Paul Shelman joined Clarity as our VP of Software in January 2021, and since then he’s been hard at work improving our cloud infrastructure and suite of software products. Paul is an extremely experienced and talented software engineer with experience building big data systems and delivering real production software that has actually been scaled out and proven to be maintainable over many years. He’s based in the Boston, Massachusetts area and leads our globally distributed software engineering team.
Paul joined us in conversation to discuss his work at Clarity.
What is the pathway that led you to begin working at Clarity?
I’ve been doing software engineering for a long time. In my career, a recurring theme has been using computing to make specialized activity accessible to a much broader web-connected community.
At some point, I started thinking “How can I use these skills to do real good in the world?” That got me looking at really big problems — like environment/climate/health — which led me to Clarity.
I was attracted to how Clarity is attacking significant climate issues with networks of internet-connected low-cost sensors, without sacrificing the scientific data quality that usually comes only from far more expensive equipment.
Clarity combines "do good for the world” with IoT hardware and scaled out internet/cloud. Cool stuff for me.
What does a typical day at Clarity look like for you?
The software team is truly remote and global. We have engineers on four continents. I split my day so that I can work with colleagues on both sides of the planet. That works out well for me, because I get a few hours in the middle to be outside in the sun.
We do a quick video meet almost every day, schedules permitting. There’s a lot of the usual remote technology/collaboration support. It’s pretty easy these days. And soooo much better than commuting! Because Clarity is still small, we’re very informal and you just pop a question to whoever you need to talk to, in any department.
Days are definitely not “typical”. Sometimes it is all design and research (with an emphasis on good writing to communicate well), other times it is all heads down coding. For problem solving, we tend towards paired development. Always good to have another brain and it keeps the team vibe strong.
What is it like, doing engineering at Clarity?
It is a great time to be working with cloud software. Clarity is relatively new, so we’re not stuck dragging ancient systems into the future. We’re making good tech choices. We’re learning and teaching each other. We’re fortunate to be in a company that understands that you have to nurture your technology base or you’ll drown in it.
That said, we are still small. We have a long list of things that we want to work on — so we’re hiring. We’re being careful on that front. That team has a really good chemistry. We want every hire to add to that chemistry and in some way, add something that makes us better as an engineering organization.
Fortunately, we have a pretty big customer base for our company size. We can really be agile, in the true sense of what agile means, releasing in small increments and learning from the feedback. We have great customers.
What excites you the most about the next several years for Clarity?
The market is changing. A few years ago, it wasn’t a proven thing to use low-cost air quality monitoring at scale. Now that we have some pretty big networks running, it is pretty clear that Clarity went in the right direction. You can “see” air quality issues when you have hyper-local monitoring — issues that you cannot see with few, much more expensive reference monitors.
Now that we have the core data, we’re moving in two directions. The hardware team is solving for measuring more pollutants, without throwing away the cost-effectiveness of our individual Nodes. The software team is scaling the whole system and building features that give our customers the ability to “see” the useful information in the data.
As we become increasingly attuned to the intensity of environmental, climate, and air quality crises, how do you see the future of air quality and environmental work?
These used to be more niche concerns where the consequences of inaction were not appreciated. These issues are now generally understood to be the real problems of our time. There is much more interest in what we do and more urgency in taking action. We need the data to drive the right choices.
Thank you for joining us!
Thank you to Paul for joining us in this conversation, for his valuable contributions at Clarity, and for his commitment to improving air quality across the globe!
Interested in joining our team? Check out our Careers Page to see which roles are available!