Investing in Engineering

October 08, 2018 Trends & Ideas
By Matthew Clower, Software Architect
By Matthew Clower, Software Architect

After joining WePay many years ago I’m now its longest tenured software engineer and I’m proud of the corporate culture I’ve helped develop. Our culture has been paved by a shared value system and deep sense of values led by innovative entrepreneurs that I’m now grateful to call friends. One of our core values has always been Investing in Relationships and it has done its part in shaping our philosophy of the lifecycle of employment in Silicon Valley. As a technology company it isn’t surprising that engineering is our largest department and engineering at WePay is an excellent example of WePay’s continued investment in its relationships with employees.

Early on, WePay struggled to establish an effective way to grow the engineering team. Like many early technology companies we didn’t have very organized hiring practices and we were unable to consistently identify or hire the right talent. I remember one occasion when after a full day of interviews, we realized that in a bizarre turn of bad luck none of the interviewers had asked one candidate any coding questions. Some engineers felt time spent interviewing was simply time that couldn’t be spent doing their real job building the product and spent as little of their time as possible when obligated to conduct interviews. As we grew, we eventually embraced the reality that the best thing for us was not to spend less time on hiring but to change our approach.

Today the investment in WePay engineers begins long before an engineer is ever hired. WePay isn’t just hiring good engineers, we deliberately invest our time and resources in ensuring that every potential WePay engineer is set up for success once hired. We devised a thoughtful and comprehensive evaluation system based on real roles and acknowledged that many engineers don’t inherently have interviewing skills. In all stages of the hiring process every WePay engineer has been trained to fairly and consistently evaluate particular attributes and skills while ensuring a positive experience for the candidate. Working at WePay is a pleasant experience and we want the interview to be a genuine reflection of our culture.

“I’ve been asked how it’s possible to justify such an expense, especially when engineers are in such high demand. The answer is simple and true to our core values: it’s not an expense, it’s an investment.Click To Tweet

In addition to their interviewers, each candidate at WePay is likely to meet several other engineers more informally. Candidates invited onsite also spend time with our most senior engineering leaders and executives to reinforce our open culture and best answer their questions. The cost of all this engineering time adds up and I’ve been asked how it’s possible to justify such an expense, especially when engineers are in such high demand. The answer is simple and true to our core values: it’s not an expense, it’s an investment. Some of the same people have also asked how we’re fortunate to have such a high caliber, high output, efficient and effective engineering organization. Ironically, the second question is a good way to begin to describe why this deserves so much of our time.

Having talented engineers who are constantly pursued by other great companies is definitely not without its challenges. It’s very easy for the goals of a company to drown out an individual employee’s needs and that inevitably burns people out or causes them to leave. After such a substantial investment in selecting the right engineers it’s imperative that we keep our teams happy and engaged. Not everyone has the same needs but the relationships and bonds of trust we’ve forged with our engineers make it easier for us to address the needs of the individual. We must constantly evaluate things like benefits, competitive compensation, work environment and other perks that are standard in the valley and considered table stakes. The need for career advancement is often overlooked in Silicon Valley and it’s unfortunate that engineers can be forced to move to another company to obtain a promotion they clearly deserve. At WePay, we’ve leveraged our growth as a company to create an environment that provides opportunities aimed at growing engineers’ skills and advancing their careers. WePay’s most recent promotion cycle saw more engineers earn promotions to Staff and Senior Staff Engineer than ever before.

“It is our hope that the impact of our investment influences our engineers as they grow to continue that investment in others. Click To Tweet

It’s personally important to me that every software engineer at WePay understands the path to their next role. Career progression follows a framework of clearly defined software engineering roles and responsibilities from entry level engineers to C-level executives that helps identify and close gaps required for promotion. Whether it’s building a piece of infrastructure or writing about it in the public eye for the WePay Engineering Blog, this framework ensures that we’re able to offer the opportunities and mentorship our engineers need most to advance their career objectives and other ambitions. The investment we make in an engineer continues to prove invaluable not only for WePay but for the rest of the engineer’s career. It is our hope that the impact of our investment influences our engineers as they grow to continue that investment in others.

WePay engineers are routinely asked by candidates and others interested in WePay how WePay has contributed to their growth as engineers and I’m impressed with the responses I’ve seen. When asked, Biplap Sarkar said, “WePay helped me by providing a culture where I could thrive, making it transparent how my work is contributing to WePay’s success and by providing guidance for what is expected at the next level and how to get there.” Biplap began his career as my intern before finishing school and joining WePay full time in January 2015. We established a career path providing him with opportunities we felt would interest and benefit him and he quickly earned a promotion to Senior Engineer. Biplap is now considered a veteran and mentor by numerous newer engineers and is one engineer we saw promoted to Staff Engineer this year. This cycle we’ve established will fuel our investment in future generations of WePay engineers and help us maintain our high standards for engineering excellence.

About the author

Matthew Clower, Software Architect

Matthew Clower has been a Silicon Valley technologist and entreprenuer for over 2 decades. His experience ranges from software engineer to CTO and seeing companies from startup to exit.

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