Choose Your Mission: 4 LA Tech Leaders Discuss Their Management Style

by Quinten Dol
August 28, 2019

When it comes to career satisfaction, a good boss can make or break you. This is especially true in software engineering, where the complexity and wide variety of projects can require multiple different management styles from the same person.

What’s more, engineers have choices. Tech is desperate for talented engineering candidates, and job hunting is as much about finding a good fit as convincing your future boss that you can do the work. To help you get started, we talked to engineering leaders about their style for recruiting and managing successful teams. 

 

tinder los angeles engineering team
photo via tinder

You can use your engineering skills to help with workflow optimization, data-driven insights and video gaming prowess, but have you ever considered deploying your coding talent in the service of love? Tinder is unique in that the work of a relatively small engineering team can have huge impacts on its millions of users worldwide.

VP of Engineering Tom Jacques highlighted some examples of his engineers’ career growth at the West Hollywood company.

 

When it comes to hiring, what characteristics do you look for in candidates and how do you ensure they’re a great culture fit?

One of the most unique things about Tinder is the outsized opportunity to make a tangible impact for a community of tens of millions of users. Our team is still considered “small” relative to our global footprint, so every engineer has a real hand in shaping the user experience.

For example, Tinder Lite — which just launched on Android in Vietnam — came out of a hackathon project pitched and built by one engineer. Our leadership team was impressed with their dedication — and the effort so perfectly laddered up to our company’s goal of creating better global experiences — that we had a team come together to finalize the version that’s in the hands of users today. A small team of five engineers was responsible for building our sexual orientation update that helps our LGBTQ+ community find more relevant matches, too.

When you take a step back to think about that, it’s incredible. It’s important that this facet of the job — and the opportunity that comes with it — allows candidates to pursue their passions because ultimately it’s a two-way street: our organization needs to be a fit for the candidate as much as the candidate needs to be for us.
 

...our organization needs to be a fit for the candidate as much as the candidate needs to be for us...”


How do you set your engineering team up for success and support them in reaching their goals?

Communication is critical. Engineering is a more technical field, but people tend to forget that communication and soft skills still matter, regardless of how much you can code on your own. Establishing communication systems that optimize for engineering success has been a priority since I joined the team. We’ve redesigned our pod structure to ensure that they are more cross-functional than ever before. We’re experiencing better communication, faster decision-making and more end-to-end ownership of initiatives. Tinder is an app that brings people together, and I want to be sure that our team has access to the information and tools that can guarantee success — and that their role and contributions aren’t isolated.

We also have a company-wide learning and development program that entitles every employee to a stipend in order to further pursue career-focused passions and skill development. This could be anything from a business class to a public speaking course.

 

la tech engineering
photo via boingo wireless

It didn’t take long for Wi-Fi to become an essential utility, up there with power and water. Boingo plays a pivotal role in the delivery of information to the masses through its design, building and operation of Wi-Fi and cellular networks at airports, convention centers, stadiums and other commercial hubs.

VP of Engineering Ben Shamsian said his team is already deep into working with 5G technology.

 

When it comes to hiring, what characteristics do you look for in candidates and how do you ensure they’re a great culture fit?

Boingo is the place to be. We’re front and center to the 5G era and are always looking for superstars who are eager to help us build the wireless future. We take pride in our work, thrive solving complex issues and have an engineering culture where coding, stacks, the cloud and Star Wars fan clubs are the norm. Our ideal candidates embody the “SPIRIT of Boingo”: supportive, people, impassioned, responsive, innovative and transparent.
 

We work hard to ensure everyone has goals that align with the department and company.”


How do you set your engineering team up for success and support them in reaching their goals?

Transparency is key. No matter your role on the team, it’s important we provide you with a clear idea of Boingo’s strategic roadmap and what we’re trying to accomplish. We work hard to ensure everyone has goals that align with the department and company. Once goals are set, action plans are put in place and we ensure employees have the tools they need to achieve success. Open communication allows us to help troubleshoot, give strategic guidance and confirm the team is on track to meet goals.

 

cloudvirga engineering team los angeles tech
photo via cloudvirga

While owning a home is undoubtedly exciting, the process of applying for a mortgage is certainly not. Cloudvirga’s point-of-sale software helps simplify the process for loan officers and homebuyers alike, processing more than $200 billion each year for the largest mortgage lenders in the United States

CTO Daniel Akiva said he always aims to set his engineers up for long-term career growth. 

 

When it comes to hiring, what characteristics do you look for in candidates and how do you ensure they’re a great culture fit?  

Enthusiasm and curiosity! When we evaluate a candidate’s fit, we start by identifying those who are truly excited about technology and solving problems. Coming to work every day and being amped to create, ideate and build is deep-rooted in the DNA of all CV engineers. As for curiosity, our engineers are driven by a need to make things work. As someone who built and disassembled computers from a young age, I understand that driver. The combination of enthusiasm and curiosity leads to success in so many ways: elegant code, efficient workflow, exciting user experiences, work satisfaction and more.
 

...we created teams that are comprised of diverse levels of engineering talent in order to drive continuous learning and mentoring. ”


How do you set your engineering team up for success and support them in reaching their goals?

When I joined CV, one of my first initiatives was to create and publish a career ladder that provided overall visibility and optionality into career progression. In addition, we created teams that are comprised of diverse levels of engineering talent in order to drive continuous learning and mentoring. We work hard to align our technology passion with projects and teams to promote career growth. And, of course, being surrounded by the best, the brightest and the most enthusiastic teammates has contributed to our engineers’ job satisfaction and success.

 

chromadex los angeles tech startup
photo via chromadex

ChromaDex partners with universities and research institutions to explore the potential of nicotinamide riboside, a molecule the company says has outsized effects on our experience of aging. ChromaDex seeks to replenish the body’s nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide — dubbed NAD — and improve the way customers age through its direct-to-consumer supplement.

CTO Ben Shichman hires engineers he can trust and prefers to act as a consultant for his teams, rather than a micromanager.

 

When it comes to hiring, what characteristics do you look for in candidates and how do you ensure they’re a great culture fit?

I love to work with smart, curious people. They should be natural problem solvers, like to experiment with new technologies and explore new ways of working. Like any startup, we need entrepreneurially-minded, creative people who are also fun to work with. For culture fit, we look for communicative, collaborative people who like to ask questions. Interviewees meet with other cross-functional teams so they can meet the people they’d interact with outside of the engineering team. We believe that every interview is a candidate evaluating us as much as it is us interviewing them.
 

Simply put, my job is to create an environment for success for my teams — and then get out of their way. ”


How do you set your engineering team up for success and support them in reaching their goals?

Simply put, my job is to create an environment for success for my teams — and then get out of their way. The key is trust. I don’t practice micromanagement and leave it to the team to make the decisions they need to and consult with me where appropriate. I do my best to help us move forward in a strategic fashion and eliminate the out-of-bounds work requests that so often derail a good team’s productivity. I never set expectations with external stakeholders without consulting my team, and I look to them to provide honest assessments and feedback.

 

See Responses From More Engineering Leaders on BuiltIn.com

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