Derick Olson, Developer in Cambridge, MA, United States
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Derick Olson

Verified Expert  in Engineering

Front-end Developer

Cambridge, MA, United States
Toptal Member Since
April 17, 2018

A software engineer, writer, and educator, Derick has worked across the stack as a product engineer at companies like 1stdibs and Remind since 2015. With a background ranging from computer science to Buddhist studies, he brings a grounded presence, deep listening, and clear communication to the team. Derick's approach to working together: listen first, simplify and decide, iterate, and offer help.


JavaScript, TypeScript, React, React Native, Ruby on Rails (RoR), GraphQL...
University of Virginia
Writing & Editing, University Teaching
Server-side Rendering (SSR), Bash, Jenkins, Node.js, GraphQL, Redux, Relay...




Preferred Environment

React, Node.js, GraphQL, JavaScript, TypeScript, React Native, Next.js

The most amazing...

...thing I've developed is a generative AI chat that reads a book by PDF and answers questions about what is in it.

Work Experience

Software Engineering Consultant

2022 - PRESENT
  • Worked on short- and long-term freelance projects.
  • Provided professional services using React/Next.js apps, personal sites, API integrations, Python scripts, and GraphQL servers.
  • Collaborated on projects involving generative fiction, digital books, and education.
  • Learned React Native for mobile and cross-platform apps.
Technologies: JavaScript, TypeScript, React, React Native, Ruby on Rails (RoR), GraphQL, AWS CLI, PostgreSQL, CSS, Ruby, Material UI, REST APIs, Next.js, ECMAScript (ES6), Early-stage Startups, Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

University Instructor

2021 - 2022
University of Virginia
  • Was a Poe/Faulkner fellow in Fiction at UVA from 2020-2022. As a graduate instructor in UVA's Creative Writing program, I taught multiple sections of undergrads, helping students discover what, how, and why they write.
  • Spoke publicly, delivered workshops, and facilitated group work.
  • Served as an educator and provided mentorship through lectures held three times weekly through workshops and discussions.
  • Designed the syllabus and planned lessons to meet the university standards and spark student curiosity and passion.
Technologies: Writing & Editing, University Teaching

Software Engineer

2018 - 2021
  • Served mainly as a front-end JavaScript developer on the core engagement and international teams at 1stDibs, a marketplace for one-of-a-kind items with over 5 million monthly visitors.
  • Used technologies such as React, Node.js, GraphQL, SEO, mobile web, a11y, A/B testing, i18n, API integrations, and server-side rendering.
  • Wrote a CI build system using the GitHub API to synchronize website translations across a React site.
  • Built automated translations system for the launch of International websites in Germany, France, and the UK using React Intl, Node.js scripts, the Smartling API, the GitHub API, and the Jenkins build server.
  • Shipped 'Discover Page' by taking a company hackathon prototype to production to launch 1stDibs' first personalized recommendation engine using React, Relay, and GraphQL on Node.js.
  • Shipped responsive mobile web UX across search/browse/product detail pages using React, SCSS, and React Storybook.
  • Rebuilt login modals and sign-up flows across the site to support new user account types for increased engagement and decreased time to first sale.
  • Built location-based recommendations and filters to connect buyers and sellers from closer locales.
  • Rewrote internal tooling for A/B tests and SEO optimizations, improving product-developer time to launch across teams.
  • Organized an onsite student hackathon with students from three NYC public high schools, internal stakeholders, and a team of volunteer teachers from Code Nation.
Technologies: Server-side Rendering (SSR), Bash, Jenkins, Node.js, GraphQL, Redux, Relay, React, Google SEO, Test-driven Development (TDD), Git, Terminal, Front-end, Full-stack, Writing & Editing, GitHub, APIs, Software, JavaScript, Express.js, Python, TypeScript, Tailwind CSS, PHP, Apache, CSS, REST APIs, Next.js, Figma, Storybook, ECMAScript (ES6), HTML, Early-stage Startups, Startups

Software Engineer

2015 - 2017
  • Worked at Remind, a communication platform that helps students, teachers, and parents safely communicate in K-12 schools. As a product engineer on the core engagement team, I worked across the stack, supporting over 20 million monthly active users.
  • Used technologies such as Ruby on Rails, Go, React, GraphQL, Node.js, AWS, Docker, and CircleCI.
  • Launched full-stack implementations of message reactions, chat bubbles, file uploading, and message composition.
  • Contributed to the team-wide adoption of React frameworks such as Apollo GraphQL, Redux, and Flow. Also contributed to the team-wide adoption of React frameworks Apollo GraphQL, Redux, and Flow.
  • Rewrote the Twilio integration for a core messaging service using modern JavaScript and Node.js (no more callbacks).
  • Joined twice-a-month on-call rotations to monitor back-end infrastructure and front-end services.
  • Successfully ran a multiweek migration from Rails-based PostgreSQL to Go service built on DynamoDB with zero downtime.
Technologies: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Ruby on Rails (RoR), Ruby, Go, JavaScript, Node.js, React, PostgreSQL, Test-driven Development (TDD), Git, Relay, GraphQL, Terminal, Front-end, Back-end, Twilio API, Full-stack, GitHub, Heroku, APIs, Software, Express.js, Bash, TypeScript, Amazon DynamoDB, CSS, REST APIs, Next.js, ECMAScript (ES6), Apollo Server, HTML, Early-stage Startups, Startups

Software Engineer

2015 - 2015
  • Worked at Foursquare, a location-based social network serving over 50 million monthly active users with a recommendations platform leveraging the power of geolocation.
  • Developed a machine learning feature (Recently Viewed Venues) for Foursquare's LambdaMART learning-to-rank model, which became a top-ten score in successful geolocation ranking problems.
  • Improved product-engineering communication by creating an internal dashboard for testing location models with various scores and weights.
  • Rewrote a notifications pipeline in Scala to fetch data in concurrent stages.
  • Decreased machine utilization by batching service calls for similar notifications.
  • Created a front-end dashboard for testing features in a geolocation algorithm.
Technologies: Scalding, Bash, Python, Scala, Test-driven Development (TDD), Git, Terminal, Java, Back-end, Full-stack, Heroku, APIs, Software, JavaScript, Express.js, Google Cloud, MapReduce, HTML, Startups

Teaching Assistant

2014 - 2015
University of Pennsylvania
  • Served as a teaching assistant for several undergraduate courses, including Functional Programming, Data Structures, and Theory of Computation, featuring Java, OCaml, and LaTeX.
  • Planned lessons and delivered weekly presentations for groups of 20 students.
  • Provided one-on-one mentorship on homework and exam preparation.
Technologies: OCaml, Java, Back-end, Software, JavaScript, Test-driven Development (TDD), Bash, Linux, Ruby on Rails (RoR), Front-end, APIs, HTML

iOS Developer

2014 - 2014
Capvision Partners
  • Collaborated, during a summer internship in Shanghai, with members of the IT and marketing department to prototype the company's first iOS app: a news aggregator for financial consultants based in China and abroad.
  • Cooperated with all-Chinese marketing and product teams to design the initial app.
  • Pivoted an initial news reading app to integrate more features, such as event RSVP, profiles, and project management.
  • Used Core Data for data persistence, allowing articles to be read offline.
  • Onboarded a new full-time iOS engineer who took long-term ownership of the project after my contract ended.
Technologies: JSON, REST APIs, Objective-C, Software

Podcast, Website, and Production
Short meditations that I led at the office at 1stdibs. After a time, I decided to start a podcast. I recorded audio using a Lavier mic and an iPhone. Visuals were created using Pixelmator. My web presence was powered by a static React app and Instagram. I served as a host and distributed meditations using Podbean.

Python NLP | Analysis of Translations
This study analyzes over 180 English translations of the Daodejing by focusing on parallel translations of the text's first chapter and contextual information. Given this information, as well as a set of reputable translators, it ranks all translations in terms of quality as defined by the texts of the selected respected translators.

Narrative Charts
One of my favorite ways to read and remember a novel is to create narrative charts. Here's an example of charts I made for Sepharad, a novel by Antonio Munoz Molina. It brings together digital humanities, creative design, and a love of literature.

Python Web and NLP | Online Censorship Research
A study on the censorship of "Grass Mud Horse Lexicon" terms on China's largest microblog, Sina Weibo. This paper surveys the methods used by studies of Chinese internet censorship and frames its question in terms of "morphs" or alternate representations of controversial terms and ideas.

Hardware | Raspberry Pi in a Ball

An educational hardware project to teach students about 3D matrices. It was built using a physical hamster ball, inside which were mounted Raspberry Pi, an accelerometer/gyroscope, and a 3D array of red and blue LED lights. As the ball rolls across on the ground, the top half lights blue while the bottom half stays red.
2020 - 2022

Master's Degree in English

University of Virginia - Charlottesville, VA, United States

2011 - 2015

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science

University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, PA, United States


Node.js, React, REST APIs, Scalding, Twilio API


Git, Jenkins, Terminal, GitHub, Figma, Apache, React Apollo, AWS CLI, Photoshop 7


Redux, Next.js, Express.js, Ruby on Rails (RoR), Relay, Tailwind CSS, React Native, Material UI


CSS, ECMAScript (ES6), Bash, JavaScript, TypeScript, GraphQL, Go, Java, Ruby, Scala, HTML, PHP, Objective-C, OCaml, Python


Test-driven Development (TDD), Functional Programming, MapReduce


Heroku, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Linux, Raspberry Pi


PostgreSQL, JSON, Amazon DynamoDB, Google Cloud


Software, Writing & Editing, Front-end, Full-stack, Startups, Server-side Rendering (SSR), Google SEO, University Teaching, Back-end, APIs, Storybook, Early-stage Startups, Minimum Viable Product (MVP), Apollo Server, Scripting, Digital Humanities, Natural Language Processing (NLP), Hardware, LED Lighting, Soldering, Audio, Podcasting, Web Hosting

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