What the heck is an API Specialist?

I’m coming up on my 1 year mark at Braintree, in the role of API Specialist. API Specialist is a bit of a nebulous title that is difficult to explain to people (both in and out of the tech industry). A more accurate, though less succinct, description might be Integration Debugger, Data Migrator, and Internal Tool Developer. But that doesn’t sound great either.

Essentially, there are two main parts of my job here at Braintree: 1) Debugging and troubleshooting integration issues sent in by Braintree merchants and 2) Migrating sensitive data in and out of the Braintree gateway when merchants are coming to or leaving Braintree. This also includes developing and maintaining internal tools around the data migrations process.

Now seems like a good time to take inventory of all the skills I’ve developed over the past year. Writing it all out like this helps me realize how much I’ve learned! I know I’ve missed a lot of stuff too, but I will add more as I think of it.

Integrations:

  • Replicating bugs (sometimes with very little to go on!)
  • Debugging in:
    • Node
    • Python
    • Ruby
    • dotnet
    • Java
    • Php
    • JavaScript
    • iOS
    • Android
  • How SDKs work
  • Latency and ISP issues
  • Reading an MTR/Traceroute
  • GraphQL Queries
  • SQL Queries
  • Parsing server logs
  • Webhooks

Data Migrations:

  • Vim
  • Data munging/wrangling
  • csvkit
  • Regular Expressions
  • sed commands
  • grep commands
  • Test Driven Development
  • Developing on a CPair/VPair/TMux
  • Advanced Git commands
  • Advanced command line
  • Bash scripts
  • SFTP/SSH
  • SSL/TLS
  • PGP Encryption
  • PCI Compliance
  • Data Security

Extracurriculars:

Braintree gives us a generous budget to pursue professional and personal development. On top of that, I have a mentor that I work with twice a week (we’re rebuilding the Pair My Dish front-end in React.) Here are some of the skills I have gained through all this professional development:

  • UX Design
  • Visual Design
  • Design patterns and pattern/component libraries
  • React
  • Redux
  • Jest
  • JavaScript/JS2015
  • Sketch
  • InVision
  • CSS Grid

Courses I’ve taken:

Teamwork things:

  • How to post in Slack with confidence
  • Learning how things are done at a big tech company (or at least this big tech company)
  • Working with people whose tech skills are way more developed than mine and way less developed than mine
  • Realizing that no one has all the answers
  • Asking questions when I don’t know something even if it scares me
  • Understanding the value of every team and how those teams fit together in the organization
  • Documenting my work so that others can easily pick up where I left off
  • Organizing Diversity and Inclusion events
  • Participating in various volunteer and social justice events through work

One great thing about working at Braintree (at least on my team) is that the management take a strengths-based approach, meaning we are encouraged to pursue the things that we are naturally inclined to enjoy and excel in. For example, I really enjoy front-end development, so I have taken the lead on client side development of our internal tools. Whereas other people are more interested in databases or latency issues, and they are encouraged to work more in those areas. The diversity of interests and experience in our team is what makes us so good at what we do.

Even though no one has any idea what an API Specialist does, I think it’s a fascinating role full of smart and resourceful people with endless opportunities to learn and multiple specializations to explore.