More than code: 7 LA technologists share what makes working on their teams unique

by Michael Hines
April 24, 2019

If you want to know what makes a tech team unique or special, you’ve got to look beyond the languages, frameworks and processes they use. That’s because while many teams leverage the same technologies in their work, no two groups take the same approach to culture. We recently spoke with tech leaders at seven Los Angeles companies to learn more about their culture, what makes their teams special and what they look for when hiring.

 

GOAT Los Angeles engineering jobs

GOAT is the world’s largest marketplace for buying and selling sneakers, from general releases to highly coveted exclusives. The company recently secured a $100-million investment from Foot Locker and is growing rapidly. Senior Director of Mobile Hyung Lee said his team has great synergy, and when it comes to hiring, he looks for candidates who know the value in working together toward a common goal.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

My team focuses a lot on mentorship and collaboration. We have a great mix of talent, with experience ranging from over 30 years in software engineering to developers in the beginning of their careers working on iOS. We stay ahead of the latest cutting-edge technology and best practices and implement those learnings into our business.

Our business is growing rapidly, and we have high expectations for the quality of work our team produces. We’re highly adaptable and everyone really steps up when needed. We also have regular team outings and a flexible, unlimited PTO policy. Another thing that makes us unique is how readily accessible GOAT’s leadership team is. It’s really easy to feel supported here.

Our unique team has great synergy, and each member knows the value in working together toward our goals.

 

What do you look for when hiring? How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits all your team members share?

I first look to see if a candidate's technical skills meet our standards. We have very talented industry leaders on our iOS and Android teams who understand the latest software development best practices, as well as clean and scalable code. We focus on identifying candidates who value those aspects as well.

I also look for candidates with positive energy, and who are optimistic about new challenges. Our unique team has great synergy, and each member knows the value in working together toward our goals. Lastly, I look for candidates who are natural leaders, those who proactively find ways to solve problems and seek to help move our entire team forward.

 

ChowNow Los Angeles engineering jobs

ChowNow helps local restaurants grow their businesses and better connect with consumers through its online ordering platform and marketing services. Senior Backend Engineer Michelle Brenner said one thing that makes her team unique is its onboarding process, which is designed to help instill in new team members the idea that no question is too small and that diverse ideas are welcome.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

We take a collaboration-first approach. When something breaks, we don’t point fingers but instead reflect as a team on what we could do better. We mix up code reviews and product assignments so no team member becomes the only expert on a single feature. We prioritize open communication and provide transparency on what every department is doing and why.

This is evident in how we introduce new members to the team, with a two-day company orientation and dedicated classes from each technical lead on their specific discipline. This is followed by a prepared set of starter tickets and assigned mentors to help guide them through their first weeks. We want to ensure each new hire knows there is no question too small and that diverse ideas help us all improve.

We expect employees to not be your average heads-down developer, but rather to raise their hands when they want help or to make suggestions.

 

What do you look for when hiring? How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits all your team members share?

Technical experience is only a small part of what we look for. Collaboration, communication, self-awareness, leadership and the ability to learn are all equally important. It starts with our job descriptions. We don’t list requirements. Instead, we give clear guidelines on what to expect from the job. During the interview, we value stories of successes and failures. How a candidate responds to a mistake or losing a technical argument is critical to maintaining our team dynamic.

We expect employees to not be your average heads-down developer, but rather to raise their hands when they want help or to make suggestions. New ideas and procedures make us stronger and keep us on the cutting-edge, which is why we look for those with technical curiosity who want to learn and share with the team.

 

Romeo Power Technology Los Angeles engineering jobs

Romeo Power builds batteries that enable electric cars to go farther and designs energy storage systems that help businesses and utilities cut costs by making better use of renewable energy sources. Manager of Thermal Engineering Prahit Dubey said what makes his R&D team unique is their wide range of expertise, strong leadership skills and shared love of good food.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

Our team’s most unique quality is its diversity: of thought, experience and culture. We have team members with expertise ranging from cryogenics to automotive engineering and fusion reactors. This has allowed us to derive knowledge from all nooks and corners of engineering and develop world-class thermal management systems. Our team’s other unique qualities include its never-say-die attitude and penchant for collaborative work. And did I mention that we’re one extremely fun-loving group?

Our team’s most unique quality is its diversity: of thought, experience and culture.

What do you look for when hiring? How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits all your team members share?

Apart from technical skills and experience, we look for strong leadership skills — someone who can actively take charge and contribute to our strong, collaborative culture. Getting the job done often requires taking input from several teams and bringing everyone to consensus. This is not an easy task in a startup environment and requires strong leadership skills.

It is also important to delve into a candidate’s work experience, creativity and approach to problem-solving to understand if they bring something unique to our culture and programs. Other than sharing a passion for our individual research areas, we all really enjoy spending time over food outside of work. This greatly strengthens our trust and bond with each other.

 

 

BloomNation Los Angeles engineering jobs

BloomNation helps independent florists enhance their e-commerce efforts by providing them a platform to showcase their creations and connecting them with consumers searching for unique flower arrangements. While the company’s tech team is on the smaller side, CTO Jason Sherman said this simply means that everyone has the ability to make a big impact on the business and have their voices heard.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

We have a very flat organization where everyone feels like an owner of the products they work on. Given our smaller team size, each team member has the ability to make a huge impact on our products and the company's growth. It’s not uncommon for backend developers to make UX suggestions and have their voices met with open ears. This fosters an environment where people feel empowered and have greater satisfaction in their roles.

I feel honored to have a team of engineers who embrace challenges and look forward to solving hard problems.

 

What do you look for when hiring? How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits all your team members share?

We are looking for individuals who are open about what they know and, more importantly, what they don't know. We understand that none of us are born with these technical skills, and building an environment where learning is part of the role is very important to us. I feel honored to have a team of engineers who embrace challenges and look forward to solving hard problems.

 

WITHIN Los Angeles engineering jobs

Within is in the immersive storytelling business. The company creates, acquires and distributes story-based augmented and virtual reality experiences across a wide variety of platforms, including mobile, gaming consoles and headsets. According to VP of Engineering Dave Cowling, one of the things that makes his team so unique is their love for collaboration — and special-interest Slack channels.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

Despite wildly different backgrounds and areas of expertise, there’s a readiness to pitch in, help out and contribute to tasks where there might be boundaries at other companies. We’re a team in the truest sense — full of camaraderie between talented creators and exceptional visionaries committed to shaping the interactive possibilities of tomorrow. In addition, we’re also proud to offer a higher ratio of special-interest Slack channels to engineers than any other company, ever: #multiplayergamenight, anyone?

We’re looking for intellectual curiosity that extends beyond narrow domain expertise.

 

What do you look for when hiring? How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits all your team members share?

We’re looking for intellectual curiosity that extends beyond narrow domain expertise. Not just vast knowledge of the immersive media space and its various tools and platforms, but the deeply held belief that AR and VR are exciting new frontiers set to emerge as the most powerful engines of transformation in the 21st century. When we find these qualities coupled with a sense of humor and lack of ego, the official matchmaking process begins.

 

Pravin George
VP of Engineering

 

MyLife.com makes it easier for people to find out what information is available about them online. The company gathers information from government and other publicly available sources to create a Reputation Score, which can be verified, edited and enhanced by the person it belongs to. VP of Engineering Pravin George said members on his team all share a few common traits, which include a willingness to learn from others, openness and a desire to work as a team.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

MyLife is an organized company, but we try to avoid hierarchical organization. Our founder and CEO has always insisted on a flat structure. Everyone knows their responsibilities and there are supervisors, but everyone is also their own boss. We encourage participation in every aspect of the company, and we encourage ideas from everyone.

The engineers who succeed here are self-starters who have confidence in their ideas and the ability to learn from others.

 

What do you look for when hiring? How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits all your team members share?

We want big-picture thinkers. When it comes down to it, everything, no matter how small, contributes to the big picture. The engineers who succeed here are self-starters who have confidence in their ideas and the ability to learn from others. When it comes to shared traits, everyone is easy to work with, open and just really enjoys being members of a team. We all have an ego but one of the things we admire about our people is that they leave their ego at the door and work together. No matter how tough a task might be, they know we can solve it together.

 

Enervee Los Angeles engineering jobs

Enervee develops applications and services designed to help consumers make more environmentally-friendly decisions when it comes time to shop for energy-consuming products like appliances, cars and lighting. CTO Kris Anderson said part of what makes his team so unique is the ownership they’re given over technical decisions.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

Our team drives our technical decisions, everything from the frameworks we use to the architecture changes of our application. Over the past year we've moved from a single, monolithic application to microservices with Docker, Kubernetes and more. Those decisions came from the team, not the top, although the top of the organization supports the team's decisions.

On a personal note, I love working with my teams. I trust that they’ll hit our business goals and support me when I need some extra help. I enjoy the problems we're solving and who I'm solving them with. It honestly doesn't feel like work. It feels like my second family, and I truly enjoy spending time with them.

I enjoy the problems we're solving and who I'm solving them with.

 

What do you look for when hiring? How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits all your team members share?

We want a team of studio musicians, not rock stars. You may not know who they are, but they're darn good at what they do, and they constantly deliver quality albums that get better with each release. They understand that working together will produce better quality than trying to be a star and going it alone.

Our culture is all about trust and collaboration. I trust my team to make the best decisions based on the information they have about our business' goals, and I trust them to come to me and be open about any concerns, fears and challenges they may have. I always strive to put my team first and myself second, and I do that because I know they would do the same for me.

 

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