Beyond the technical: The traits that help engineers at 5 Austin companies succeed

by Kelly O'Halloran
February 12, 2019

While technical skills remain an important part of any engineer’s potential, what matters most to companies often lies off the resume. How do you work with others? Are you accountable, honest? Can you pitch in when needed? 

We caught up with five fast-growing Austin tech companies to learn what sets the engineers that work for them apart.

 

sailpoint engineers
photo provided by sailpoint

Steve Gregory, a senior engineering manager for identity management platform SailPoint, highlighted the importance of a team-first mentality. Gregory also shared an engineer’s unique reading habits that demonstrated a passion for continuous learning — something his team members often possess.

Tech Tools: Java 8; Angular; Node.js; Python; Scala; AWS Stack (EC2, S3, Glacier, DynamoDB, SES, SN S, SQS); Kafka; Kafka Connect; Zuul; CloudWatch; DynoTrace; Prometheus.


What non-technical qualities are most important to succeeding on SailPoint’s engineering team?

We look for people who put the team before the individual. Someone with a hunger and unquenchable passion to build quality solutions that fix real-world problems. They have to be successful in a collaborative team environment, be a contributor in all aspects of their job, have a desire to learn and mentor, and possess a willingness to jump in when the situation requires it. We like honest people who have the ability to recognize the value and work of the people who surround them. And a sense of humor always helps.


What have you learned about an engineer that blew you away?

One candidate once told me he read 10 books, some technical, some not, at the same time. After reading a chapter, he changed to a different book. This was how he gained knowledge and it worked for him. The interesting part of this discussion was the path that this candidate took to get to this realization. It was instructional and led me to ask myself whether I would be able to analyze myself to that extent to generate such insight. The demonstration of continuous learning really stood out.

 

opcity engineering
photo provided by opcity

For Opcity engineers, having a solution-forward mindset is as important as having experience developing full-stack applications. Senior Director of Engineering Dave Ruback shared a few other qualities that he looks for in members of his team.

Tech Tools: React; Redux; Python; Flask; Twilio; Elasticsearch; PostgreSQL; AWS; XGBoost; TensorFlow; PyTorch; PyMC3.

 

What non-technical qualities are most important to succeeding on Opcity’s engineering team?

While Opcity has grown quickly, our 30-person product and engineering team remains lean and agile. Collaboration, data-driven decision making and solution-minded are all necessary qualities of Opcity engineers. Opcity provides a unique opportunity to have a significant impact and set the direction on major technology decisions, while at the same time enjoying the stability of a more mature company. We hire full-stack developers who can move seamlessly between technologies. Being a coffee snob who likes ping pong and live music helps, too.

 

What have you learned about an engineer that blew you away?

The last candidate who blew us away asked insightful questions about our company values and how they relate to the day-to-day work as an engineer. A lot of companies don’t actually embody the values they put on the wall, so we like when candidates really dig in to see how we put our values into practice; it shows us that’s something they’re mindful about. The candidate cared deeply about the team they would be joining as well and demonstrated they would thrive on a collaborative development team.

 

bestow team
photo provided by bestow

Scott Tsuchiyama, a senior site reliability engineer at Bestow, stressed his appreciation for team members that exude humility as well as different approaches to problem solving. 

Tech tools: Python; Golang; Postgres; React; Kubernetes; Terraform; Google Cloud. 

 

What non-technical qualities are most important to succeeding on Bestow’s engineering team?

For us, humility, interest in purposeful learning and overall interest in being a great team player are most important.

 

What have you learned about an engineer that blew you away?

The last engineer that really blew me away was in a nontechnical interview. It was the gracefulness with which how they walked me through, from their perspective, difficult situations and their mindset of always needing to understand the problem from all of the angles in order to best solve the problem. 

 

personify engineers
photo provided by personify

Manmeet Duggal, Personify’s VP of engineering, said that being a team player isn’t just important to his team, but to the entire culture at Personify. His example of the last time an engineer he met really floored him is a pleasant reminder that a positive attitude goes a long way.

Tech Tools: C#; MVC; RESTful APIs; Jquery; React; Bootstrap; SQL Server 2016; MongoDB; MySQL.

 

What non-technical qualities are most important to succeeding on Personify’s engineering team?

Critical thinking is integral to the field of engineering and is a key quality we look for in members of our team. Being self-driven and taking initiative is also important to succeed in our fast-paced and challenging industry. We like to say “having aptitude with the right attitude” is the right combination for our team members. Lastly, being a team player is important to our team and culture here at Personify.

 

What have you learned about an engineer that blew you away?

The last time a candidate really made an impression was an engineer. His confidence, attitude, aptitude and critical thinking really stood out. His extremely positive attitude and willingness to work through problem statements along with openness for feedback impressed me. The candidate did research on Personify before the interview, showing strong initiative, and was able to articulate how he could be a good fit within the culture of Personify. Demonstrating these critical technical and non-technical qualities gave us the confidence that he would be a valuable addition to our team.

 

sourceday
photo provided by sourceday

SourceDay’s Head of Engineering and Product Mark Garcia mentioned the two qualities that are must-haves to join his team. He also noted a sought-after communication trait that often goes unnoticed during interview evaluations.

Tech tools: Ruby; C#; MySQL; AWS (Lambda, Kinesis, Athena, VPC, EC2, ElasticCache); Semaphore; Cucumber; RubyMine; DataDrip.

 

What non-technical qualities are most important to succeeding on SourceDay’s engineering team?

We look for individuals who have the aptitude for decomposing a problem to find a true solution. In concert, exercising critical thinking skills allows one to be more autonomous and fuels the need to be self-driven. These two skills truly allow us to accomplish more and succeed as a team.

 

What have you learned about an engineer that blew you away?

I was interviewing a candidate for an engineering DevOps role. The interview evolved rapidly, going from technical to talking about hobbies and travel. The way the candidate was able to articulate and carry their thoughts really stood out. The level of concision is an often overlooked trait for a candidate in this day and age of being technically strong behind a keyboard. How you communicate with your peers across an organization is just as important.

 

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