Interview: Veronica Ray, iOS developer at LinkedIn


Our interview series asks developers, designers, and other knowledge workers to share their favorite productivity tools and techniques, and how they overcome struggles like procrastination and distraction. Read all our interview posts here.

Who are you and what do you do?

I am an iOS developer at LinkedIn on the video team. I’m also a conference speaker and I’m developing an iOS application to educate people about digital security.

What does a typical day look like for you?

On a normal day, I get up at 7:45 and fill out my SELF journal . Then I take the subway to the office where I eat breakfast.

I use my morning for tasks that require intense focus. Most of my meetings are already in the afternoon so this schedule works well. On a typical day, I’ll be doing a code review and then working on a new feature or bug fix.

My afternoons include almost all of my meetings. I might have a 1:1 with my manager, a team retrospective, a company-wide all hands or a team demo.

I go to the gym a few times a week in the afternoons. My brain is usually groggy at 3 pm and going to the gym refreshes me.

At 5 pm we have team standup. If there aren’t any urgent bugs or deadlines looming I’ll head home around 5:30 pm.

What would a perfect workday look like for you?

My perfect workday includes three key elements.

First, I would accomplish something tangible. I love opening a polished code review, fixing a hairy bug, running a meeting or finishing a design document.

Second, I would have an interesting conversation with my coworkers over lunch about current events or the latest technologies. On the best days, we get so wrapped up in our conversations that we have to remind ourselves to go back to work.

Finally, I would exercise. I think more clearly and am happier on days I exercise.

Some days like this have ended right at 5 pm and others have ended at midnight. It’s less about the number of hours I work and more about feeling happy, accomplished and connected to other people.

What does “meaningful work” look like for you? How do you determine what’s meaningful work and what’s not?

The book Deep Work by Cal Newport includes a heuristic that resonates with me for evaluating the depth of your work: How long would it take (in months) to train a smart recent college graduate with no specialized training in my field to complete the task?

Meaningful work engages the skills I have honed over the years: code reviewing, estimation, debugging and writing clean code. It also solves a real business need.


What are your favorite tools or methods for organizing your work?

Every big task I work on gets a Google Doc which functions as a lab notebook. This approach is based on the blog post Software Engineers should keep lab notebooks by Nelson Elhage.

My documents have included planned test cases, current bugs, notes from conversations with coworkers, screenshots of in progress user interfaces and lists of failing tests. I put everything in my brain onto paper so that it isn’t lost when I go home for the day or have a meeting.

How do you avoid distractions and stay focused?

Over-ear noise canceling headphones. The headphones block out the noise and stop people from interrupting me. I moved to over ear headphones because I have really long hair and my coworkers didn’t notice when I was wearing in-ear headphones.

Feeling stuck is also a recipe for distraction. This is one of my biggest struggles. I try to always have some way of moving forward on a thorny technical problem. It could be reaching out to someone who knows more about the code than me, setting breakpoints and exploring the code myself or writing down ideas and questions in a paper notebook.

Do you listen to music while working? If so, what do you like to listen to?

I can only listen to instrumental music while I work. Right now I’m really into house music. I love Spotify playlists like Brick By Brick and Brain Food.

What do you do outside work to wind down and recover?

I’ve been listening to the Call Your Girlfriend podcast, tending to my plants, making stovetop popcorn, going to queer events and sending handwritten letters. I also love foam rolling and practicing yoga in my kitchen.

Get in touch with Veronica on Twitter at @nerdonica or on LinkedIn.

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Belle B. Cooper

Belle is an iOS developer, writer, and co-founder of Melbourne-based software company Hello Code. She writes about productivity, lifehacks, and finding ways to do more meaningful work.