We’re excited to kick off our Employee Spotlight series at Finch. Throughout this series, we’ll feature our talented team members & why they joined Finch.
For our first Spotlight, we checked in with John Skilbeck. Currently based in his hometown of Los Angeles, he shared his story of transitioning from accounting to engineering—and what excites him about working at Finch.
What do you do at Finch?
I'm a software engineer. I started at Finch about a year ago, and the experience has been a really positive one. I spend the majority of my time working on new and existing integrations.
Finch is a universal employment API that interacts with systems that are really old and clunky. So, that's where I come in. I build integrations against legacy software. I love problem-solving, so, to me, finding solutions feels like an itch that needs to be scratched. I love working here because there's always a new set of challenges. It’s really dynamic.
Why did you decide to become a software engineer?
I originally went to school for accounting. After graduation, I started working at a Big Four accounting firm. While there, I developed an interest in automating processes. It all started with some financial analysts showing me how they automate projections using Excel, and then more advanced stuff like SQLs, databases, and running queries. That’s when I thought, “Okay, cool. This is pretty interesting.”
I kept honing my skills, and eventually, I found myself working in the finance sector doing data engineering. From there, I made the move to software engineering.
That’s a big change. What was that transition like?
I loved accounting during school, but the actual practice at my job just never really clicked for me. It’s like, you have four years to guess what you want to do for the rest of your life, and if you get it wrong, it’s just so crushing. That’s what I experienced as an accountant. You learn something once, and then you’re on repeat for 40 years until you retire.
As a software engineer, you can't do that. You have to be constantly learning. I was always interested in that kind of thing. Finch is my second role as a sort of general software engineer, and it’s been really rewarding.
What brought you to Finch?
At my last company, we had five teams each working on their internal services API, and within my team, we had two or three APIs. I was responsible for one of them—the search API—and I got a lot of fulfillment out of the process.
When I first connected with Finch, they said "Yeah, we’re an API company, and you would get to do that all day." It was interesting to me from the start, and it really resonated with what I liked doing in my previous role. I'm so impressed with what the team has done in such a short amount of time. It feels like we’ve captured lightning in a bottle, to have such exciting demand for a product that just didn’t exist before. It feels like we’re creating a new market.
What’s your favorite part about working here?
We’re at an exciting stage of growth. This is the smallest organization I’ve joined. After spending time at larger companies, I knew I wanted to be at an early-stage startup. It’s refreshing to work with a group of folks where everyone is a core team member. I’m looking forward to the impact that we’re creating both internally and externally.
What do you do outside of work for fun?
Before COVID, my girlfriend and I were living in San Francisco in separate apartments. But we’ve been spending the pandemic together in Los Angeles, where I grew up.
We love to go hiking. My girlfriend has a dog named Mickey, and it’s been amazing hanging out with him. He’s so lovable—he’s like this furry thing the size of a football with a mouth and eyes, and it’s pretty cute. So, yeah, we like going on hikes with Mickey.
What’s something that you're proud of?
I’ve climbed Half Dome twice. It was really intense but also pretty cool. I’m also happy to have finally found a career that I truly enjoy.
If you could switch jobs with anyone at Finch for a month, who would it be?
During your first week at Finch, you sit through sales calls with Ansel, the COO and co-founder. I’ve discovered that there’s a lot of excitement around what we’re building. It’s indicative of how poorly employment systems are positioned for the current engineering age. So, I would temporarily switch with Ansel because I would have so much satisfaction on a daily basis seeing how our product is such a hit with our customers.
What are you looking forward to in the upcoming months?
We’re working on at least six new integrations for both large and small organizations. I’m also working on non-customer features to maintain code stability as we scale.
If you were to describe Finch in one word, what would it be?
Challenging. In the best possible way.
What motivates you?
I enjoy building products knowing that they’ll be used directly by external developers. Working as a data engineer kept my interactions limited to internal teams. Now, as a software engineer, there’s a level of satisfaction that comes from working with external teams and creating meaningful, impactful tools.
What’s something that you’ve learned during your time at Finch?
I’ve learned a lot about older technologies and how the web works. At my last company, we used five services, so you get to know them inside and out. At Finch, I’ve been exposed to all sorts of different systems and services because I have to integrate with what the client is using. So, the systems range from a couple of years old to 20. It’s basically the history of the web.
Finally, what’s the best advice you can give to someone who just started their career?
Don’t be intimidated by things breaking down. Early on, I’d get very intimidated by error messages. I’d spend days consumed by an error message. I’d text any engineering friends I had to see if they knew how to solve it and just stew. You need to roll up your sleeves and try to reason around what is happening. If it’s a library, dive into its source code or open issues. If it’s an integration, check the status code and/or response body, etc. Go deep. Try to figure out what’s going on, and keep at it.
Interested in joining the Finch team? We’re hiring! Check out our open positions here.