Profile: Joanne Garlow, Lead Web Developer

I love solving the hard problems of many systems and components working together at scale.

Joanne Garlow. Photograph by Nara Kasbergen.

Where are you from originally?
I was born and raised in the DC metro area, as were my parents and grandparents.

What did you major in in college?
I have a BS in Physics and an MA in Theology.

When did you join NPR?
December 2003.

What are you currently working on, or what have you recently worked on?
I am the lead developer for the Carbon APIs that power NPR One. My main focus has been on the listening algorithm as well as the performance and scalability of all the systems that support the Carbon services.

What personally excites you about being a developer?
I love solving the hard problems of many systems and components working together at scale. I might cuss a lot when I’m deeply investigating an issue, but when I figure it out, that makes my day. I also like it when I can prevent issues because I understand how all the pieces, including the hardware, fit together. I love when I can find a simple solution to a complex requirement.

What is your favorite Serendipity Days project that you worked on?
I was pretty happy when I got our build process working in Jenkins for the first time. The rest of the team has taken it much further than I did, but it was good to get the first job working and then see how much we’ve done since then.

What are some of your hobbies and interests?
I try to spent a fair amount of time volunteering outside of work, always in areas that have nothing to do with computers. For example, I coach a Special Olympics kayaking team and I lead a group at my church doing political advocacy for ending homelessness. I like being outside, whether it is hiking or camping or biking, and I try to get to a National Park at least once a month. I also love to travel and try to take a trip every 4–6 months to somewhere completely different.

What is your favorite Tiny Desk Concert out of the ones you’ve attended?
The National and the Punch Brothers.

Aside from the Tiny Desk Concerts, what are some of your favorite things about working at NPR?
Friday afternoon happy hours, the enthusiasm and intelligence of everyone I work with, the high regard for work/life balance, having lots of vacation, the general niceness of everyone, the mission of public radio, and a great deal of respect for the reporters and editors who make the content we deliver.

Joanne Garlow at her desk at NPR's Washington, DC headquarters. Photograph by Nara Kasbergen.

What are some tech conferences you have attended in the past, and what were your key takeaways?
In the past 6 years, I’ve attended Google I/O, a MySQL developer conference, and a DevOps conference. At Google I/O, I had to cover a booth by myself, so all I got out of attending that conference was a sense of the culture. I learned more at the MySQL conference and brought back some very specific ideas and improvements. The best thing about the DevOps conference was getting Ted and I together to plan how to "devopsify" our systems, which we are making good progress on now, a year later.

If you were to speak at a tech conference, what would you love to give a talk about?
I would love to present on some of our performance and scalability work and what we’ve learned, but I’m too busy doing the work itself!


Joanne can be found on LinkedIn and Facebook and tweets occasionally at @garlowNPR.