Jumping Aboard the High-Speed Train

I used to feel it was cliché to talk about having a job where ‘no two days are the same’. But at Leverege I can confidently say that no two days are the same, and it’s been pretty great that way.

Corey Chang

Before I joined Leverege, I spent 4 years in technology consulting. It was my first job out of college. In school, I majored in electrical and computer engineering. I loved working at the intersection of hardware and software and understanding how our digital world boiled down to the physics of transistors and gate-level logic. 

Like many engineering students coming out of college, I saw myself at an important crossroads. I took several semesters of programming and did a software development internship during the summer before my senior year. The same company where I interned had offered me a full-time position after graduation, so I thought maybe I could cut it as a software developer. But while I liked the technical nature of it and the team I worked with, I couldn’t see myself sitting at my desk and coding all day. 

Coding was tedious to me and I would be working exclusively with a team of engineers. What I really liked doing was working across teams, working with stakeholders across an organization to solve problems and build a product that was sound both from a technical and business perspective. I liked working with people, and I wasn’t sure that a job in software development would give me that.

Big Projects, Big Learnings, Big Inertia

That’s when I decided to take a job in technology consulting, so I joined a big firm with hundreds of thousands of employees across the globe. I believed it would give me the most exposure to every aspect of how software was sold, built, deployed, and maintained at the enterprise level. 

And for the most part, that held true. After a few months on my first project, I was handed ownership of an entire work stream after the previous owner had abruptly left the project.  As an analyst who was still very green, I was now responsible for the definition and delivery of a major feature on a multi-million dollar system. Over the next 9 months, I worked tirelessly with clients to define requirements, our developers to build the system, test teams to validate, and end-users to train on and support the system. I learned more in those 9 months than I had learned in any prior job or school assignment, the lessons from which I still draw upon to this day.

I operated in similar roles for the next few years on a variety of projects, working on mid-to-large-sized teams to stand up enterprise systems of all sorts. I took some projects where I traveled every week, others where I got to work from home, moved down to the south, and then later moved back to the northeast. Throughout that time I saw what it meant to lead a project successfully and build good software, and also what it meant to do both those things poorly.  

When I neared my four-year mark, I took a moment for self-reflection and asked myself if this was still what I wanted to do. The answer was no. And while a number of factors played into that answer, the most notable ones were:

  1. The size of teams and agility - By nature of having large teams, things moved slowly. Software implementations were measured in years, work can be siloed, and at times individual impact was hard to measure among the layers of the organization.
  2. A shared belief in the goal - With contract-based work at a large consulting company, projects change and team members come and go. Without everyone marching toward the same goal, it became hard to find a shared sense of purpose and easy to focus on climbing the corporate ladder.
  3. The technology - Most enterprise IT systems are not sexy. Lots of energy and money was spent maintaining legacy systems, cleaning up years of historical issues, and patching to keep things afloat instead of moving the needle forward.

I thought about what would be the exact opposite of this kind of work environment, and my mind jumped to one thing: startups. That night I began searching for startups in the Baltimore area and Leverege came up in the results. While I didn’t know exactly what an IoT platform was, I knew in order to build software well in an industry as nascent as enterprise IoT, they had to be using technology more cutting-edge than I was working with. After researching more about the company and learning more about the team, I applied online to an open position. 

It was 9 PM at night. I was floored when 20 minutes later I got an email response from an actual human with some follow-up questions.

Aligning Aspirations

A couple of weeks later, I had a phone interview with Eric Conn and Steven Lee, co-founders of Leverege. In our discussion, I distinctly remember one question that Eric asked me. I had previously been explaining that while I had experience working in a customer-facing role on big technology projects, I was also looking for a role where I could get back to my engineering roots and get my hands dirty with hardware or software. He replied, “Got it, so in a day’s work, what would be your ideal mix between project management and tinkering with Arduinos?” 

When Eric asked me this, it took me by surprise because I’ve never had an interviewer ask me something like this before. I was prepared to defend myself, to explain why I wanted to do more than write requirement documents and why I was qualified and deserving of the chance to get more involved on the technical side. 

Instead, I got an “Awesome! So how do you want to make it happen?” It signaled to me that Leverege wasn’t looking to simply fill a role. Rather, they were looking for a genuine fit from both sides. It showed me a lot about the culture, that they understood that people wanted the opportunity to be challenged and to grow their professional career, and that building a strong, lasting team meant aligning aspirations of the individual with the aspirations of the company.

Hopping on Board

Starting at Leverege was a bit of a shock to me. I spent my first few days understanding the company, the technology, and learning from other project managers about some of the systems we had built for our customers. I was immediately blown away by how fast things moved here. 

Projects were measured in days and weeks, not in years like I was used to - so to me it felt like jumping onto a high-speed train. The crazy thing was that you would never suspect it was built so quickly by looking at how detailed and thoughtfully designed the interfaces were. I thought to myself: How was this possible?

The answer is the people. The people are what really make Leverege tick. 

To create such impressive systems in a short time, we have cross-functional teams of engineers, designers, and project managers working to create the best product possible. Each team member brings their own set of strengths that are essential to the success of the project, and I’m continually amazed by the talent, ambition, and culture of the team here. 

Communication is fast, transparent, and forthcoming. Opinions are valued and people are always willing to provide a helping hand. As a result, the standards are equally high. To be proactive in your work and accountable for your actions is the expectation.

Lastly: the work. It’s hard to define exactly what project managers at Leverege do simply because of how many different things we end up doing. In its most general form, I serve as the voice of Leverege to the customer, where I work with them to define the scope, set timelines, clarify outstanding items, and manage expectations. 

I also serve as the voice of the customer to Leverege, where I work with our engineering and design teams to break down tasks, prioritize features, provide input on designs, and troubleshoot issues. There are times when I’m talking with customers most of the day, others when I’m at my desk doing heads-down work, and others when I’m setting up hardware at a customer site. By the nature of being a startup, there are opportunities to get involved in almost any aspect of the business - you just need to take the initiative. 

I used to feel it was cliché to talk about having a job where ‘no two days are the same’. But at Leverege I can confidently say that no two days are the same, and it’s been pretty great that way.

In the end, I’m grateful to be working with a team of really bright, motivated people to build something that I believe can have a meaningful impact on nearly every industry I imagine. When I think about what we’ve accomplished and the possibilities of what we have yet to achieve, I’m excited and hopeful. I’m looking forward to seeing how IoT changes everything.

Corey Chang

Director, Product Delivery

Corey is passionate about using technology to improve the way people live. He studied electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University and previously worked as a technology consultant in large and complex system integration projects. When not helping customers bring their IoT visions to life, Corey enjoys cycling, triathlons, and following the consumer hardware beat.

View Profile

Explore More Stories