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Bee-hind the Scenes: Alan Hietala

by on June 19, 2015

The following is a story from ecobee employee Alan Hietala. Learn more about life at ecobee!

Alan – I graduated from the University of Toronto in Computer Science in 2006. I still keep in touch with the school; I’m part of the Computer Science mentorship program, which I joined three years ago. I want to give back to that community and help future students figure out what they want to do at school and after graduating. I know that I would have benefited greatly from that experience. I received an Arbor Award for my work with UoT, and I think that it was awesome to be recognized for such a great program.

I’m the lead front-end architect at ecobee. This entails being able to guide the vision for our front-end software from a high level and ensure that each component that goes into making the product works together for the customers’ benefit.

A big part of what I’ve done is defining the platform from the front end that has gotten us to where ecobee3 is today. This is not an opportunity I could have had at a larger company. It was tremendously exciting to be a part of. I really enjoy the team environment that we have: everyone is on the same page, and we have a great way of getting work done. It’s a horizontal working environment and we are all interested in achieving greatness, and egos are checked at the door in the process.

A most recent professional highlight for me has been the release of the ecobee app for Apple Watch. Having a day 1 launch of an app that was featured in App Store and came together in just a few months was really great to see and be a part of. Another has been taking the ecobee3 product and redoing the web portal and mobile app in a short time frame to make ecobee3 the success it is. It’s been amazing to see so much of the DNA of our teams go in those apps, know exactly where it came from and the decisions that went into it. The eocbee3 launch was such an awesome milestone for me, and a lot of other people at ecobee too. All the hard work and late nights paid off.

I really enjoy the problem-solving side of my job. We need to look at how to resolve conflicting business needs and work toward building the best system possible. The other great part is getting to work with bright people that are constantly challenging me and showing me new stuff that I did not know so that we are always learning from each other.

A good eco-peep is somebody who doesn’t take themselves too seriously but is also great at standing up for their ideals. Because of the way our teams operate, we are constantly challenging each other and this brings out the best in everyone. A good eco-peep is not going to sit down when something is being done wrong, they will challenge you and say, “you know what, we should consider this and here’s why”. For us, that is such a valuable mindset. Always have that attitude of everyone having something to learn from someone else, and someone will come along and blow your mind. We’ve had junior people teach us new things. These types of people who are hungry to share and learn their knowledge really make for an awesome eco-peep, and add to the dynamic of ecobee.

The drive to keep learning will make you quite successful at ecobee. Our industry is brand new. The Internet of Things is becoming a hot buzzword now. So, the skills that anyone has last year will be different next year – demands are constantly shifting and it’s exciting to need to keep up. Without the desire to learn, especially in our industry, you won’t succeed. The world will change overnight and we have seen it happen here at ecobee a couple of times. We need to be ready to learn and to adapt and be forward thinking and innovative. So many other people are hungry and looking to capture. It’s a gold rush, we need to be on our toes.