Engineering Spotlight: Constant Contact
Constant Contact is one of the leading email marketing services in the country and they have roots right here in the Boston tech scene. Founded in 1995 by Randy Parker, Constant Contact's services have been helping businesses of all sizes create and execute email marketing campaigns.
The company was acquired by Endurance International Group in 2016 and became their largest portfolio company.
Sue Mildrum, Sr. Director of Engineering for Constant Contact at Endurance International Group, spoke with us about the ins-and-outs of the engineering team. During our conversation, we learned all about Constant Contact’s library of products and how the team works on their projects. We also got to learn a little bit about what they like to do for fun during and outside of work. Read more about Constant Contact’s engineering team below!
Also, Constant Contact is hiring! Check out their BIZZpage for all the company’s openings.
Quick Hit Details
Constant Contact was acquired by Endurance International in 2016. It continues to operate as a business unit. These details are Constant Contact-specific:
Year Founded: 1995
Number of employees: 729
Number of engineers: 80 (and hiring like crazy!)
Industry: Email Marketing
Can you share the details on what Constant Contact does?
Constant Contact’s goal is to empower small businesses and nonprofits to grow customer relationships and reach success. A leader in email marketing since 1995, Constant Contact provides hundreds of thousands of small businesses around the world with the online marketing tools, resources, and personalized coaching they need to grow their business.
Our customers are getting real results through email newsletters, surveys, events, Facebook promotions, online listings, and more, while our support teams and field experts work hands-on to help develop marketing strategies and smooth our customers’ paths to success.
Constant Contact operates as an Endurance International Group business unit - the largest in its portfolio of brands, which also includes Bluehost, HostGator, and iPage. Endurance offers everything a small business needs to get online and grow online, including web hosting, domains, eCommerce, e-marketing, and mobile business tools. We are five million small business customers strong… and growing!
What are some of the different technologies that the engineering team gets to work with and at what scale?
We have re-architected our product to be microservices based. Most services are Java, but some are Ruby. We have rewritten most of our user interface to be single-page apps using Backbone/Marionette primarily, though we have some Angular as well. Databases include MySQL, DB2, and Cassandra. We use RabbitMQ in our Syndication system, and use Selenium, rSpec, Jasmine, and jUnit to fully automate our testing. Monitoring our apps in production is extremely important - we use NewRelic, Grafana, and Splunk to make sure we know about issues before our customers do.
We are in the process of moving to AWS so engineers are also getting experience there.
Scale and performance are critical when you’re serving as many customers as we are. The day before Thanksgiving we had our biggest minute, syndicating 1.2M emails in those 60 seconds!
What are some of the interesting projects that the engineering team is tackling?
We have several large, related projects kicking off now that boil down to helping our customers get the right message to the right people at the right time. These initiatives will involve essentially the entire dev team in 2018 as they’ll require new apps and new user interface components. As part of this, we are also looking at how our huge amount of data can be leveraged.
Can you share some of the other teams the engineering team works closely with - for example, the Data Science team?
We work very closely with the Engineering Services, Continuous Delivery, Security, Compliance and Cloud teams.
Can you describe the type of background or experience that you generally look for when hiring for the engineering team?
The experience we need varies somewhat by the team. We hire engineers at all levels from entry-level to Architect depending on our needs.
We have both full-stack and backend-only teams. The full-stack teams typically are writing purpose-built services in Ruby or Java, and the user interface needed to support some particular user functionality. Full-stack engineers do really well on these teams, though there is often room for front-end or back-end specialists.
We also have a few back-end heavy teams that are writing services in Java that are used by other groups. They are very concerned with scaling and performance and do sophisticated monitoring to ensure that the operation of their apps is smooth in production.
We have a phenomenal Software Engineering Development Program into which we hire 8-12 new college grads each summer for a year-long rotation and training program. They come out of the program with a solid understanding of the entire system, as well as relationships across the organization. We’ve learned from this program that rotations are a great way for engineers to increase their knowledge and impact and we encourage all engineers to talk to their managers if there is something they’d like to try for a couple of months.
Constant Contact has a library of different products. How do you decide which products engineers get to work on?
We are always trying to balance people’s interests and skills with the needs of the business. Engineers have conversations with their managers in their 1-1’s and quarterly coaching conversations about where they want to go in their career and how they want to grow. Managers keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities for people on their teams. We also talk about needs across teams to see if we can match initiatives with individuals who are interested and would be a fit, before looking externally.
How would you best describe the culture and working environment for the engineering team at Constant Contact?
Relationships matter at Constant Contact. It is a very friendly culture. People help one another and collaborate both within and across teams. Collaboration is in support of maintaining a high technical bar. All code is peer-reviewed and the test automation is the best I have seen in my career.
We have a culture of learning. Engineers present things they have learned at monthly Engineering Lunches. We have a QE Guild that shares best-practices as well as a Front End Guild that crowdsources ideas to make front-end development at Constant Contact better. We have a book club that meets regularly to select and discuss books on technical topics, and a Women Engineers group that brings women engineers and those who are supportive of them together to discuss relevant topics. Almost all of these initiatives were started by individual contributors who were interested in making them happen, proposed them to their managers, and ran with them.
We are genuinely customer-focused. We are passionate about helping small businesses and non-profits. We go on customer visits and do volunteer outings. We all know customers who are using our software so it is really motivating to do a good job for them.
While supporting all of our current customers, we don’t want to stop innovating. We have multiple InnoJams (hackathons) each year and everyone is encouraged to participate (not just engineers!). We’ve gotten some amazing product ideas out of these events and individuals have had fun, built relationships, learned a ton, and won some nice prizes!
What can someone expect during the interview process?
Coming in for an interview is a big investment for the candidate as well as the company. We try to make sure we are not wasting anyone’s time.
Typically candidates will hear first from our recruiters who want to get a basic understanding of what the candidate is looking for and to tell them a bit about us. If that goes well the candidate will have a phone call with an engineering manager. Assuming they still look like a good fit, they will have a technical phone screen with an engineer. The last step is an on-site interview. If we think they could be a good fit for more than one team we will have the managers and members of both teams participate in the interview.
Our goal is to be able to make a decision after the one on-site interview so candidates should expect to hear back quickly after they come in.
What does your team do for fun outside of work? Are they involved in any local tech organizations?
It’s a pretty big dev org, so fun ranges from running 5K’s and half-marathons together to play in a kickball league, to having a board game night or volunteering at an organic farm. Over the last few years, we’ve gone out to see blockbuster movies together – we just recently went to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. We also have a garden club that takes advantage of our sunny balconies and people from all over the company grow veggies and herbs out there. It is nice to look out the window and see all the greenery, it’s even better to bring home peppers and cucumbers!
Rapid Fire Q&A
Favorite Constant Contact commercial?
What’s on tap?
Drinks are delivered via the beloved “Beer Cart” which is stocked with all kinds of beer, wine, and hard cider. For non-adult beverages, there are seltzer and coffee machines and free soda.
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Star Wars! We take the engineering team out when a new movie is released.
iPhone or Android?
Well, we have apps for both but I’m partial to Apple products myself.
Coffee - hot or iced?
Hot! And we’ve got multiple fancy coffee machines so you can find the one you like best.
Favorite employee perk?
Attending technical conferences.
What TV show describes the engineering team’s culture?
I don’t watch much TV, but our SEDP’s conferred and came up with Parks and Recreation. The Internship and Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 were also in the running if we could include movies.
What music is playing in your office?
Whatever you’d like while wearing headphones ☺
View from your office:
Software Engineering Manager
"The biggest upside about working for a company like Constant Contact, from a technology and engineering perspective, is its willingness to adapt and try new technologies that could benefit individual teams and the company as a whole. With a constantly evolving and rapidly changing technological landscape, this is a big boom. No matter how big or small a company, when it comes to trying new technologies there seems to be a fair amount of red tape involved. Here at CTCT, if a team feels that it could benefit from something new, whether it be a front-end framework, a new testing tool or a new way of monitoring our apps, the individual team, and its members are given the opportunity to POC this new initiative. If deemed the right fit, they’re given the green light to adopt it. As an engineering org, this keeps us in sync with the latest and greatest technologies out there and also keeps the engineers challenged, involved and learning every day."
"Constant Contact has given me the freedom to discover my strengths, weaknesses and interests as a whole, while also providing an incredibly safe place to challenge myself without sacrifice. Not only have I experienced an enormous amount of growth in my field, but I have grown tremendously as a human being. The people we work with, the material we work on, and our ability to come together as a company and support something, is truly beautiful to me. With a lesser crew of people, our flexible work style could be challenging, but everyone is 100% focused on making things happen and getting things done while still keeping our work fun, interesting, and compelling. We all place our trust in each other and ourselves, and the small businesses we work every day for. I am honored to be working at this company."
Advisory Software Engineer
"Why do I like working for Constant Contact? Over eight years of being asked that question my first response has been the same. The people. I get to work with many smart and talented individuals who share a passion for their jobs and the company mission. We have a diverse group of engineers with varied experience from which I can always learn something new. Beyond that our organization works on such a large set of challenging problems that I always feel like there’s an opportunity to grow."
Advisory Software Engineer
Pictures courtesy of Constant Contact and Endurance International Group.