Leaving a Series a Startup to Join a Successful Tech Startup... Thoughtful
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Prior to joining Thoughtful, I was a software engineer for a Series A startup building data pipelines, and even had a stint as an engineer at a law firm! Both were incredible learning opportunities that taught me what I was really interested in: building things from scratch and collaborating with others to create something new.
Although I really valued my early roles, being part of a more established company meant that I was spending more time building things that others had designed, and I wanted to start designing and prototyping more products on my own.
All in all, I learned that I really loved solving complicated problems, but I also wanted to build a product from the ground up, and I wanted room to be more autonomous and inventive in my problem-solving. Rather than having to push through roadblocks or outdated procedures, I wanted to be able to build sound processes from the ground up.
I found out about Thoughtful through a recruiter and was struck by how similar the work was to what I was doing at my previous company. That being said, it also presented a unique challenge: automating processes and customizing them to what each individual company would use them for. In my role, I would be responsible for figuring out how we could automate those processes faster, and communicate those results in a way that non-technical customers could understand. It felt like a natural and sufficiently challenging next step.
Here are three more reasons that joining Thoughtful was the best decision I ever made:
1. I'm coding way more.
It's my experience that at more established companies, engineers take on disproportionately more administrative work. This can range from filling out long ticket forms, change request procedures, waiting for infrastructure from IT, and setting up meetings to discuss every step of a plan. While useful in larger organizations, working at smaller startups like Thoughtful means I'm spending less time in meetings and more time coding.
Dan and Alex, our cofounders, have a really good vision for where they want to go, with clear steps in how to get there. I'm able to think about problems in depth, instead of spending time discussing the logistics — simply because there are less people involved that need to be updated/tracked down. I also get to focus more on design, meaning that I feel like I'm legitimately creating something, not just updating what already exists.
Additionally, I’m able to expand my tech stack from just Python to include React, Typescript, and our Postgres database. I’m also learning something new about an AWS service every day.
2. As an early team member, I'm able to help create a supportive and blameless company culture.
As one of the first engineers at Thoughtful, I have a lot of say and impact in the culture of the company and the engineering team as a whole. At larger companies, talking openly about what is and isn't working might be a closed book topic — there are either other things that take priority, or they need to go through formal review processes in order to get changed. At Thoughtful, handling challenges is as simple as having a conversation with a team member, or sending a message over Slack to resolve a question or brainstorm solutions. People are really open to chatting and hashing out ideas or going back and forth on something. We’re a hybrid team, so I get to see my colleagues in the office a few days a week, and still feel super connected and supported on days I’m working from home.
When it comes to engineering problems, in particular, we focus less on blame and more on the composition of issues in the system that allowed it to happen. We know that everyone will make mistakes, so it's a matter of foolproofing our product so that it prevents mistakes from happening in the first place. If something goes wrong, we narrow it down to: why does the system have something in place that can break rather than why did you break it?
Something else we do that's really helpful is host retro meetings where we discuss what’s going well, and where there’s room for improvement. This facilitates an environment of growth, constant curiosity, and regular feedback.
Additionally, every Wednesday we have a team lunch, dinner or a happy hour which is a nice way to mix teams and meet people in person.
3. I'm creating products that have a huge impact on our team and our customers.
At Thoughtful, everything I build and every bit of code I write has a huge effect on the product — I mean, we're building the product from scratch. The work is so much more rewarding, and I feel a greater sense of ownership over what we're creating.
Right now, I’m building a tool that will automatically write out a report for our customers about what happens when they run one of their bots so they trust the platform more, know that they got their money’s worth, and gain more insight into the backend of how our platform operates.
With the added transparency into metrics, our customers gain confidence in the workers than run on our platform, and this report directly shows them the value we provide. I get to harness my creativity and skill to build a product that will make a change for engineers and startup teams across industries.
Right now, I’m a few months into my role and am loving every minute of it. These days, I split my time between coding, ideating, and pitching in on the company’s strategy whenever I learn something new. I’m getting a ton of hands-on opportunities to develop my engineering muscles. Additionally, it’s important to mention that as an openly queer member of our engineering team, I’m hoping that Thoughtful continues to prioritize diversity and inclusion across all of our teams.
For those interested in making the jump into the startup world, I hope you'll consider Thoughtful in your search. If you have any questions about my experience or more questions about the company (or want to join my team!), I’d love to connect and hear about your story!
If you’re curious about Thoughtful, please pay our website a visit.
If you want to contact me, feel free to message me through LinkedIn!
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January 9, 2024