Engineering Spotlight is a recurring series on VentureFizz. It's a deep dive into a Boston tech company's engineering team and what it's like working there. This year, we have been expanding our "Inside:" series of video interviews to learn more about company's engineering teams.
Each spotlight gives you an inside look at the company's technical stack, the complexity of problems the engineers get to solve, the team's culture, what to expect for an interview and more.
Below is a list of the companies we've featured so far this year along with a couple of snippets from their Engineering Spotlight or their "Inside:" video feature.
"Our teams get to play with Scala, Kafka, Cassandra, some Linux kernel, with Chef and Terraform, with sprinklings of Postgres and NodeJS. The primary challenge for our engineers at Threat Stack is dealing with an immense volume of data in a streaming fashion. The edge of our environment receives roughly 1 million events per second. We’ve achieved this milestone by utilizing Scala (Akka) and Kafka. These technologies have provided a high level of durability, and scalability and will be able to take us well into the future as we look towards 10 million, then 100 million events per second."
Threat Stack's Engineering Culture:
"In short, it’s accelerated learning within an environment that values asking questions, while enjoying the small moments and celebrating engineering wins. Engineering at Threat Stack is truly a collaborative effort in a fun environment. We work hard during the day and leave it at the office at night. Work/Life balance is extremely important and flexible scheduling is available. Team members are encouraged to work together via asking questions, pair programming, and project planning. After accomplishing an initiative, Engineering celebrates success with recognition and events, inclusive of all Threat Stack teams."
In this edition of Inside: Engineering, we spoke with Daniel Blumenthal, the CTO of M.Gemi. We spoke to him about the details on M.Gemi's business, the culture of the company, their engineering team, what they are looking for in terms of hiring new members for the team, and more.
Projects Outside of Day-to-Day Responsibilities:
"People do work on open source projects. Some experiment with things we don’t have a specific use for at this point, but they have an interest in. These projects and ideas are usually explored during tech lunches and reading groups."
What Potential Employees Can Expect:
"The very first thing is whether someone fits into one of the domains we work in, whether it’s a vertical or another domain we work on. They should be very thorough with their resume because that’s what most questions are based on. Coding challenges -- not Google-like, we don’t have 10, sometimes on the spot, sometimes offline. Furthermore, we look for a cultural fit with the company. An exceptional candidate should also be prepared to present any interesting projects that they have done. And of course, we want to know what sorts of things they do outside of work."
Interesting Projects the Team is Working On:
"SimpliSafe is adding doorbell cameras, smart door locks, outdoor and battery operated cameras to our product offerings. We are also building our technical integration partnerships with Amazon, Google, August Smart Locks, and others. In addition, we are presently working on localizing our product for the global market."
Involvement with Local Organizations:
"The Boston tech scene is more exciting than ever, members of our team attend and present at Devops and Node.JS meetups around Boston. The learning never stops."
What Attivio Does:
"Attivio is an intelligent answers and insights platform that brings Google-like search experiences to businesses. In doing so, we help mid-to-large sized companies solve their most complex search needs/projects, such as customer support, risk avoidance, and digital transformation. To do this, we leverage our own natural language processing and machine learning capabilities to provide a personalized and accurate search experience that delivers actionable answers to every question, instead of a simple list of links."
Interesting Projects the Team is Working On:
"We get to work on the largest, most sophisticated, and bespoke search projects in the world. Rarely is one project exactly like another which keeps our work interesting. So we’re always tackling unique problems for clients, from complex content security requirements to mixed on-premise/cloud deployments to enabling search across multiple languages. A big push for the team this year was launching a suite of apps, called Elevate. Elevate uses all of our advanced platform capabilities, like ML and NLP together, as well as a pre-configured search experience. It is available on the ServiceNow app store and delivered as an integrated experience the ServiceNow platform. It’s been a really fun project because we’re providing a rich search experience to ServiceNow users without them ever realizing Attivio is behind it."
"The bedrock of our technology, which grew up over the past 22 years, is predominantly on a Linux, Apache, Oracle, Perl based stack in our own private cloud. However, over the past several years we’ve made concerted efforts to modernize and embrace a more polyglot environment. We now have teams building in Node, Java, and Python, embracing Elasticsearch and Postgres, shuttling bytes around in Kafka, deploying in containers orchestrated by Kubernetes within our own data center or using tools like CloudFormation to deploy in various public clouds. Largely our front ends are written in React/Redux or in some cases natively mobile for Android and iOS."
Culture for Engineering Team:
"At the heart of our culture is the principle of unconditional positive regard. The default assumption that there are always good intentions behind our words and actions creates an environment where collaboration can thrive. We truly believe diversity makes us stronger and inclusivity is one of our core values. Our engineers are expected to be teachers in addition to learners. We value personal growth and career development. We stay focused on delivering customer success. We do not shy away from new challenges."
Developer Latitude with Projects:
"Our product heavily leverages open source. We would not have gotten our product to market in a timely manner had everything been written from scratch. To that end, the team extends and contributes back to those open source projects as often as possible. We have a number of open source projects of our own, including our web client framework. Part of the culture of 128 Technology is about empowering engineers. We work toward deadlines, much like every software team, but we do not micromanage. Developers are free to craft solutions to problems in the ways that they see fit, leveraging new technology if necessary. Developers actively contribute to the product feature set, innovating and implementing their own ideas."
"The 128T product is primarily written in C++14/17. Our CLI and plugins are written in Python and our web stack is React and Node.js. Our tools team keeps up with the pace of development, manages and extends our CI/CD pipeline and leverages Robot, Ansible and Terraform on a home-grown computer cluster— the size of which could get you rich mining for Bitcoins. (No, we are not mining for Bitcoins.) Our product scales from a small 2 core, 4GB RAM system to the highest-end servers on the market. In deployment, our customer’s networks are on the scale of 10,000 systems communicating with each other across the world."
Interesting Projects the Engineering Team is Tackling:
"At Crayon, we ingest and enrich massive amounts of text data from sources all over the web. Our engineering team builds algorithms to extract business insights from this raw data. For example, we identify events like product launches, acquisitions, executive turnover, and pricing changes. Challenges like this are a ton of fun to work on. It involves processing text, identifying trends and anomalies, and training models to classify important events. Solutions to these problems are non-obvious, and we test and prototype a variety of ideas during product discovery."
Involvement with Local Meetup Groups:
"Yes, you can find Crayon engineers out and about the Boston tech scene. Crayon engineers presented this past year at Startup Boston and Women Who Code. Folks from our team might also be spotted at Boston Python, ReactJS Boston, Women in Data Science and the Boston AI Meetup."
In this edition of Inside: Engineering, we spoke with Margaret Olson, SVP of Engineering at Cogito. During this interview, we discuss the details on Cogito and its platform, the technical stack, hiring plans, and culture... plus the nice perk of the ability to work from home on Wednesdays and Fridays to get that heads down work done!
In this edition of Inside: Engineering, we spoke with Dennis Doughty, SVP, Engineering at Lola.com. During this interview, we discuss Dennis' background, the details on Lola.com and its platform, the technical stack, hiring plans, and culture.
Projects Outside the Office:
"We do hackathons once a quarter, where engineers explore different ways to add value, from experimenting with a new idea/technology to simulating a virtual reality liquor store experience. It’s a great opportunity for engineers to collaborate with engineers from different teams, learn about the challenges of other departments, and innovate solutions. Many of the tools and features we use today were conceptualized or even deployed during hackathons."
"One of the nice things about working on a platform like Drizly, is almost all of us have used the service, so we all have or regularly are the customers that we are building for. The engineering team is always striving to improve the consumer experience, a lot of which goes on behind the scenes. We encourage engineers at Drizly to think beyond the ticket/backlog and evaluate the actual problem they are trying to solve, so you will often see engineers discussing more than just technical details and really evaluating what is best for the customer. During work hours we challenge each other to innovate and push the boundaries of the alcohol industry. Outside of work, we challenge each other to board games and high scores. Our events calendar is packed with a wide variety of activities for everyone, educational wine tastings, spin class, beach day, skip trips, just to name a few."
"Automated deployment of our enterprise solution to Azure RM, refactoring codebase for newest library versions/package dependencies, a data protection console that will allow users to easily manage all Carbonite products in a unified portal, automated provisioning (and de-provisioning) for customer trials, and unlimited file size backup."
Local Organizations and Meetups:
"Carbonite sponsors the Boston Emacs Meetup and hosts a variety of other meetups, including Boston DevOps Meetup, Boston Angular Meetup, Boston Snowplow Meetup, among others. We are also very proud of the Carbonite Charitable Fund. The Carbonite Charitable Fund, in partnership with The Boston Foundation, aims to close the technology skills gap in communities where Carbonite operates globally. Carbonite is proud to pledge its support to technology education initiatives that help students develop and hone the skills they need to participate and thrive in the digital economy. In addition to the Fund, Carbonite is also a proud supporter of programs like Hack.Diversity, to help improve the underrepresentation of minority employees in the Boston area and encourages students to work with local technology companies."
What Does Hometap Do?:
"At Hometap, we believe you can have a house and a life. Our vision is to empower homeowners to access their home's equity, free of debt. Hometap is like a home equity time machine, providing near-immediate access to your funds, with no interest or monthly payments required. That’s because we’re an investor, not a lender. We invest alongside homeowners, providing you cash today in exchange for a share of the future value of your home."
"We’re constantly working to improve our internal web applications to assist our teams, in ways like simplifying and speeding up our forecasting and underwriting processes. Another critical goal our team has is to enhance and build out our consumer-facing products to simplify the overall homeowner experience when engaging on our platforms. We give our team a fair amount of autonomy and choice for the technology that will be most effective in helping the team achieve its goals. Currently, our toolset ranges from web application technologies like Django and React, to data manipulation products like Airflow, to numerical libraries and statistical analysis inside Python."
"We have a Python cloud microservices architecture, and our search runs on top of Elasticsearch on the scale of millions of documents. We run everything on AWS, and now that most of their services are HIPAA-compliant, we’ve started to take more advantage of offerings like Lambda, EMR, and Comprehend."
Projects Outside the Office:
"We recently finished our latest Kyruus Hackathon, where teams worked on projects of their own invention. Some highlights, that we can share, were a clinical knowledge graph and automatic medical knowledge extraction."
"The Platform Engineering Group is a newly formed task force that is looking to build out automation. Historically, our business model was built on custom development that our customers requested, and as we grew we needed to find ways to productize the extensive knowledge we built up with each customer implementation. Now that our product is dynamic and has a foothold in the market, we are on to the next horizon: automation. Given the challenges of keeping our day-to-day customer work moving within project deadlines, we needed to stop and make a conscious decision and investment to automate in order to scale."
Engineering Team Culture:
"Currently, we are in a transformation mode at HealthEdge, which is not always an easy and comfortable place to be in. Just as many organizations have gone through growing pains, we are in that spot today. We are looking to leverage all of these lessons we learned in our first 10 years of business, and marry them to the need to drive newer technology and scalability to answer our customer demand and the dynamic industry of Healthcare IT. It’s not easy, but it definitely can be fun, and not one bit boring! Part of what drives our PEG team is the curiosity and drive to work through this change. It doesn’t always make for sunshine and rainbows-it’s hard and challenging work some days to be focused on continuous improvement- but we really believe that smart people working together is at the core of what will make the changes needed. We have grown significantly over the last 3 years, and part of the change has enabled veteran HealthEdge engineers who implemented our original HealthRules product to start collaborating with engineers from larger product organizations. This mind-meld of HealthEdge expertise and fresh perspectives from other industries turns into a unique team dynamic of innovation."
Engineering Team Culture at Cambridge Semantics:
"Our flexible culture is based on trust. We give our teams wide leeway in terms of how, when, and where they work as long as they produce quality results. We believe in an open sharing of ideas as free as possible from hierarchies so that everyone feels their voice can be heard. We follow a modified Agile process that attempts to minimize meetings for meetings sake so we can focus on the parts of our jobs that matter the most."
What Potential Employees Can Expect During an Interview:
"We typically start with a brief casual phone screen to make sure both sides are aligned and still interested in moving forward. After that, we move to an in-person interview where you'll have a chance to meet several different members of our team and learn different perspectives about the company. Some of those meetings are technical and some aren't. We try to have one longer in-person interview session rather than multiple, though occasionally we'll ask candidates to come back in or to conduct a video interview. Sometimes we do tech challenges ahead of time depending on the role, sometimes we don't. We want to make sure our successful candidates understand who we are and are as passionate about joining our team as we are about them!"
TrueMotion’s leading smartphone driving data platform is changing the world of auto insurance. Powered by machine learning, the platform determines when a person is driving, reveals their behaviors behind the wheel, and detects crashes.
In this edition of Inside: Engineering, we spoke with Rohit Goyal, COO at TrueMotion. During this interview, we discuss the details on TrueMotion, its social mission, their platform, what to expect during the interview process, and the company's culture.
Engineering Team Culture:
"WordStream’s engineering team is made up of individuals with a wide variety of backgrounds. Having such unique individuals on our team allows us to solve problems creatively and collaboratively while providing a top-notch environment of diverse critical thinking."
In this edition of Inside: Engineering, we spoke with Amy Newell, Director of Engineering at Wistia. During this interview, we discuss Amy's background, what Wistia does, the details of the company's engineering team, what to expect during the interview process, and more.
"Our core product is comprised of several Python-based microservices which is front-ended by React. The Engineering Team’s mission is to serve the business by providing additional functionality to our core product. In order to meet this mission, the Engineering Team leverages AWS technologies to reduce the operational overhead and increase the agility of development and deployment. To name a few technologies employed, the Engineering Team uses SnowFlake, EC2, ECS, RDS, and other AWS technologies for key infrastructure. Central to our product is the vast amount of big data that is collected, organized, and indexed which allows our data science team the ability to create their models. We have adopted Kafka as a primary solution to shuttle data across our core product as it acts as a durable message aggregation solution."
What a Potential Employee Can Expect During an Interview:
"We’re a fairly typical company when it comes to hiring, with phone screens and one-on-one conversations with the larger team. Where we are different is that we hire remotely (given we are a distributed company) and the entire process moves very quickly. We also have an online technical exercise which enables us to get a sense of the candidate’s coding and problem-solving ability, their ability to dissect an issue, and to gauge how well they can collaborate with other team members. It helps the candidate showcase their skills and understand how we work."
In this edition of Inside: Engineering, we interviewed Ken Pickering, Head of Engineering at Hopper, to give you an inside look at the company's engineering organization. We discuss Ken's background, what Hopper does, the details of the company's tech stack, how engineering is structured, and more.