"Friday Five" Featuring Brian Muenzenmeyer, Principal Engineer

June 14, 2024

Target mascot Bullseye, a white bull terrier with a red Target logo painted around his eye, with a rolled up newspaper in his mouth
Tech @ Target

Editorial Team

This post is part of our "Friday Five" series where we interview team members to learn more about their career journeys and what they're currently working on at Target. Read on to learn more about our Principal Engineer Brian Muenzenmeyer, what sparked his interest in technology, his work with Target's Open Source Program Office, and more. See the "related posts" below to catch up on previous Friday Five features.
Target Principal Engineer Brian Muenzenmeyer, a man with light skin, wearing glasses and a button down flannel shirt and smiling with his arms crossed against a background of colorful fall leaves
What drew you to the Target tech team? 
"Open source software. At the time I was maintaining a project called Pattern Lab, a collaborative tool used by designers and developers to make larger and larger pieces of a website. We call this atomic design today. I like to think the project informed how popular component-based tech like React and JSX work today. Anyway, Target.com engineers were using Pattern Lab to rebuild the site. They reached out to me with an initial message of gratitude that turned into a friendly visit to headquarters. It was both inspiring and intimidating to see my project in use, helping compose parts of the new site into something whole and exciting. The skill, spirit, and curiosity of the team was something I wanted to be around. I applied for a position on a front-end platform team sometime later. My wife Megan and I packed up our two young boys to relocate.” 
What sparked your interest in technology and engineering? 
"I haven’t thought about an original spark. Some of it was surely a college-pivot into something a bit more marketable than English with an emphasis on Creative Writing. The revisionist in me thinks back to my father Jim—who was always remodeling a room or building something. He’s left a mark on the places and people around him. The hammer he gave me that was his father's is one of my prized possessions. 
So, through example perhaps, I like making things that are useful to other people. I remember writing HTML websites as a teenager to share my Star Wars hobby. I loved working tactile jobs like produce departments because when the displays looked nice (yes maybe we sold more) people wanted to eat produce. Years and lifetimes later, during a paternity leave, I built three pieces of (crude) furniture. I like landscaping. Every house we’ve lived in has had more gardens when we left than when we arrived. Seeing someone enjoy the outcome of the work energizes me. With software, the same is true. Their success in using a tool is my success. Their frustrations are mine too. It’s reciprocity at work and empathy-building. It's challenging and never stagnant." 
What is your favorite project, product, or platform that you’ve built or are working on? 
"Favorite? They’re all my favorite. That’s what you say to your kids right?" 
How do you ensure you’re continuously learning? What have you been learning lately? 
"Open source, again, helps expose me to new techniques, tools, and people. It’s the portal into a broader world. It’s far too easy to become insular and reactive if you don’t look around at what’s happening beyond your little ecosystem. There’s always a negotiation between trying something new and going with what you know. I try to keep that in mind and consider the context of the work, the timeline, and the scrutiny needed. For example, I’ve used generative AI recently to write some one-off scripting. It’s not production code, but it’s good enough, and sometimes that’s okay. 
Lately I’ve been helping maintain the https://nodejs.org website. It turns out this is a sweet-spot outlet for me: organizing the open source front-end work for one of the most impactful documentation sites in the field. It’s exposed me to tech outside my day-to-day role and connected me with folks from all over the world. Learnings from that project have directly influenced my work at Target." 
What do you want new or aspiring engineers to know? Or, what career advice would you share with someone who’s just starting out? 
"You are part of something larger than your current story, your current team, your current role, and your current job. You are a craftsperson working with a new medium. Software development is only a single lifetime old, after all. We are still figuring out the best ways to do things. There are so few of us that our percent-impact on the field is noticeable. We are participants, active change agents, in a trade with a broader scope than retail or ecommerce. Find a way to engage within the communities and causes that appeal to you. There is no speed limit to your learning or constraint on where you choose to share your skills. Often, applying a bit of programming to perpendicular problem-spaces can unlock potential that is not thought possible." 
What’s in your Target cart? 
"I asked my wife if I should lie with something profound here (like diapers??? IDK...). But in truth, we have a pending Drive Up order for our son’s weekend party making s'mores with his friends." 


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