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Engineering Spotlight - Crayon

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Crayon’s award-winning platform activates competitive intelligence inside your organization, helping you stand out and win.

We connected with Adam Bell, Principle Engineer, Andrew Dane, Senior Software Engineer II, and Sarah Searls, Software Engineer, of Crayon's engineering team to get an inside look at the company's technology, various projects, the team's culture, and more.

Quick Hit Details

  • Year Founded:  2014
  • Number of employees: 110
  • Number of engineers: 16
  • Industry: Competitive Intelligence Software

Can you share a summary on what Crayon does?

Crayon’s award winning software helps businesses monitor their competitors, analyze and collaborate on relevant information with their team, and provide actionable intelligence to key stakeholders across your organization.  Our mission is to enable businesses to deeply understand what's happening outside their four walls and translate that into action.

What's the tech stack at Crayon?

We use Python for our data and service layers.  We also leverage Django as our application framework, and our web clients are built with React / Redux.  All of our services and applications run in AWS, we make heavy use of Docker containers, and we manage our infrastructure via Terraform.

Crayon’s services operate at a very interesting scale. It’s not a traditional “big data” problem.  We’re not handling machine generated data or open-ended web crawling.  That said, there is a ton of publicly available information that we collect, as well as significant volumes of CRM data that we process.  We go very deep on the competitors that our customers care about most.  And as Crayon continues to grow, so too does this competitor set and the related data & information.

What are some of the interesting projects that the engineering team at Crayon is tackling?

Where to start!?  Currently, we’re focused on three major initiatives.  The first is an analytics module that leverages sales opportunity data (via CRM integration) to provide our customers with a better understanding of who they compete with and their corresponding W/L rates.  This module enables Competitive Intelligence programs to demonstrate a direct impact on the bottom line.  

The second project is focused on driving up engagement between our core primary users (Marketing) and their most important stakeholders.  This project shares a lot in common with content management/publishing solutions, and is critical to extending the reach of Crayon’s product.  

Lastly, we have a long-running initiative to re-architect the way that we capture, process, and organize our various information feeds.  In addition to being a classic signal-to-noise problem, this workstream is especially interesting because it deals with an extra dimension - change over time -  that is often overlooked when analyzing web content. Crayon’s approach also touches on interesting collaborative intelligence problems (i.e.  multi-agent, distributed systems that involve both human and machine agents.)  Future investments in ML will have an enormous impact in this space as well.

Does your engineering team have a chance to work on projects outside of their day-to-day responsibilities? 

Absolutely!  We strongly encourage our engineers to spend 10% of their time (i.e. every other Friday, also known as Fabuloso Friday) working “off roadmap.”  Some people take this time to fix bugs that they find personally annoying, refactor bits of code to satisfy their OCD, or work on side projects completely outside of the Crayon product code base.  But we also do our best to ensure that the “day-to-day responsibilities” for engineers are just as challenging and engaging, and not limited to simply writing and reviewing code.  We believe in empowered product teams, which provides lots of room for engineers to get involved in solution design and roadmap development as well.

What is Crayon's culture like for the engineering team? 

At Crayon we believe that building great products starts with building a great team.  To that end we’ve been hiring talented engineers who are looking to challenge themselves. We’re still a relatively small team, so there is plenty of opportunities to grow and have an impact at the same time. But we’re also looking for people who thrive in a collaborative environment and want to be a part of something bigger. We try to avoid solo artists, and we place a heavy emphasis on diversity, respect, and empathy.  We’ve recently instituted a daily, non-work, show-and-tell stand up just to get to know each other better. We’ve covered topics like growing mushrooms, planning two weddings across the world, where we’ve traveled, what we did last weekend, and even had a live March Madness-style bracket to determine the best TV show theme song (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air won, but there were plenty of upsets along the way).

What can a potential employee expect during the interview process?

The interview process starts with a phone screen to assess basic fit and give the candidate a better understanding of who Crayon is, inside and out. Next is a round of three interviews, 45 minutes each, with different members of the team. The focus of these interviews varies based on the role.  For most engineering roles we present a short, language-agnostic code design exercise that doesn’t require any preparation.  For more senior roles we focus more on large-scale system architecture.  In addition to vetting a candidate’s technical skills, we also pay close attention to how candidates align with our core values. But we do our best to keep the overall process as quick and efficient as possible.

Are you involved in any local tech organizations or Meetups?

We were involved in a few Boston-area meetups before Covid, but we’re looking forward to re-engaging later this year with a much larger and more diverse team!

Rapid Fire Q&A 

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Trek - more pseudo-science less mysticism 

iPhone or Android?

iPhone, we’re guiding the experience for customers

Coffee - hot or iced?


Favorite employee perk?

Working from home and the flexibility around work styles

What TV show describes the engineering team’s culture?

Parks & Rec - everyone’s always helping each other and is team-oriented, and there are many laughs along the way.

About the

Crayon’s award-winning competitive intelligence platform helps your organization see and seize opportunities so you can create a sustainable business advantage.

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