Flock Freight vet Brian Leonard on the opportunity for career growth, our genius engineering team, and more
True Flock Freight veterans like Brian Leonard have made us the hard-hitting force in the freight space that we are today. To help you see your opportunity for professional growth at Flock Freight, we interviewed Brian about his role, career, and favorite memories.
How do you define your role at Flock Freight?
Brian: As a Staff Software Engineer, I do back-end and front-end development, handle code review, verify other engineers’ work for quality assurance, collaborate with product managers on epics when I’m an epic champion, and interview job candidates. This past week, I got a new responsibility as Dev Lead, which means I’ll be working with engineers and making sure epics are on track to hit their goals.
Tell us more about your professional growth at Flock Freight.
Brian: Succinctly, I went from Software Engineer to Senior Software Engineer to Staff Software Engineer — and now have this added Dev Lead role. I’ve been here for almost five years. When I started as a full-time Software Engineer, I was the third person on the Engineering team and the 12th hire in the company. At one point, I was finishing my master’s at UCLA while working here full time. That was painful because I was driving up to Los Angeles once or twice a week. But the commute only lasted 10 weeks, so it wasn’t that bad.
Anything you want to highlight about your time at Flock Freight?
Brian: I’ve been here for such a long time that I’ve contributed to every part of the application, which is unique. For the first couple of years, I worked on every functionality of the app as it came along.
What were you doing in previous roles?
Brian: This was my first full-time job. Prior to that, I had interned at a company called SeatAdvisor, which Lu (our Chief Technology Officer) was at. Lu called me one day as I was interning at SeatAdvisor and said, “SeatAdvisor can’t hire you full time, but I’m going to this company called ‘Auptix’ (which is now Flock Freight) and I want you to come with me!” And I said, “Sure!” It was a pretty simple decision because I love working under Lu.
What else did Lu include in his pitch about Flock Freight?
Brian: Lu mentioned the environmental impact of Flock Freight’s business model. I remember him saying it had the potential to reduce fuel emissions because there’d be fewer trucks on the road. He also said this was an idea that was entirely new to the space — that he thought it was going to take off and be huge. I’d never really heard him talk like that before; knowing he’d worked at other startups, I had a feeling that sentiment meant something coming from him. I really trusted Lu’s opinion on that. He said that five years ago, and, so far, he’s been correct!
It’s great that you got to stick together!
Brian: Yeah! Lu has brought a lot of talent to the team and recruited several people he’s worked with in the past. I’ve worked with at least five people on our current team before, and one I know from school. Most of us are all connected in some way.
So, our product and engineering team is pretty tightknit?
What’s the relationship between your role and freight optimization?
Brian: We implement the features that help with freight optimization — like preparing shipments for pooling — and do a lot of pricing.
How does your role support our mission?
Brian: One of our bigger roles is automating processes for our internal team and giving our staff bandwidth to focus on other things. When I started, there was a team that had to do all sorts of processes — like filling out freight bills and covering quotes for carriers — manually. A lot of those manual processes don’t exist anymore. Now, a shipper orders a quote, and a lot of those processes are done for them. As a result, internal teams can devote more time to pooling and calling carriers, rather than performing manual processes.
What is it about Flock Freight’s technology that gets you excited about your role and what you do here?
Brian: What gets me excited is the number of features we still need to implement, which makes a huge impact on the team every week. It’s not like we work on something for months on end or years on end and then maybe it has some small impact on a small percentage of customers. We can work on something for two days and it can drum up business immediately. The company is at a size where we still have so many features to implement that we can quickly have a huge impact on our internal team and our external customers — shippers and carriers.
Engineers don’t necessarily see the impact of their work as quickly at other companies?
Brian: Not for most medium- to large-size companies. For example, I interned at a large company in college and worked on a load balancer for a popular website. (A “load balancer” determines which servers requests route to.) This project had almost no impact on site users and was much less inspiring than the ones we work on at Flock Freight, which make a tangible impact right away.
What’s different, if anything, about Flock Freight’s Product and Engineering team compared to others you’ve been on in the past?
Brian: The care for the product. I think everyone on this team wants to deliver the best product as fast as possible. And everyone is “all in” on Flock Freight’s mission as well. It’s not just a handful of engineers doing their work, then going home eight hours later. It’s everyone trying to accomplish goals that help the company on a larger scale, even if that means working longer hours. If we need to put in long workdays, everyone’s willing to put the company’s well-being first. I love that about the team.
What have you learned at Flock Freight that has improved you both personally and professionally?
Brian: Being here and working with Nick Strecker, our Director of Engineering, has taught me how to be a better engineer — in terms of both coding and engineering best practices. An example of coding best practices is the particular way you write your code, while examples of engineering best practices include breaking up large, difficult tickets into smaller pieces and finding different ways to approach them. Flock Freight has offered our engineering team the chance to master these best practices. I can summarize that answer as “being agile.”
What do you like to do outside of work?
Brian: Well, mostly, I play beach volleyball. I also like playing guitar and staying fit.
Do you have a beach volleyball rating?
Brian: Yeah, I’m AA. I’m hoping to make that AAA soon, maybe this summer.
Where’s your favorite spot to play?
Brian: Moonlight Beach, which I went to growing up. I’m really excited about the new office location in Encinitas because it’s right next to Moonlight Beach!
Anything else you want to add, maybe a favorite memory at Flock Freight?
Brian: Starting at an office in Vista with 10 or less of us. The Flock Freight application had only one form with about four inputs (pickup date, commodity type, and that was about it). The next thing I knew, we were celebrating our Series A and Series B funding rounds. The celebrations for the funding rounds are my favorite memories, not necessarily because of the celebrations themselves, but because of the milestones we’d hit. Those celebrations marked the days everything started to come to fruition, helped us realize that the past year or two of work had been worthwhile, and signaled we were on track to do well.