Talent search: 5 Seattle engineering leaders discuss ideal candidates for their unique teams

by Quinten Dol
July 9, 2019

Every engineer can code, and most are capable of picking up a new language or adopting a new technology with relative ease. But those are the basics, and every organization has unique requirements beyond the bare necessities. We spoke with technical leaders at five Seattle area tech companies to learn what makes their teams unique — and what they look for in candidates looking to join in the fun. 

 

tune engineering seattle
photo via tune

TUNE bills its software as the marketing industry’s most flexible software-as-a-service platform for building, managing and growing partner networks and programs. The company has evolved its technology over time since launching in 2009, and its platform supports the unique needs of networks, publishers and agencies in building effective affiliate marketing partnerships.

CTO Dan Koch loves the lack of “territoriality” among his engineers. 

 

What makes your team unique from other teams you've been part of?

I came to TUNE four years ago, and the thing that struck me then (and still strikes me now) is the openness of the culture here. Having moved cross-country to join, the number of people who went out of their way to introduce themselves and be genuinely helpful during my first week was overwhelming in the best possible way. I’m excited to say that this is still true — you can reach out to anyone on the team anywhere, at any time, and they will be happy to talk about what they’re working on, what’s going well, what’s not and how they can help with whatever you're working on. Territoriality is simply not a thing. This is true for every department here, but for engineering that sort of openness and willingness to help is a rare quality.

 

As part of the interview process, we're looking for how a candidate deals with cases where they don't know the answer.”

When it comes to hiring new engineers to join your team, 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?

One of TUNE's bedrock values is “Be Excellent To Each Other,” and this is something we’re always focusing on when it comes to hiring new candidates. Is this someone who assumes good faith amongst a team? Is this someone who is willing to communicate and be open when problems arise? Is this someone who is able to be both humble and confident? As part of the interview process, we're looking for how a candidate deals with cases where they don't know the answer. We’re software engineers — we’re constantly in a state of not knowing things — the industry moves too fast to do otherwise. How they approach those cases can show a lot about how they’ll be as a teammate in general.

 

projekt202 seattle tech startup
photo via projekt202

Software development firm projekt202 seeks to build emotionally rich and resonant products and experiences for end users. Headquartered in Texas, the company leverages the expertise of its wide range of experts across disciplines to fulfill customer needs.

CTO Rob Pierry highlighted that multidisciplinary approach as a unique feature of his Seattle-based team.

 

What makes your team unique from other teams you've been part of?

Our multi-disciplinary approach means that our development teams include designers, researchers, strategists and program managers in addition to more standard roles like front and back-end developers, QA and DevOps people. That means we have ample opportunity to collaborate with people with different perspectives and skillsets. Because we focus on understanding the true needs of the people we make software for, our development teams understand why they are building something and who it's for. That makes the work feel more meaningful and avoids having to build seemingly random requirements to an arbitrary deadline.

 

People who are open to new ideas and perspectives and seek to understand 'why' are great fits.”

When it comes to hiring new engineers to join your team, 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?

Our teams all share an interest in collaboration and an understanding that it takes multiple skillsets to make software that works for the people using it. People who are open to new ideas and perspectives and seek to understand “why” are great fits. These baseline traits carry into how we interview. We go in with few preconceived notions and find ourselves excited to talk to people with different experiences and backgrounds from those of our current team. We find that curiosity, openness and mutual respect leads teams in interesting and rewarding directions that you can't easily predict or design up front.

 

seattle tech engineering transparent
photo via transparent

Transparent Systems has an audacious vision: to transform global financial settlements using distributed cryptographic systems. The company’s open platform enables secure B2B payments, cash management, international transactions and more.

Software Engineer Brad Gibson looks at finished projects as a single moment in a longer journey, and is happy to say he enjoys it as much as the final destination. 

 

What makes your team unique from other teams you've been part of? 

I don’t just care about the goal — I also care that the journey in getting to the goal is enjoyable, sustainable and enriching. While getting to the goal is absolutely essential, it is just a moment in time and the work it took to get there represents months or even years of effort. That effort should be sustainably rewarding — did I learn new skills? Did I contribute meaningfully? Did I grow and develop as a person? Do I like and respect every one of my colleagues more than I did before we started this journey? I am delighted to be working at Transparent Systems, where my answer is “yes” to every one of these questions.

 

I love working with self-aware people with diverse backgrounds.”

When it comes to hiring new engineers to join your team, 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 love working with self-aware people with diverse backgrounds. This means that our approaches to solving problems will also be diverse. To my eye, the slope of someone’s trajectory is more important than its current absolute position. I look for candidates who show a history of commitment to personal growth combined along with “creative problem-solving” in this way. People with non-traditional technology backgrounds, self-starters, entrepreneurs and other creators tend to bring a special quality which energizes and uplifts the team as a whole.

 

bellevue engineering apptio
photo via apptio

Engineers in Apptio’s Bellevue headquarters design, build and update the company’s business management system of record, which helps customers track IT-related spending. The company was acquired last November for almost $2 billion by Vista Equity Partners.

When hiring new engineers, Software Development Engineering Senior Manager Bhupinder Singh looks for coders who have experience working in closely collaborative teams. 

 

What makes your team unique from other teams you've been part of?

Our team — and really every employee at Apptio — demonstrates amazing dedication to the customer. Our engineers live our first core value: We create wildly successful customers. Our development teams are responsive to changing needs but are also focused on the solution.  They seek out and value customer feedback, and they take tremendous pride in delivering the product to the customer. There are many recognition programs at Apptio, which leads to engineers who are highly successful and engaged with the work they do and on the team.
 

When it comes to hiring new engineers to join your team, 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?

It really starts with a collaborative mindset. When I hire from big corporations — particularly in the Seattle market — I look for people who have come from collaborative teams, and that’s not always the case with some of the really gigantic employers here. At Apptio, our technology leaders have done a great job building a culture where everyone’s unique ideas can be understood. We replace favoritism with teamwork. We also really depend on our engineers to recommend great talent to join Apptio. Those new hires have a strong chance for success. 

 

openmarket engineers seattle tech
photo via openmarket

OpenMarket helps businesses leverage the massive growth potential lurking in the realm of mobile messaging. The company’s software allows non-coders to seamlessly build campaigns for SMS, MMS and RCS campaigns.

Software Development and Senior Technical Program Manager Wayne Cheung said he always considers whether an engineering candidate is capable of being a leader on his team. 

 

What makes your team unique from other teams you've been part of?

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some great teams, but there’s something special about this group. Everyone on our team respects one another and is always willing to lend a helping hand. Earlier this year, we had a company goal to launch our OpenMarket rich communication services API by the end of the month. There were many instances where processes and timing was altered — but my team continually made the necessary sacrifices to accommodate these changes. Throughout the project, developers regularly offered to help the QAs test use cases and the QAs were just as helpful to the developers. I’ve never been on a team that was so collaborative and supportive of each other.

 

In my opinion, a good leader is humble, builds trust with others, is willing to learn new things, is not afraid of failures and inspires others around them.”

When it comes to hiring new engineers to join your team, 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 it comes to hiring new engineers, the question I always ask is “Can this person be a leader on my team?” In my opinion, a good leader is humble, builds trust with others, is willing to learn new things, is not afraid of failures and inspires others around them. In addition to technical abilities, these are characteristics that all of my team members share — which I’m proud to say makes this group especially strong and unique.

 

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