Welcome to the Life at Procore blog, where we shine a light on Procorians across the globe who are living our values of ownership, openness and optimism as we work to improve the lives of everyone in construction. They are Groundbreakers in every sense of the word, and these are their stories.
Today’s post features Jay, a staff data engineer who is making his dreams a reality in the world of big data.
What is the impact of your role?
Construction technology makes a difference in the lives of real people—the tools and apps we’re building are saving them time and money so they can get their work done safely and more efficiently. As more and more customers and projects collaborate on the Procore platform, there will be ripple effects across the entire construction ecosystem.
I’m an engineer on the platform team in the data and artificial intelligence (AI) division. We build the Procore platform and enable internal teams and customers to generate value from the information that flows across it. Big data exploded a few years ago, and AI is a very hot topic at the moment. As a metaphor, AI is like the new electricity, and data is what powers it. I’ve been in this role for about two years, and I’m grateful to work with many talented folks to help bring the power of Procore to the world.
Data is a valuable component of the modern platform because its trends and insights help inform strategic decision-making. When I first joined Procore, we didn't have a real-time data platform—it was more like a batch of information that lagged a day behind. Several months later, we set off on a mission to get our customers their data at a much lower latency. There were challenges along the way, but in the end, we significantly reduced the delivery time to well below the requirement. This improved the customer experience by making data readily available to be reportable. It was a huge team undertaking, and while I only worked on the first part of it, it’s one of my proudest Procore moments yet.
Can you tell us more about yourself?
I was born and raised in Chengdu, China, which is the capital city of Sichuan. The city is famous for its giant pandas and delicious spicy cuisine. My wife and I now reside in Austin, Texas, and have two daughters—a ten-year-old born in China and a seven-year-old born in the US.
I try to spend as much time as I can with my daughters because one day, they won’t think I’m cool anymore and will prefer to play with their friends instead. Until then, we play tennis, go to sports practices and explore new places together. This year, we went on a family trip to Yellowstone for the first time, and it’s now one of my favorite places in the world. Beyond that, I’m a huge Marvel fan and have seen all of their movies. My favorite is Infinity War, which I’ve watched over ten times.
In 2006, my journey into the software world began when I took a job as a software engineer to do backend project management work. It’s a vast field, so I made it my mission to expose myself to as many areas as possible. When the iPhone launched in 2007, I joined a mobile distribution digital asset management company on their mobile management solution. When the mobile world exploded a few years later, I helped a new company build their mobile web solution.
In 2012, the business I worked for was acquired by a US-based company, which is why I moved to Austin, Texas. From there, I did cloud computing work before I joined Expedia’s big data team. I had been in the data space for almost ten years, and when I envisioned my next five years and where I wanted to focus my time and energy, I realized data and AI were it. The AI field was hotter and more challenging to get into so I pursued the data side of things to learn more about AI. I’ve worked in big data since 2017, but I see myself doing more AI and computer vision work over the next five to ten years.
What brought you to Procore?
In September 2020, my friend who worked at Procore told me about the company and how it was growing fast yet still felt like a startup, which interested me because I enjoy a fast-paced, creative atmosphere. After my friend introduced me to Procore’s hiring team, I was immediately impressed by everyone’s kindness and genuine interest in helping me join the team.
As the interview progressed, it became apparent that Procore invests in its company culture, and everyone cares about what they are building together. Many industries are already digitized, and the construction industry is just getting started, so I knew I wanted to be a part of that journey.
Where do you do your best work?
I prefer to work from home in a dark room that doesn't have much natural light. It helps me focus for long periods of time without distractions. It’s easy to jump on Zoom calls to knowledge share, train and bond with my team. That’s my personal work style, and I’m grateful to work for a company that gives me that choice.
What makes Procore a great place to work?
Hands down, the people and company culture—especially my team and the folks I work closely with. Everyone is willing to help and give five minutes of their time to explain something that would otherwise take hours of sifting through documentation to find.
I also love Procore leadership’s vision to focus on what we’re currently doing and also find new ways to help improve lives in the construction industry years later. For instance, Procore’s most recent acquisitions of companies like LaborChart and Levelset will help our customers access a more complete view of the construction process so they can build smarter. Our leaders are the right captains to steer the ship, and I trust them to lead us into the next few years and beyond.
What is something you do to help others get into the engineering field or in the construction tech space?
In my role, I am thankful for the opportunity to mentor many junior engineers. My standard approach is to roll out things in different phases. Upon joining, I provide a high-level overview of what we're building here. Then, I work to understand their preferred learning style—some people want very little guidance whereas others want more. After they build up their understanding and confidence, I step back and give them the driver’s seat to make their own decisions. If they get it wrong, we fix it together. That’s how I was trained, so I want to pay it forward by helping others grow in their careers.
What is your reaction to being called a Groundbreaker?
It’s a very honorable recognition that I’m grateful for. My understanding of a Groundbreaker is someone who builds something from scratch and makes an impact. That’s what we’re doing here at Procore, and the coolest part is we’re doing it together.
What is your favorite way to spend a day off work?
My favorite way to spend a day off work is with my kids. We’re currently working on a small self-driving car for a competition in a few weeks. They are learning Python and can do some small stuff with their coding knowledge, like turning the car and moving the camera. They pick things up so fast, and it brings me a lot of happiness to see how much they enjoy it too.
Any tips for aspiring Procorians?
You don’t need to come from a construction background to become a Procorian. You’ll have a week-long immersive orientation session to help lay the groundwork and will learn so much as you go. If you see a role that interests you, apply!
A big thank you to Jay for sharing his story!
We’re always looking for Groundbreakers like Jay to help us continue to improve the lives of everyone in construction. Explore a career with Procore today or join our Talent Community to stay connected.