In order to attract and retain new engineers, companies need to offer more than an interesting title and competitive salary. San Francisco tech companies looking to grow their engineering teams should provide opportunities to work on challenging projects with innovative technology.
At subscription billing company Recurly, Director of Cloud Engineering Jonathan Chin said they are embracing the cloud to help subscription business models manage their billing internally. Aside from its customer-first mission, Chin said one of the joys of working at Recurly is building and maintaining deep partnerships across the company.
“We talk to each engineer to better understand how he or she works most optimally, and then we prioritize aligning work experiences and projects with an engineer’s interests and career goals,” Chin said.
What they do: Grand Rounds wants to raise the standard of healthcare. Its team combines technology, data and clinical expertise to connect people with quality healthcare. Customers get results via desktop and mobile applications supported by an in-house clinical team.
Grand Rounds’ tech stack: “The product that we sell to customers is delivered via member-facing mobile and desktop applications, but also must support a considerable in-house clinical care team,” Senior Director of Engineering Anant Gupta said. “We’ve architected a vision for a distributed stack built on top of a member-centric data platform and have made good progress. On the applications side, we use Swift, Kotlin, React and Ruby. On the back-end side we use Scala, Go and Spark. Our data science team develops primarily in Python.”
Most interesting project: “Given the impact of COVID-19, I’m excited about how we help people get the right care at the right time, and successfully navigate them through the healthcare system. Our challenges range from designing an extraordinary member experience to building out data processing and infrastructure that can quickly scale and adapt dynamically to new inputs and user needs, such as those presented by COVID-19.”
What makes the team unique: “Having worked at Uber and LinkedIn before, I’m fortunate to be working at another company that will meaningfully change people’s lives. I believe working in a startup, under the right leadership, is perhaps one of the best ways to accelerate your growth and learning. This is something that our leadership team makes a very intentional, conscious effort to prioritize.”
What they do: Instacart lets North American consumers order groceries online. Its same-day delivery and pickup services bring fresh groceries to busy consumers in under an hour.
Instacart’s tech stack: Kafka, Kinesis and Cassandra. For web applications, Instacart uses Ruby on Rails. For bots, Golang and for data stores, Postgres, Redis and Memcached. On the front end, they use React.
Most interesting project: Incident handling. “It is unique because there is so much to learn that is outside of the field of engineering,” Senior Software Engineer Christos Christoudias said. “It involves research from FEMA, the National Guard and first responders. Incidents happen, but how they are handled can have big implications on their impact.
This work includes building products and tooling to make the job easier, but also requires ‘people engineering.’ We need to find the best way to coordinate multiple teams so that it’s effective but not cumbersome. We are highly data-driven at Instacart, which means we also need to quantitatively measure how good our incident response is.”
What makes the team unique: “Early on, my manager told me that I should feel free to take more ownership. I decided I was going to take ownership of everything I could until someone told me to stop. That was two years ago. No one has told me to stop yet. Now I find myself in charge of as much as I want to own.”
What they do: More than 50 million people use Fivestars to get rewarded at over 15,000 local businesses.
Fivestars’ tech stack: On the front end, Fivestars uses Nightwatch.js to create expansive end-to-end tests and Sikuli for test integration with Windows-based points of sale.
“Our engineering team is doubling down on quality and automation after an extended period of rapid product development,” Director of Engineering Patrick Lucas said. “Our most active microservice is our new Payments API that’s written with the Python 3 Falco API framework and uses PostgreSQL and Peewee ORM. We’ve focused on high test unit coverage for this API so that we can iterate quickly and deploy with confidence that we aren’t going to break our clients. Our microservice architecture leverages Kubernetes and Kafka for internal communication. Our team has open sourced Aladdin, our CLI tool for cluster management.”
Most interesting project: Project Pegasus. “This bold initiative was conceived by our hardware team and the goal is to completely rebuild our in-store hardware from the ground up. We will be moving away from retail tablets inside a custom case to a fully custom solution based on a single-board computer. This will allow us to better control our supply chain and gives us a lot of creative freedom for how the product will look and feel.”
What makes the team unique: The diversity of backgrounds on the team. “I’m most proud of our track record on mentoring and growing engineers. We’ve grown a team member into a senior engineer who started in the sales org and a team member whose previous career was in physics academia and a few others who had no engineering experience at all. This strength also makes for a really successful intern program where we have a very high conversion rate to full-time employees.”
What they do: GreenPark Sports creates digital experiences and games for the new generation of sports and esports fans. It offers a free-to-play mobile game played over the top of sporting events, where fans battle to become the undisputed “best fans” of their league and season.
GreenPark Sport’s tech stack: Go on the back end. “We process a lot of live sports data from external providers, so we rely heavily on Google Cloud’s PubSub for messaging services,” said Vice President of Engineering Tim Bull. “For game data and statistics, we are using MongoDB’s Atlas service. As a mobile game, we selected Unity 3D as the environment so we can easily build for both iOS and Android environments.”
Most interesting project: “The team is working on a lot of interesting problems to do with processing real-time sports data and providing that information to our game. Particularly with the way our core gameplay works, we’ve had to create a templating system and design it in a way that it can be readily adapted to sports as diverse as “League of Legends” and “Baseball,” all using the same core engine. Personally, I’ve been working on a game simulator, trying to predict how many resources our players will collect and how quickly, which has been a really interesting challenge for me.”
What makes the team unique: “The most unique thing about our culture is that we’re ‘crossing the streams’ on startup versus game development. We’re constantly learning new ways of thinking and approaching problems. Mobile game developers care deeply about performance and optimization, while our engineers from high-growth startups bring experience and solutions that game developers often haven’t considered. It’s exciting to feel part of a team that’s committed to bringing this new game to life.”
What they do: Agero is a B2B company that works with automakers and insurers to modernize roadside assistance technology. Its products include a digital roadside platform powered by Swoop.
Agero’s tech stack: Ruby on the back end. “When it comes to our new technologies, we evaluate them based on the benefits they deliver, rather than picking a tool simply because it's trending,” Paul Widden, CTO and co-founder, said. “GraphQL, for example, is new and shiny, but importantly, it provides a common language for building APIs, something we as a developer community have never had before. It gives the team a common foundation to build with and also helps to empower the front-end and mobile developers to work somewhat independently of the back end.
Most interesting project: “Once we started working with motor clubs, they wanted the entire platform. They wanted to be able to operate it the same way we do. A big initiative at the moment is enabling their use cases for international and improving our ability to deploy and monitor the entire system. We’ve evolved to infrastructure-as-code, such that we can deploy the system in mere minutes instead of weeks. This is all being developed so that when we get a new customer, we can roll out an entire new copy of our system for that customer or motor club.”
What makes the team unique: “Our culture of transparency and learning from mistakes, which allows us to continually evaluate and iterate our process to fit where we are and where we want to go.”
What they do: Snap Inc. calls itself a camera company. Its mission is to reinvent the way people use their cameras to communicate via a social media mobile app that connects millions of users across the world.
Snap’s tech stack: “On Snap's Release team, we rely on a lot of tools that are used across the business,” Lukas Blakk, release manager, said. “We live and breathe in bug trackers (Snap uses Jira), CI (Jenkins) and version control (GitHub Enterprise). Leveraging these tools, we create and manage processes that create a resilient, rapid, weekly mobile release cycle for both iOS and Android.”
Most interesting project: A self-healing mobile client app. “It decouples the launch of binaries in Apple and Google’s distribution channels from how and when we roll out features to our community. This is a huge shift in mobile release practice, and I’m excited to help build this out. I hope that in the future, shipping to mobile will be as easy as it is for web-based apps today, giving us the ability to roll back as needed in real time, which will allow us to continually deliver an excellent experience on Snapchat.”
What makes the team unique: “Many companies have a single release manager running the show. Some companies might not even have a dedicated, full-time employee, and instead rotate engineers or QA through turns in the hot seat. We’re a team of four release managers, and on top of managing daily operations, we get to drive projects that continually improve our ability to ship high quality releases.”
What they do: Recurly helps subscription business models manage their billing internally. Its platform provides critical infrastructure, tools and business analytics to manage and scale revenue and billing while optimizing transaction processing.
Recurly’s tech stack: The company migrated their platform to Google Cloud in 2019. “The platform is built on GKE (Google Kubernetes Engine) and GCE (Google Compute Engine),” Jonathan Chin, director of cloud engineering, said. “We use Terraform to manage infrastructure as code and use open-source tools such as Ansible for configuration management. We also use Helm for running and managing applications with Kubernetes. Additionally, we use Codefresh for CI/CD and Graylog for centralized log management.”
Most interesting project: Replacing the central log management solution with Graylog. “As it turns out, there are many Recurly departments that rely heavily on central log management and make business decisions based on the data therein. It has been apparent since the start of the project that a deep partnership with key members of each impacted department would be the difference between a raging success and a painful cutover to a new product with low ownership. One of the joys of working at Recurly is building and maintaining deep partnerships across the company to positively affect a project such as ripping and replacing a key tool that teams rely on to be successful.”
What makes the team unique: “We are fostering a team of high-performing engineers by appreciating the talents and experiences of each engineer. We talk to each engineer to better understand how they work most optimally, and then we prioritize aligning work experiences and projects with that engineer’s interests and career goals. Additionally, timely passing down of company business news empowers individuals on the team to make the best decisions possible for the company.”