No silos here: 4 engineers explain what makes their team unique

by Liz Warren
April 3, 2019

Engineering has never been a one-size-fits-all kind of job. As many tech professionals can attest, the role is completely different based on industry, company size and, of course, team dynamic. We caught up with engineers on four NYC tech teams and got to know what sets them apart from the pack.

 

squarespace
image via squarespace

Squarespace makes websites easy to design, and as a result their engineers are tasked with making a complicated process seem effortless. Engineering Manager Thomas Chau explained how his team is able to accomplish this every day.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

We’re here to build real tools that have a daily impact on people from all over the world, and from all walks of life. Our software adds honest value by making something that’s typically pretty hard — building a custom website — into something easy, that anyone can do. Our customers are diverse, ranging from tech bloggers to farmers to everything in between. Anyone with a creative idea, whatever their field, can share it and succeed with Squarespace. That’s magical, and it’s only made possible because every member of the team here keeps the customer at the center of what we are doing every day.

I admire people who ask 'why?' because it shows me they seek to understand the underlying purpose behind things... ”

 

How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits that all your team members share?

I really appreciate self-reflection, determination and a positive attitude. I admire people who ask “why?” because it shows me they seek to understand the underlying purpose behind things and can, when needed, challenge assumptions that hold us back. That’s pretty unique and it moves our culture forward. Every member of our team exhibits humility, thoughtfulness, pragmatism and care for our customers.

 

vimeo
image via vimeo

For engineers at video platform company Vimeo, it’s all about teamwork. Director of Engineering Evan Hammer explained that teams are organized in a way that lets them solve user challenges rather than technical ones — meaning silos are virtually non-existent. He talked more about what makes the team special.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

Our engineering team is super collaborative: Each project has at least two people working on it, which gives us daily opportunities to pair with each other and with engineers from other teams. We regularly meet to talk about our codebase, discuss engineering processes and share technical discoveries. At a recent meeting, we discussed how we could better use Vimeo’s React component library and decided to upgrade our continuous integration service.

Another defining aspect of our team is we’re organized into cross-functional product teams that solve user problems rather than technical ones. Engineers help define the product roadmap, give design feedback and talk directly with stakeholders.

We look for people who are comfortable with both receiving and giving feedback.”

 

How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits that all your team members share?

The first thing we look for is technical skills. We ask questions that reflect what our team actually does — no algorithm questions. We ask candidates to code with our engineers, debug legacy software and architect a system. We also want to learn about how they’ll add to the team’s dynamic. We look for people who are comfortable with both receiving and giving feedback — people who can empathize and seek out change and growth.

 

uipath
image via uipath

Enterprise RPA platform UiPath gives engineers an opportunity to contribute in a big way. Aside from their daily responsibilities, they’re invited to participate in an internal competition that lets them channel their creativity into an automation project of their choosing. Dylan Bowman, director of pre-sales engineering, explained more.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

The Pre-Sales Engineering team really runs the gamut of personalities. We have so many different types of people — from the typical charismatic former athlete/team-centered types to the live-and-breathe coders who will stay up all night perfecting their personal robots. We even have a member who participates in live-action role playing (LARP) sessions monthly! But what really makes our team unique is that everyone is willing to go the extra mile for UiPath, whether that’s staying an extra few hours with a customer to solve their problems or creating a “Monthly Mindblower” — an internal competition challenging our employees to build creative automation projects.

When we go out and talk to customers, our passion for our product and understanding their particular circumstances shines through.”

 

How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits that all your team members share?

When we interview someone, we are obviously looking for the right mix of technical and communication skills that are necessary to do the job. But more importantly, we look for a few key personality traits that we hold very dear here at UiPath. The first is humility — you have to be able to admit mistakes, because it ties in very closely to trait number two: the willingness to take feedback and improve. Finally, we look for people who are passionate about what they do.  When we go out and talk to customers, our passion for our product and understanding their particular circumstances shines through. I think it’s a key part in why we’ve been so successful.

 

perch
image via perch

One of the most unique aspects of real estate company Perch’s engineering team is that they’re not solely focused on the typical engineering duties. Toni Ma, engineering manager, notes that the team works directly with other departments to ensure that customers are always put first. She went into detail about what else makes her team special.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

As engineers, we’re responsible for understanding not only what we’re building, but also why we’re building it. We work directly with our customers and stakeholders to understand their needs before writing any code. This results in a truly cross-functional environment across the entire company — not just technology. Within this environment, we’ve developed a true customer-first mentality that encourages feedback, allowing us to continuously iterate and improve. Our culture is one of high output and low ego, and this means never being satisfied with what we have. On the technology side, we believe in full-stack engineering and collaboration: Everyone is empowered and expected to work with other teams and in any part of the stack to push the business forward. This encourages creativity and also helps prevent silos of knowledge within the organization.

One thing our team members share is a willingness to roll up their sleeves and get things done...”

 

How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits that all your team members share?

We look for technical problem-solvers who demonstrate strong business judgment and can think critically about the real problems we’re facing. Our company is growing quickly and has more than doubled over the past year. The engineering team is responsible for supporting this growth with solutions that are scalable but not over-engineered, and our rapid pace means more opportunities for everyone to pitch in and make a difference. One thing our team members share is a willingness to roll up their sleeves and get things done, even when the task is outside their comfort zone. The team consists of engineers with diverse skill-sets, so we value people who can communicate their perspectives effectively but also listen to those around them. And while we work hard, we also enjoy getting to know each other over periodic team lunches and other company events.

 

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