Deep connections through data: How Tinder’s data engineering team powers all that they do

by Drew Housman
March 15, 2019
tinder engineering jobs
photo via tinder

Tinder’s interface is famously simple: swipe left or swipe right. But, behind the screens, there’s a ton of engineering magic that goes into providing the customer with such a seamless experience. 

Leading the technical charge? People like Tinder’s Engineering Manager of Data, Kate, who uses data to help millions of people find their soulmate — or, ya know, just someone fun to grab a coffee with. 

We spoke with her to learn more about all things engineering at Tinder. 

 

There’s a lot of buzz around data. What role does data play in shaping Tinder’s product, and what made you want to work with data as a career?

Data is everything at Tinder. Our data ecosystem is arguably the core foundation in driving all of the company’s product decisions. This alone is what generates the buzz and piques our interest about data as engineers — we want to make an impact. 

I sort of fell into the “big data” space six years ago when I was working on building back-office tools at a company making social casino games. It was 2013, just before mobile became huge, and we realized that our data warehouse infrastructure was going to fall over as soon as we put our game on the App Store. Ever since shifting into that role, which back then was more out of necessity than anything else, I’ve learned that the elusive “big data engineer” is one of the most creative and challenging roles in tech. 

Every day I get to interface and partner with so many different teammates, each with their own background and perspective. In fact, I have to be way more social than I inherently would choose to be. But mostly I love that I get to focus on complex engineering challenges that become exponentially larger with scale, making each design decision in the system critical.

 

I love that I get to focus on complex engineering challenges that become exponentially larger with scale, making each design decision in the system critical.”

 

Talk to us about those challenges. What tech are you using to tackle them?

The biggest challenge for the data team today at Tinder is how to find ways to optimally provide our massive datasets to customers. Our data pipeline ingests billions of events daily to enable the company to make decisions on how to innovate and improve our users’ experience on the platform, and it’s our job to build a unified, robust, and highly available framework on top of petabytes of data. 

We currently leverage big data technologies including Spark, Kafka, Airflow, Hive and Redshift to best serve this data to our diverse group of stakeholders with as little latency and as much accuracy as possible.

 

Sounds like there’s a lot to learn in your role. How have you grown since joining Tinder? 

I joined Tinder as an individual contributor, and I was brought on to rebuild the existing non-scalable and fragile data pipeline. With the help of a highly talented team of engineers, we turned my proof of concept into what is today’s data pipeline at Tinder: a highly scalable and fault-tolerant system that ingests more than 600,000 events per second — and this number continues to climb. 

With the successful launch of this product, I was given the opportunity to lead and eventually manage my own team, and I leaned on various leaders throughout the company to help guide and mentor me. There is a wealth of willing and generous role models at Tinder who have offered undivided one-on-one time, led book clubs and coordinated trainings and offsite learning opportunities. 

 

 

Beyond book clubs and off-sites, what makes Tinder’s culture unique? 

What’s unique about Tinder’s company culture is that we have managed to maintain a startup feel despite our massive growth — both in our user base and company size — in recent years. We have the hustle of a startup while reaping the benefits of a successful, profitable company. 

 

Success is an understatement when it comes to Tinder ― it’s one of the most recognized brands in the world right now. How big is the team that’s driving such impressive growth?

I think it may surprise folks to learn how small the Tinder team really is. Tinder has around 300 employees around the world — compare this to Uber (over 10,000), Airbnb (over 3,000), and Snapchat (over 3,000). 

Our engineering team makes up almost two-thirds of Tinder, and each team member can have a real sense of ownership for their contributions and deliver meaningful impact. 

 

You must be a tight-knit group. What’s the team like, and what are you looking for in additions to the team?

We are a group of ambitious and self-motivated engineers who are constantly exploring new technologies and diving deep into current technologies to push the envelope of optimizations. We come from different backgrounds with different levels of experience, but we all thrive in and promote a culture of freedom, self-direction and collaboration. 

If you’re a curious and humble engineer who wants to make an impact at scale and help shape the future of Tinder, we want to talk to you! 

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