It’s hard to describe what a typical day at Nava is like because no two days are ever the same. Every day brings new projects, challenges, and opportunities. So we’re sharing just a glimpse of what work is actually like for different people at Nava. Here’s what Kat Tipton, Senior Engineer, has been up to lately.
Kat Tipton is a senior engineeer at Nava.
Photo by Kristin Lewis
Right now I’m on the bench, which is our holding space when projects have a gap between them. There’s a handful of things we do on the bench, such as general admin and project clean up that you don’t get to do when you don’t have downtime. So I’m doing things like double checking that all of the docs are archived in a nice way, or personal cleanup of my system and my editor environment.
I’m also working with a few others on the bench and the Business Development team, researching technical recommendations for proposals. Then, I’m doing some personal research into the project that I’m going to wind up on, such as that agency’s tech environment. I’m also taking this time to catch up with folks that I worked with on previous projects or folks in the ERGs.
On crunchy technical problems
My favorite thing to do is software archeology, which is a good skill to have in government software engineering. I really love diving into an existing codebase and debugging through what’s going wrong or, if we need to implement a new feature, figuring out how that is going to interact with all of these existing components. I like the challenge of implementing a new feature in a way that makes a cohesive whole with what already existed instead of just tacking it on.
Of course, sometimes you do have to just tack it on because the deadline reigns and you accrue technical debt in an intentional way. But a lot of times you can avoid more technical debt by being really thoughtful and really immersing yourself in the existing system. That's really important for preventing existing software from becoming legacy software: being able to keep a full vision of a piece of software even as you add in new features.
On maturing skills
I really appreciate that Nava has given me a space to deepen my skill sets. Whenever I talk to my managers, I have a bad habit of saying “I’m not good at that, so let’s find a project to help me get better at that.” And my managers have always pushed back and asked me, “Do you actually want to do that? Is that a skillset that you want to cultivate?” And when I say no, they’ll tell me, you don’t have to learn every skill. You have a lot of colleagues with a lot of different skills. My managers have supported me in focusing on the things that I love and fuel my passion.
One skill that I felt like I’ve matured in is mentorship and feeling more confident in mentoring beginning-career engineers. Nava has been a great place to do that, between our apprentice program and our willingness to hire all levels of engineers when we can.
Outside of work
When I’m not at work I can be found bicycling around DC, paddle boarding on the Anacostia, a beautiful river here in DC, and playing complicated board games.