Like many startups, VTS has a list of company values it uses to set the tone for an intentional, inclusive company culture. Unlike other startups, however, the leasing and asset management platform also has a special set for its engineering team. These values include job- and team-specific traditions like asking “why” a lot, making mistakes together and striving for simplicity.
One value you won’t see listed anywhere: “Have a background in commercial real estate.”
QA Manager Becky Frost explained that all of the engineers came to VTS from different industries and later became commercial real estate (CRE) experts. She explains how the team used these differences to choose and instate the values that are in place today.
What does VTS do, and how is it disrupting the real estate industry?
VTS transforms leasing and asset management for landlords and brokers by enabling them to eliminate painful manual processes, leverage real-time deal and portfolio analytics and nurture tenant relationships — all in one platform. Originally, it disrupted the CRE industry by creating a digital solution for work that had previously been happening on paper and in spreadsheets. Now, we're on the cusp of the next disruption: giving our users key business intelligence KPIs and allowing them to see how they're performing compared to their market.
What was your first impression of the engineering team?
My first impression was that the engineering team has very mature version control and deployment processes in place for a startup and they were thoughtful about growing the QA team. Since I've been here, we've rolled out our engineering team values and the thoughtfulness that went into defining those values shows that our engineers can dig deep and think holistically about how we work together and our approach for building a high quality product.
What are your team's values, and how did you decide on them?
Our values are as follows: We are people first. We are students and teachers. We are all owners. We make mistakes together. We ask “why” a lot. We strive for simplicity. We ship product, not code. We thrive on feedback.
It was a group effort to decide on these values. All members of the engineering team contributed their ideas and then a working group made up of a diverse cross-section of the team consolidated the ideas into the list above.
Why does the engineering team need its own set of values?
In the same way that we as individuals have value systems that influence our actions, an engineering team should have a common set of values to act as its guiding light. Having team values allows us to define the best version of ourselves. We use values to check ourselves, stay on track in times of confusion and attract like-minded talent to join our team. It gives us a high bar, a common language and replaces cryptic talk of “culture” with real behavioral examples.
How do these values help you recruit top talent?
Having our values front and center gives prospective hires a peek at how our engineering team works and allows them to see if we match up to what they're looking for. I hope that these values will attract diverse talent that might have otherwise shied away from working on a niche product in an industry they may be unfamiliar with. It also allows us to tailor our interview process to avoid the vague “culture fit” assessment and instead use behavioral questions to see if candidates hold the same values as us.
How is the engineering team at VTS different from other teams you've been a part of?
Our “students and teachers” and “making mistakes together” values have really held true in my experience so far. Our team is truly collaborative — our engineers pair often and everyone's work gets a peer review. I haven't encountered any egos here and it is so refreshing! Our senior engineers are inquisitive and open to new ideas, and our junior engineers have a voice within the team.
What's an exciting project your team is currently working on?
I've been working with our reporting squad on the Business Intelligence (BI) project and it's in beta now. It's really exciting because it leverages our system's data to give our clients key insights into how they are performing and hopefully will drive business decisions for them. Getting the feedback in the beta process has been enlightening on both sides: We're learning what metrics our clients value as a business, and they're learning how they can optimize their use of the platform to ensure the most complete data gets tracked and surfaced in BI.
What's one fact about your team that would surprise our readers?
We were not born commercial real estate experts! Our engineers and QA have diverse backgrounds, and they bring their unique perspective to the table every day. We became CRE experts at VTS.