kevin, check out our job listings (like this one for a Frontend Web Engineer)!

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