Optoro is made up of a diverse collection of individuals who have come together to achieve a single mission–to transform the reverse logistics industry by finding homes for used and excess goods. We want to highlight that diversity with our Employee Spotlight blog series, during which we will sit down with a new employee every month to hear a little bit about the people who make the Optoro culture so distinctive.

This week, we caught up with Danielle McDonnough, who explained her growth from start-up intern, to product manager, to software engineer. A continuous learner, Danielle embodies the proactive mentality that’s core to Optoro’s culture. In our discussion, she also gave some great advice to novice developers looking for opportunities and shared what she loves most about our new office!

1. How would you describe yourself in 10 keywords or fewer?

Traveler; learner; fastidious, but easygoing; semi-colon enthusiast.

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Danielle exploring Versailles.

2. What is your role at Optoro, and what do you do?

I’m a software engineer on BULQ, Optoro’s business-to-business platform that sells returned and excess goods in bulk pallets. I work in Ruby and Javascript on BULQ.com and its integration with Optoro’s proprietary software, Optiturn.

3. What did you do before Optoro, and why did you choose to work here?

I started out my career interning at a startup in New York City right out of college, doing a mixture of customer support, graphic design, QA testing, and deploying code. This quickly morphed into a full time role as a product manager, where I learned that my interests lay more on the technical side of the product lifecycle and transitioned into a role as a Quality Assurance Engineer. After helping to grow the QA team and to establish processes and best practices, I wanted to expand my technical knowledge more, so I attended a few programming courses. It didn’t take long to realize that, after six years filling in wherever I was needed as that company grew, what I really wanted was to begin a career as a software developer. I made my case and switched roles once again.

After a couple years, family brought me to DC, and I found Optoro in my job search. What drew me to Optoro was its focus on employee growth and engagement; it was refreshing to see a company that invests in its employees’ careers and overall happiness. The people I interviewed with had been at the company for 5+ years, and were eager to talk about what they’ve been working on and to welcome a newcomer into the fold. It was clear I made the right decision during New Employee Orientation my first week, where representatives from departments across the company exemplified similar values.

4. Do you have any advice for budding software engineers looking to work for a start-up?

Find a project that you’ve recently worked on, or create one in your spare time, and figure out a few things: why you wanted to work on it, how you decided to implement your code and why you made certain decisions, what you learned, what was particularly challenging for you, and how you overcame those challenges. I think it’s not only important to be able to answer the coding challenges in interviews, but to also be able to speak about your specific approach to programming and problem-solving. Sure, knowing the name of a ruby method off the top of your head is certainly useful, but self-awareness and being able to speak about your process intelligently and critically just as important in demonstrating your ability.

5. What’s an example of the types of projects you contribute to? Is there one that you particularly enjoyed?

We’re soon going to be selling cases in addition to pallets on BULQ.com—these boxes are smaller than pallets, and will ultimately help increase recovery for our clients. As part of adding this new lot size, I worked on optimizing Optiturn’s warehouse shipping tool for shipping cases. This was my first major undertaking since joining Optoro a few months ago, and is still ongoing. The opportunity to work on this feature early on meant I was able to contribute to something with obvious business value from the start and get up to speed with my team’s codebase and processes pretty quickly.

6. What is the best part of working at Optoro?

I think it goes without saying that I really enjoy the people I work with everyday and appreciate Optoro’s mission and values. So on a more fun note, my favorite thing would be our brand new office—Compass cold brew on tap, standing desks for everyone, a free gym in the building, lounge areas to work or catch up with co-workers, etc. Even with Optoro’s relaxed work from home policy, there’s really no need for me to stay home.

7. What would you most likely be doing on a normal Saturday afternoon in your free time?

Enjoying a long brunch with my fiancé, and exploring my new city.

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Danielle, with her fiancé, after completing her fifth half-marathon.