Profile: Justin Bachorik, Lead Web Developer

“I feel incredibly lucky that I get to spend each day collaborating with talented, thoughtful colleagues to solve challenging problems for a widely-loved mission-driven organization.”

Editor’s note: Justin left NPR to pursue a new opportunity at Capital One Labs in July 2017. We miss him and wish him all the best in his future endeavors, and we have maintained his original profile below for posterity.

Justin Bachorik. Photograph by Nara Kasbergen.

Where are you from originally?
I grew up in Bethesda, MD, right outside of DC, though I spent about 10 years living in various parts of New England during and after college before returning to Washington.

What did you major in in college?
I majored in Cognitive Neuroscience and completed significant coursework in Music, as well. I actually only took one Computer Science course as an undergrad, though a few years after graduating I completed a Master’s degree in CS.

When did you join NPR?
September 2013.

What are you currently working on, or what have you recently worked on?
As lead developer for the website (while Joanne Garlow is lead developer for our APIs), my primary projects involve improving and adding features to I also have an active interest in our technical infrastructure, as well as our practices and processes for writing, testing, and deploying code.

What personally excites you about being a developer?
I enjoy taking thorny, complex requirements, distilling them down into their most basic and essential form, and designing and building maintainable systems to address them. In particular, I like thinking about and searching for the most useful abstractions for solving the problem at hand, which requires delicately balancing the project’s immediate demands with those aspects that are most likely to change. Building software that works correctly in the first place can be difficult, but building software that is functional, robust, and understandable to other developers is much more challenging, and I find the task of designing and writing code that speaks as clearly to my teammates as it does to the language’s runtime to be very satisfying. I agree with Steve McConnell’s assertion that our primary technical imperative as developers is to manage complexity, and discovering unexpected ways of doing so is incredibly rewarding.

I also like debugging. ☺

What is your favorite Serendipity Days project that you worked on?
I had a lot of fun building a web app that simulates an NPR One client running on Sega’s Game Gear. In addition to providing an outlet for my love of 8-bit video games, I learned a lot about the Canvas and Web Audio APIs, and working with the soon-to-be-released NPR One JS SDK built by my teammates was a great experience.

When you need to solve a problem with code, do you personally have a preferred programming language?
While I predominantly write PHP and JavaScript in my day-to-day project work (like most of the team), I often use Ruby for utility scripts and miscellaneous tasks, and I like playing around with Haskell outside of the office.

What are some of your hobbies and interests?
I love music. I played jazz piano professionally for a number of years; my “fun fact” is that when I was in college, I had a job playing at Nordstrom’s, working 8-hour shifts once a week. I don’t play as much piano as I used to, but I still gig from time to time, and I try to spend at least a few hours a week practicing. I also enjoy cooking, juggling, playing board games, and watching bad movies.

What is your favorite Tiny Desk Concert out of the ones you attended?
I first learned about Kacey Musgraves through NPR coverage several years ago and have since become a fan, so seeing her perform in person was really cool. I think the best jazz TDC I’ve seen was Chick Corea and Gary Burton; I’d never seen either of them before, and they’re total legends. But my favorite TDC of all time would have to be DakhaBrakha. I hadn't heard of them prior to the concert, and I was blown away by their presence, polish, and unique musical aesthetic.

Aside from the Tiny Desk Concerts, what are some of your favorite things about working at NPR?
Without question, the people. NPR Digital Media is full of smart and friendly folks who share a firm belief in the organization’s mission to create a more informed public, and that sense of common purpose makes for a very fulfilling working environment. I feel incredibly lucky that I get to spend each day collaborating with talented, thoughtful colleagues to solve challenging problems for a widely-loved mission-driven organization. What’s better than that?

Justin Bachorik at his desk at NPR's Washington, DC headquarters, featuring the build manager hat and a penguin award. Photograph by Nara Kasbergen.

What are some tech conferences you have attended in the past, and what were your key takeaways?
I had the opportunity to attend Google I/O last year, and it was by turns intense, edifying, and overwhelming. The sheer size of the event far surpassed any conference I’d been to previously, and there were a lot of great presentations on a huge variety of topics. I particularly enjoyed the talks that took a broad view of the multi-year future of the web and associated technologies, which is not a topic that I consider frequently enough in day-to-day development.
More recently, I participated in DevOpsDays DC; you can read more my experiences there in my blog post about it.

Which tech conferences will you be attending in the future?
Funnily enough, while I was at DevOpsDays DC, I actually won a business-card raffle to Surge 2016, so I’m looking forward to attending that!

Justin can be found on LinkedIn and Facebook and tweets at @justinbach.