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Meet a Dragon: Kurt von Autenried

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Kurt von Autenried is a Software Engineer at Komodo Health. He got his start as a two-time intern at Komodo before taking a full-time role in January of 2022. Kurt is currently wrapping up his master's degree in Computer Science at the Stevens Institute of Technology, where he also competed on the swim team.

What led you to pursue computer engineering as a career?  
I was always a numbers person and preferred math to reading and writing. I enjoyed solving math problems and also figuring out puzzles. Admittedly I was the kind of person to play video games instead of going outside, so I was almost always in front of a computer! Because I am a big Formula 1 fan, I was initially considering mechanical engineering. Ultimately my interest in math and my extended time in front of a screen led me to computer science. 

You started out at Komodo as an engineering intern during the pandemic. What made you decide to seek an internship in software engineering? 
I knew I liked coding and wanted to build applications. When I first started looking for job opportunities and internships I didn’t realize that “computer science internships” weren't typical for the field. Job titles told me very little about the differences between various computer engineering roles so, I knew I needed to explore the jobs myself before I could make a decision about where I wanted to focus. My first summer internship with Komodo helped me learn the differences between a software vs. DevOps engineer, as well as whether Data Science was a possible fit for me. I learned that I enjoy full-stack engineering and that I like writing both front-end and back-end code.

Did you face any unexpected twists and turns given the pandemic era?
Originally I had planned to intern with the software engineering team that summer, but because of pandemic-related changes, I became an infrastructure engineering intern instead. I still consider myself very fortunate that Komodo gave me the opportunity as an intern despite the pandemic. I found it incredible to see the positive company culture even with work-from-home changes and general uncertainty. It was great to be a part of a company that leveraged its technologies to improve healthcare in a time when healthcare was in the spotlight. The experience helped me learn a lot about Komodo and infrastructure/DevOps work and allowed me to hone and build my skills as a computer engineer. I need to thank Vanessa Anderson and Chris Han for mentoring me and teaching me so much that summer!

Are there any other tips you’d recommend for prospective engineers entering the field?
My recommendation for prospective engineers would be to identify the aspect of computer science that really interests you. It’s not all about writing scripts and code — I think that's a common misconception that stems from the way computer science is taught in higher education. Ask yourself if you like working with datasets and generating predictive models. What about UI or API development? I encourage prospective engineers to use those kinds of questions to narrow down to the roles that most interest them.

You’re a collegiate-level swimmer! We’re impressed. Are there any lessons from the pool that you bring into the office?
The obvious lessons I learned were about discipline and time management, and of course, they are valuable. But I feel the bigger lessons swimming taught me were about dealing with failure,  perseverance, and the importance of mental health. Many times, workouts were extremely difficult and it would be easy to give up. I learned how rewarding it is to keep pushing through, and that’s certainly a lesson I try to bring to my work. In addition, there were times when my efforts were not enough to reach my goals. In those times of failure, or when I came up short of my expectations, I became more determined than ever to identify areas for improvement. My experiences with failure in swimming taught me to appreciate the journey instead of focusing on the final outcome. I realized I don’t swim to win or to hit a certain goal. I swim because it is something I genuinely enjoy, and a disappointing result should not detract from that passion. It’s never a nice feeling, but I also felt those experiences helped me understand two of Komodo’s core values: Seek growth and enjoy the ride. Every day, I try to look for areas to improve on, and I feel energized and motivated in the tasks I carry out. 

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Lastly, swimming is a largely mental sport, and it opened my eyes to the importance of mental health. There are many aspects of mental health that apply outside of swimming and in most aspects of my life, such as staying focused on current tasks and not end results. I consider it very important to be mentally healthy in order to bring my best self to work each day.

Are you involved in any other Komodo-led extracurriculars that you’re passionate about?

I am a part of the Pan-Asian Heritage Dragons (PAHD) Affinity group. I grew up in a half-Chinese, half-German family, and PAHD has been a nice way to meet people with similar backgrounds.

Our Dragons are a diverse bunch! Co-workers hail from places as far-flung as Belfast and Mumbai to the American heartland. The uniqueness and diversity reflected in our people make Komodo a stronger team, and we are all united around one common mission: to reduce the global burden of disease. Interested in joining the Komodo Health team? We’re hiring!

Read more about life as a Dragon in our Culture series and to learn more about Komodo, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

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