How to build a disruptive product: Engineers share their secrets

September 13, 2017

Every creative professional has their own secrets to continuously generating new ideas, and engineers are no exception. For these innovative techies, the work doesn’t end when the product is created — in fact, it’s just beginning. Here’s how engineering teams at local startups are able to sustain their momentum and constantly produce new features their users will love.

 

Grubhub is the company that lets you order takeout from a slew of local delivery spots with a few taps of a button. Since 2004, it’s been changing the way people enjoy food from restaurants near them. Director of Software Engineering Sung Choi explains how he’s been able to stay innovative after all these years.

How do you make sure you’re always ahead of the latest trends in your space?

Aside from the usual exercise of blogs, tweets and books, I attend local meetups and conferences around the country. In addition, I analyze other sites to see what they're doing, and determine if we can take advantage of their discoveries.

How do you stay innovative on a daily basis?

My team and I always ask ourselves what we can do to make the app better, and how we can make that happen. It keeps us thinking and tends to take us in a really great direction.

What advice do you have to other engineers trying to build a disruptive product?

Find something you think you can do better than someone else, then prove it. Your professional pride can really make you effective.

 

 

Marketers use mParticle’s data-unifying solution to integrate their growth stack and provide an improved user experience. Director of Developer Tools Sam Dozor told us the best way to build a disruptive product is to put the user first.

How do you make sure you’re always ahead of the latest trends in your space?

mParticle was architected for the unknown, being able to ingest customer data from anywhere and providing the most advanced identity resolution product in market, making it easy to get data to and from anywhere.

How do you stay innovative on a daily basis?

Innovation is delivered through a customer-centric approach. First, we're constantly soliciting feedback from customer engineering and product teams to understand their goals and pain points. We strive to contribute to and leverage open source, and form deep partnerships with our customers as well as our partners — engineering teams. Lastly, we attempt to automate everything that can be automated — testing, releasing and anything repeatable — so you can focus on new development, not maintenance.

What advice do you have to other engineers trying to build a disruptive product?

In building a SaaS company, you need to live up to the standards of the engineering teams that use your software. Favor transparency and open source development to earn the trust of your future customers, and hire engineers who have felt the pain that you're looking to solve.

 

 

Turbonomic is the company behind the hybrid cloud management platform that uses economics-based decision making to self-manage. Principal Software Engineer Patrick Soohoo talks to us about fueling creativity and approaching each task with a beginner’s mind.

How do you make sure you’re always ahead of the latest trends in your space?

The space is so vast it's hard to feel "ahead." Instead, I like to think of it as being immersed in a universe of wondrous ideas, one that we are lucky enough to have free access to via blogs, news groups, podcasts, meetups, video streams, tech talks and numerous other channels to catch the latest waves on. Taking a community focus is one of the greatest assets to staying ahead of trends, though.

How do you stay innovative on a daily basis?

Creativity is like a wild garden. If you immerse yourself in a rich soil of ideas and continuously cross-pollinate with other people and disciplines, serendipity inevitably strikes and innovation happens. On a smaller level, starting each task — even routine ones — with a beginner's mind can help you discover small improvements. Not every innovation has to have world-changing upside to be valuable!

What advice do you have to other engineers trying to build a disruptive product?

Do not live your journey in the rear-view mirror of "best practices," "top 10s," magic quadrants, etc. hoping to find proof of the validity of your engineering strategies in existing public discourse. You are an innovator. There is, by definition, no book for you to read or footsteps for you to follow. Only you know the problem you are solving. So, embrace the excitement, look forward and break ground! Being disruptive requires you to solve a problem that either isn’t viewed as a major issue, or isn’t addressed at all.

 

 

Teachable allows instructors to host and sell their courses online. The engineering team is tasked with developing a simple user experience so people can easily access online education. Software Engineer Mike Poage told us about his daily assignments and how meditation plays a big role in helping fuel his creativity.

How do you make sure you’re always ahead of the latest trends in your space?

We are constantly scouring the interwebs for the latest articles, blog posts and tools available so that we use the best technology and industry standards to make the best product possible.

How do you stay innovative on a daily basis?

Every morning, I water my Japanese peace Lily and contemplate the following: “If this plant could do something with its day, what would it do?” Then I meditate on how I can fulfill that sentiment with my work and the contributions I make along with the rest of the team.

What advice do you have to other engineers trying to build a disruptive product?

Think outside the box, don’t sweat the small things (the button font/color is not the end-all be-all of a good product) and most importantly never lose sight that you are making something for other people. Even if you love the product you’re building dearly and you feel like you can relate to your customers, that does not mean that you are developing useful features for your customers.

 

 

Traffic management platform NS1 has taken DNS, a fundamental component of the internet, and reimagined it as a tool for data-driven applications. Director of Technology Shannon Weyrick told us how he’s able to sustain that momentum and continuously generate new ideas.

How do you make sure you’re always ahead of the latest trends in your space?

We stay in tune with the needs of our customers, who are deeply technical and innovative, like us. We work closely with them to understand the ever-changing landscape of modern application delivery, and find novel ways to meet their challenges.

How do you stay innovative on a daily basis?

We give our world-class engineering team space to be creative. This means encouraging them to make their ideas and opinions heard, and making sure they know that their input is valued — and necessary — for us to thrive.

What advice do you have to other engineers trying to build a disruptive product?

Build a team of people passionate about your product space, and don't be shy of taking risks. Learn how to reflect and iterate often, being honest and transparent about mistakes and improving with each step.

 

 

Images via Shutterstock and featured companies.

Know of a company that deserves coverage? Let us know or tweet us @builtinnewyork.

Jobs from companies in this blog57 open jobs
All
Data + Analytics
Design + UX
Developer + Engineer
HR
Marketing
Operations
Product
Project Mgmt
Sales
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Developer + Engineer
new
Data + Analytics
new
Operations
new
Developer Jobs
View 328 jobs
Design + UX Jobs
View 59 jobs
Marketing Jobs
View 108 jobs
Product Jobs
View 63 jobs
Sales Jobs
View 182 jobs
Data Jobs
View 82 jobs