Building Great Products Means Building Great Engineering Culture

As an early stage tech startup–especially one building products for developers–SignalFuse [Mar 12, 2015: now SignalFx] is mostly (80%) engineering.  Our engineers helped build the infrastructures that run Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, and Quora. They participate in the open source community with projects like Docker and MaestroNG. They’re the life-blood of our company

Culture is key to building a great product and company. We’d like to share some of the specific things we do to promote the values we talked about in our first post, in practice.

  • Respect for each other as individuals is paramount, keeping focus on the content of discussions and debates.
  • Practice transparent and open communication, where everyone knows what others are working on and can have informed discussions about the tradeoffs of every decision.
  • No one person dictates how the system is built. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to contributes ideas, lead discussions, break things, fix things, and solve problems.
  • When engineers start, they get a review of our systems and architecture from the people that built them. They’re encouraged to critique the system from a fresh perspective.
  • Then they choose a starting project to learn from the bottoms-up.
  • They decide for themselves which team to join and what problems they’d like to work on.
  • Everyone wears a product hat. We are building something by developers for developers. Our engineers define, build, and own a product they would like to use everyday to make their own lives better.
  • We support balanced lives, because we’re not going to be successful if we burn out. We have lunch catered, go out together to eat once a week, have comfy and varied work areas in the office, flexible hours, great health insurance, support learning activities, and there’s a healthy foosball ladder.

We strive for everyone having an impact on the business and understanding how their work contributes to SignalFuse [Mar 12, 2015: now SignalFx].

Problems That We’re Working On

The real test of a culture is whether what you’re trying to build gets built, problems get solved while people are happy doing it and customers are happy using it. It’s a continual process of learning and growth. We think we’re off to a good start with what Ben Horowitz (our investor) calls a “Can-Do Culture”.

On our way to coming out of stealth, we’re steadily tackling greater challenges. We can’t tell you everything, but here are the kinds of things our engineers are working on:

  • Scaling streaming data and analytics
  • Visualizing runtime environments
  • Building a continuous integration pipeline with things like Docker, Jenkins, and Salt
  • Working with distributed systems open source projects like Zookeeper and Docker
  • And we’ll be contributing a lot of our work back to the open source community after we launch

We are actively hiring, so if this resonates with you, we’d love to talk.

Phillip Liu

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