Meet the Tallizen: Lee
Get to know the people behind the company that’s on a mission to make people less stressed and better off financially.
August 16, 2023
Lee Howett is a Senior Android Engineer at Tally based in Vancouver, Canada. As a part of the Engineering team, Lee is on the front lines, building meaningful products and features that have a meaningful impact on Tally’s members. This involves being a driving force for architectural improvements on the backend, while also crafting a beautiful user experience for our members on the front end.
Throughout his week, Lee is constantly thinking about how to deliver value to members quickly and securely, with the ultimate goal of helping people to be less stressed and better off financially. Reflecting on his time at Tally so far, Lee shares that “even the smallest improvements like changing how we word some piece of text to be easier to understand, or changing the order of things to help members get what they need faster, add up to huge improvements over time.”
A Day in the Life of a Tallizen
Walk us through a day in your life. What does a typical workday look like for you?
I always start my day on a high note, eating breakfast and having a little bit of fun play time with my two year old daughter, Charlotte. Then I drop her off at daycare and come back to my home office to get started on the work day. I generally start by getting caught up on any messages or emails that came in after hours the day before, then I look at my meeting schedule and plan out which work areas I want to prioritize for the day. My work time is probably split about 1/3 meetings and 2/3 focus time on coding and problem solving tasks. I generally start my day relatively early, and this means that I (usually) get to finish my work day relatively early too! And since I work from home, the lack of a commute also helps contribute to maximizing my time with family, which is very important to me. I love that Tally understands and values work-life balance as much as I do.
What has been the highlight of your time here at Tally?
There are so many of these. In terms of events, the Client Engineering team did a virtual cooking lesson a couple years ago where we had an instructor teach us how to make paella. This was a ton of fun to do, and since then paella has become one of my favourite dishes to make at home!
In terms of our actual product, I have to say it's been incredibly rewarding to see our app slowly evolve over the several years I've been here. It continues to improve every day and one of my favourite things to do is to load up a really old build and compare it to what we have today. Even the smallest improvements like changing how we word some piece of text to be easier to understand, or changing the order of things to help members get what they need faster, add up to huge improvements over time.
What advice would you give to folks trying to get into your field?
I think a lot of people probably think of programming as this magical black box that seems impossible to understand. The truth is, there's no magic! If you have a natural curiosity and start simple, everything you learn will build on itself until suddenly you're an expert.
I was hooked on coding from a young age by playing with simple toys and games. I loved the idea that I could give some instructions to something and watch it carry out those instructions. Once I discovered the loop of testing something, seeing how I could improve it, making changes, and testing again, I was captured and never looked back. Over time, the problems and solutions have become ever more complex but just as rewarding as ever.
These days, there are countless toys and video games that you can try that will introduce you to the basic fundamental concepts of coding in a fun and rewarding way. This is true whether you're a kid or an adult!
What would you be doing right now if you weren’t in your current role?
If the sky's the limit, I think I would probably be a pilot. I've always been fascinated with air travel for lots of reasons. Not only can you get to far away places very quickly, but when you're in a plane you get to see the world from a perspective that just isn't possible from the ground. I love staring out the window when I'm flying and seeing amazing things.
If you could switch jobs with anybody else at Tally, who would you switch with and why?
I have a huge amount of respect for the people on our Member Success team. As an engineer, it's sometimes easy to get lost in the technicalities of our work. Our Member Success team gets to interact directly with the people that we are working so hard to help. One of my favourite segments of our company Town Hall meetings are the member stories, where we get to hear about real people (with identities changed of course!) who have used our product, and how we've helped them. I love hearing these because it helps motivate me to work hard and make sure we are doing the best we can for the people who need us.
Which of Tally’s core values - Don’t Say Nothing, Own the Outcome, Change Shoes Often - resonates most with you and why?
"Change shoes often".
One of the things that I love most about Tally is the emphasis placed on empathy, both for our members and for our employees & coworkers. This core value drives everything we do and really connects my day to day interactions, and the work I do, with the company mission of helping people to be less stressed and better off financially.
Why did you pick the career that you chose? What do you love about your chosen field?
As I mentioned earlier, I was hooked at a young age on the core loop of programming. I knew early on that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. At a previous job, I worked on a product that involved a physical robot that could be programmed to do various things using a graphical programming language that we developed in-house. This product ended up being used in schools to teach kids the basics of programming. Seeing videos of kids using this product and really enjoying themselves sparked something in me, and made me realize that not only was I enjoying the work that I did, but I could also use my skills to enrich the lives of other people. Tally has given me an opportunity to build a product that has a meaningful impact on the lives of real people and this is what I love most about what I do.
Tell us about one of your favourite vacations.
Before our daughter came into the picture, my wife and I used to love to travel to Europe whenever we could. One of my favourite destinations is Germany - on one of our visits there we went to Oktoberfest in Munich. Definitely an unforgettable experience! I also loved Italy for the food and the stunning scenery.
Tell us something that people would be surprised to know about you.
I used to be a pretty avid motorcyclist and would ride everywhere I went. Unfortunately I don't own a bike anymore, but never say never!
What are three things you can’t live without?
1. My phone, for obvious reasons! Love watching YouTube videos.
2. I'm a bit of a snacker. My wife makes a delicious homemade granola that I eat with greek yogurt. Chef's kiss!
3. My daughter, Charlotte, of course. She puts a smile on my face every time I see her.
What are you binging on TV right now?
Nightingale in Vancouver, BC.
What’s something you collect?
Do USB cords count? I don't know where they even come from but I have a lot of them.
Go-to delivery order?
Either yam tempura rolls or korean fried chicken, yum!
Best board game?
Ticket to Ride!