Meet Team storEDGE: Eric Hankins, Senior Software Engineer
Jana Haecherl |October 31, 2017 |8 min read
Did you know that storEDGE has the largest technology team in the industry? It’s true. We’re a technology company through and through, created just for self storage. We have dozens of engineers, developers, and programmers on the team working round-the-clock to support our storEDGE products, develop new features, and invent new, creative technology products. One of those innovative, hard-working engineers is Eric Hankins.
Eric Hankins, Senior Software Engineer at storEDGE, graduated from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2007 and started working at storEDGE in 2011. He’s the go-to guy when it comes to systems architecture, product development (frontend and backend), and infrastructure automation - aka, he builds storEDGE software - both what you can see and what you can’t see. He builds the features that self storage owners interact with, as well as the way it functions behind the scenes.
Eric joined the storEDGE team six years ago, and since then, he’s been an integral part of the engineering team - assisting in the development of a multitude of fan-favorite storEDGE features, like certified email, e-sign integration, and our latest business intelligence tools. In his Meet Team storEDGE interview, he talks video games, hiking the Grand Canyon, and what makes a great software engineer.
Name: Eric Hankins
Started at storEDGE: October 2011
How did you become interested in engineering?
The first thing I ever made was a Sim City 2000 website. Being 13 and really into computers, I just thought, “hey, I need to put some information on the internet about Sim City 2000.” It was horrible information, just the same easter eggs that every other website had posted. But, you know, it was my website, so to me, it was the best.
The next website I built was about StarCraft a couple years later. It had rotating gifs and everything. And here I am now, 17 years later. I guess I knew my calling early in life, even though I’m pretty sure the only site visitors were me and my friend from down the street!
What brought you to storEDGE, and what’s your role here?
I moved to Kansas City to be closer to my wife Joanna’s family, and I knew I wanted to continue working in a startup environment. Prior to the move, I worked for Intuit (the company that makes TurboTax and QuickBooks) for a short time, and then for a small startup called Sojern for four years in Omaha, Nebraska. Sojern created the technology integration that put ads and content on print-at-home boarding passes for airlines. The airlines loved it, because it was additional ad revenue for them, but none of the airline customers wanted it. When I started at storEDGE in 2011, the major difference was that here at storEDGE, we were building a product that people actually want. Our technology enables storage owners to do things they couldn’t do before, and it’s fun to build something that people care about and want to use. At the end of the day, that really drives you.
My role at storEDGE has been varied. When I started here I was working on the marketing website because that was the only product we had. Then when we decided to build the management software I was pulled in to help start that project. On those projects I have built the user interface (what you can see), the back end server logic (the thing that makes it function), and coordinated the infrastructure (the hardware that the software runs on). I’ve had my fingers in many of the major functions of the storEDGE platform - at least, I try to anyway.
What motivates you?
The thing that keeps me coming back to work day after day is this idea that I’m making somebody’s life easier. I remember before we wrote the first line of code for the management software, we were interviewing some customers about their needs and this guy was keeping track of all of his leads on an Excel spreadsheet. He was frustrated that none of his coworkers would keep the spreadsheet up to date. Naturally I thought, “Okay, so what if you didn’t have to keep it up to date?” That’s where the idea for our lead tracking came from. The thing that gets me pumped is “what if the software could do that for you and get out of your way so that you didn’t have to think about it?”
What’s been your favorite project so far?
Certified email was really fun to work on. It was one of my earliest hackathon projects. I don’t think I even won that year, and it’s still my favorite. It was the same hackathon when Tim Banks built out two-way texting, and Ryan Troxler built dashboard notifications, so there was stiff competition. I enjoyed building the interface for it, and I’m really happy with the way it looks. It was something that our clients really needed, and I like working on projects that help people. Call pop is a close second favorite for me. It was a fantastic feature and there were lots of cool things to integrate together. Even though I’ve worked on almost every feature, certified email and call pop are my favorite things to demo, hands down.
What aspect of your day-to-day do you enjoy most?
Solving hard problems. It’s funny, because I actually hate brain teasers, but I like solving hard problems that have a point. With brain teasers, you spend six hours doing a puzzle or solving a Rubix cube, and at the end of the day, what do you do with it? Put it in the trash? It’s not fun unless the problem I’m working on helps someone. There has to be something to show for it at the end of all of your effort. Solving problems at storEDGE is fun for me because if I build a new feature and it gets released, I know that the very next day, some number of people are going to be less frustrated and happier than the were the day before.
What makes a successful software engineer here at storEDGE?
Three things: attention to detail, self-sufficiency, and the drive to be better. Those are surprisingly rare traits and they’re really three aspects of the same thing. What I mean is, you need to have the ability to solve your own problems and do careful, thoughtful work. That takes a lot more than just Googling a problem and pasting the first snippet you see on Stack Overflow. It’s having the willingness to dig into something you don’t understand and figure it out. This is a team-oriented environment and there are lots of people willing to help, and self-sufficiency is what eventually takes you from “always needs help” to “always helping.” I can tell right away when someone starts here whether or not they’re going to be a great leader on our team. It’s an attitude, and it’s the way you attack every day problems. It’s truly impressive to me how many people like that we have on this team.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like to read books (mostly science fiction and fantasy). I think the last book I read was a collection of short stories by Arthur C. Clarke. I also like to go running. I loop around my neighborhood in the evenings after work, no headphones. I like being in my own space. It clears my head. I typically run four to six miles, but on the weekends I try to get in an eight to ten mile run. If I ran as much as I wanted, I’d probably run 30 miles a week. I’ve actually only been a runner since I got married. I got it from Joanna. She did cross country in high school, and running is just ingrained in her. Other than reading and running, I just like spending time with her and kids.
What is the top item on your bucket list?
Hike the Grand Canyon. Actually, this is my wife’s bucket list item. But now it’s mine, too, because of the whole marriage thing. I’ve never been there, but I want to go and do the overnight. You hike down into the inner canyon (which is like three quarters of a mile down - it’s way down there), camp overnight, and then hike back out the next day. You have to go across suspension bridges and through these cliffside narrows to get down there. You have to train for it, and I think you have to sign a waiver, too. I’m sure they have to rescue thousands of people a year who can’t handle it. A lighter bucket list item is also Niagara Falls. Neither of us have ever done a hike like that, so maybe we should do Niagara Falls first in case we don’t survive. (Just kidding.)