Coding for culture: The traits that make these 4 Chicago engineering teams special

by Alton Zenon III
July 3, 2019

From smartphones to airplanes, code is seemingly everywhere these days and much of it is unique in its purpose and composition. In that same vein, the teams developing all that code are just as one-of-a-kind in their missions and team makeup. 

How are the individuals that compose these distinctive engineering teams sought out? We asked leaders at four Chicago tech companies to find out.

 

Fusion Risk Management dev team in group photo

Fusion Risk Management provides enterprise companies with consultations and cloud-based software tools to enhance their business continuity and be more resilient following a potential crisis to digital infrastructure. Technical Architect Alex Clark said everyone’s inherent desire to drive results combined with their unique personalities makes his team an impactful bunch.

 

What makes your team unique from other teams you’ve been a part of? 

What’s really set my current team apart is everyone’s drive to learn and contribute to all parts of our tech stack, across products, and continuously improve our processes. Whether it’s a college intern building a system monitoring application to assist our support teams or a new engineer building complex mapping features while learning five new layers of technology — everyone has hit the ground running and contributed value to our customers from day one.

Everyone has hit the ground running and contributed value to our customers from day one.”

 

How can you tell a prospective engineer has something unique to add to the culture?

By specifically focusing on culture when talking with candidates, we’re able to learn about a person’s values and interests, which may lead to more common pop culture questions such as “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” or the story behind someone’s unique lobster cufflinks. All of our team members have specific qualities that we seek out — such as a desire to learn, drive for individual and team improvement, good communication, and a focus on business value. The mix of everyone’s personalities and interests get us talking and working on a personal level as well.

 

Two OppLoans engineers

OppLoans works to quickly approve and provide loans to consumers based on its data-focused credit scoring algorithm. Senior Software Engineer Stephen Starkey and Senior Database Administrator Bambi Bellows said the company’s culture and seeking out individuals with a desire to make change are vital in finding great talent for their team. 

 

What makes your team unique from other teams you’ve been a part of?

Starkey: We leave space for creativity because that’s what makes innovation possible. Our CTO Andy works really hard to create a culture where all ideas are worth talking about. I actually like going to our meetings here, which is unusual. They’re extraordinarily free and without judgment, and it’s all about surfacing the best ideas.

We leave space for creativity because that’s what makes innovation possible.”

How can you tell a prospective engineer has something unique to add to the culture?

Bellow: We’re working to make the world a better place, so you’ve got to find somebody who's passionate about what they do, but also someone who looks beyond the keyboard. You want people who care about making a difference in the world around them.

 

SpotHero development team in group photo

Need to reserve a parking spot in advance? SpotHero partners with businesses and organizations across the country to provide drivers with parking spaces when they need them. Vice President of Engineering Eric Brooke said he looks for a number of key criteria that helps him determine the best additions to his team. 

 

What makes your team unique from other teams you’ve been a part of? 

Our team is experienced, with a majority having at least five years practice. We have a strong desire to do the right thing, a willingness to work together to solve problems, and commitment to finding the root cause. We are not only web, mobile web, Android and iOS, but we're also building our new data products and IoT solutions for our B2C and B2B customers.

We have a strong desire to do the right thing, a willingness to work together to solve problems, and commitment to finding the root cause.”

 

How can you tell a prospective engineer has something unique to add to the culture?

We look for and recruit humans that have strong indications of six areas. The first is whether they can code. Second, they have to be curious and hungry learners. Third, they have to love to solve problems, and strive to be great engineers. Being tenacious and not giving up easily is number four. Five is being strong collaborators with diverse groups, and six is owning their work through successes and failures.

 

SpotOn development team in group photo

SpotOn provides a wide range of services to SMBs that include point-of-sale systems, marketing assistance, payroll processing, online review management and more. Appointments Team Director of Product Dain Hall said team members having the option to regularly work on what excites them sets the unit apart.

 

What makes your team unique from other teams you’ve been a part of?

For every retroactive and performance review, we ask our employees what they want to work on and what they’re most excited about with our product and company. If they’re tired of working on ‘X’, we’ll try to get them experience working on ‘Y’. 

There’s no shortage of work to do, and very few people like to get pigeon-holed into a role. Moving people around keeps them fresh and develops a more well-rounded skill set. Our employees’ goals, career aspirations, and voices are at the forefront of our thought process and management style.

We ask our employees what they want to work on and what they’re most excited about with our product and company.”

 

How can you tell a prospective engineer has something unique to add to the culture?

I’ve found the most successful employees are also the most curious and eager to learn. Software development, both the actual coding and the overall process to create it, is as much an art as a science, so being able to come at a problem from multiple angles and approaches really helps code quality, speed of development and overall teamwork. A natural sense of curiosity and willingness to learn tends to go hand-in-hand with humility — a trait that’s immensely important in this job.

 

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