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Interviews / Software Engineers & Developers

Balancing the Grind with Lee Robinson, Developer, Writer & Creator

Lee Robinson is a developer, writer and creator, based in Des Moines, IA. He’s currently the Senior Software Engineer at Hy-Vee, a $10B grocery tech company in the Midwest.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’ve been coding for almost a decade now, starting when I attended college in 2011.

Throughout college, I had three internships, which led to a full-time job as a Software Engineer after graduating. I’m currently a Senior Software Engineer and lead a team of six engineers. 

Outside of my day job, I help others learn how to code––writing articles, creating programming courses, and answering questions online.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Before COVID, my role was 100% on-site. We’ve since shifted to remote full-time. I’m still adjusting, but so far I’m enjoying it. Here’s an example of a recent workday. 

My morning usually starts by catching up on emails and missed Slack messages.

On average, I’d say I have two meetings per day. I try my best to minimize these. Our first meeting is “standup”, where each member of the team gives a short status update. The second meeting could be related to any of the following:

  1. Working with the Product Owner to understand the requirements for new features. 
  2. Researching the technical scope of projects and trying to evaluate timelines.
  3. Pair programming with other engineers on the team to complete tasks.
  4. Answering questions and clarifying technical direction.

3. Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Yes! We’re still trying to figure out if full-time remote will remain post-COVID. It appears remote working is here to stay in some fashion. I’ve made an effort throughout my career to work for companies that support flexible schedules. 

I’ve tried to take advantage of having a career that embraces remote work. I spent three months abroad a few years ago, traveling and working at the same time.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

To me, it means being in touch with my hierarchy of needs. My wife, family, and friends always come first. I work to live and not the other way around. After that, it’s a matter of making tradeoffs and keeping my schedule flexible. 

You might find me coding on a Sunday night, but not because I have to. I genuinely enjoy coding. I don’t believe in the notion you have to love your work. But, in the process of excelling in your career, it seems you end up enjoying it. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I switched from free-form gym sessions to more structured class-based workouts. They provide the accountability I was starting to lack going on my own.

For better or for worse, I’ve gotten in a routine of creating. That might be coding, videography, music, or writing. I say “or for worse” because it can be hard to turn off. I sometimes struggle with enjoying free time because I feel like I could be doing something productive. Luckily, my wife helps me balance this out and enjoy being “offline”.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Newsletter fatigue is real, but one I never skip is Ben Thompson’s Stratechery. High quality to time ratio. I’m currently reading Company of One by Paul Jarvis. Finally, I highly recommend everything Brené Brown.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

The “can’t live without” bar is high. I’m deep in the Apple ecosystem––iPhone, MacBook, Watch, AirPods, etc. Since I do all my work on Mac, I can’t imagine switching to Windows. 

Outside of that, most of my apps or products have decent alternatives. For example, I love Spotify, but Apple Music would suffice. 

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be? 

Tobias Lütke, Spotify’s CEO. I tried to think of someone who I haven’t previously read about, and who also isn’t a self-described “workaholic”.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

  • Travel as much as possible. 
  • Never let vacation go unused.
  • Work to live. Don’t live to work.
  • Automate yourself out of your job.
  • Prioritize self-care and mental health. 
  • If something makes you unhappy, cut it out.
  • Create passive income by building products that don’t sleep.

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About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.