From Drivetrain Engineering to Developing Software: A Chat with Chris Westra

In case you missed it: last month ScriptDrop announced a partnership with Uber which will allow us to reach even more patients nationwide. But as ScriptDrop grows, our engineering team needs to grow as well. Many hands make light work, especially when that work is pharmacy technology that not only must be agile and innovative but also must be stable and secure.

But growing a team can be challenging. What makes ScriptDrop special for engineers? To find out, we talked with Chris Westra, one of our Tech Leads.

ScriptDrop: Hello, Chris! Tell us: how did you end up as an engineer at ScriptDrop?

Chris Westra: I started off as a mechanical engineer! I graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a Computer Science minor. I came to Columbus to work for Honda R&D, where I designed ATV suspension and drivetrain parts for almost 5 years. In 2012 I decided to switch careers.

ScriptDrop: What was the process of switching careers like?

Chris Westra: I had some background from my computer science minor, but I didn’t have experience with any contemporary technologies. I learned web development through tutorials, then did some projects on my own to build a basic portfolio. I started going to our local Ruby meet up and got a junior position through that. After deciding I wanted to switch careers, it took me about 9 months to make the switch and find a job.

I landed a junior developer role at a startup only a few blocks from my house! It was a dream compared to my old 45 minute commute. I ended up being the startup’s sole developer for a few months. After that I spent 6 years working for consultancies in the Columbus area. Eventually I decided I wanted to work at a product company with a good mission where I could make an impact on the team. That’s what brought me to ScriptDrop in May of 2019.

ScriptDrop: How has your role on the Engineering team evolved over time?

Chris Westra: I work with a much bigger set of people now than when I started. At first I was part of the Patient Team, which consisted of one other developer and one product person. We worked separately from the rest of the organization.

Now I’m a Tech Lead for one of our development teams. As a technical person it's really enjoyable to take a tool meant for a pharmacist and figure out how we're going to make it work behind the scenes. Mainly, I translate ScriptDrop’s company priorities into day to day work for our engineers. I do much less coding than I did when I started, but I still find time to sit down with the keyboard.

ScriptDrop: What do you like about being in engineering at ScriptDrop?

Chris Westra: We have freedom to change things when they're not working for us. The three of us Tech Leads – Izzy Elwyn, Alex Burkhart, and myself – can get together and say, "We need a process for something," decide on our goals, schedule the meetings, and get things done. There isn't anyone telling us we can't do something if we think it needs to happen. We're slowly spreading the responsibility of a few people out into the greater group.

ScriptDrop: So you’re able to empower the rest of your team to make their own decisions, too?

Chris Westra: Right. We’re all able to make mistakes safely here. That doesn't make it enjoyable to fail, but it allows our mistakes to become growth opportunities.

ScriptDrop: What else makes ScriptDrop engineering special?

Chris Westra: This might sound silly, but my favorite part about being in engineering at ScriptDrop is the rest of the company. I like seeing people use the software we create, and we're fortunate that we can easily interact with and learn from some of the most important users of our software – our colleagues. The Customer Success team is so incredibly positive about our tech and provides great feedback. Besides, our work is ultimately about helping people, and the Customer Success Coordinators make that happen every day.

ScriptDrop: What are some things you'd like to see change?

Chris Westra: I'd like to see us hire more engineers! One thing I don’t want to change: the ability to keep a healthy work/life balance. That’s important to me.

ScriptDrop: Speaking of work/life balance: tell us about your musical pursuits!

Chris Westra: I play fiddle in a folk grass band called The Goldsberrys. We've been together for around 5 years. Before that I was a classical musician and sang with the Columbus Symphony Chorus. Then I met the Goldsberrys around a campfire at a music festival and we’ve played together ever since. Pre-pandemic we played at venues and breweries around the Columbus area. Over the last year we've been practicing in a back yard or a garage. We took a hiatus for part of the winter but recorded our third album instead! The band has definitely been one of the keys to my sanity over the last year.

Many thanks to Chris for sharing his journey with us! Next time we’ll hear from our third Tech Lead, Alex Burkhart.

If you or someone you know is an engineer looking for a workplace where they can make a difference, check out the open positions on our Team page.