Bending Spoons
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Bending Spoons

Backend engineering — The Bending Spoons way

At Bending Spoons, we either go big or go home. And what better way to go big than to work every day with a team of engineers that’s energetic, hard-working, and ridiculously talented? To our Backend Engineering team, there’s little that can be more rewarding than supporting the entire Spooniverse every day. Here, you can share your ideas in an enthusiastic, receptive, and collaborative environment, making major contributions to crucial technical decisions.

By Omar Cardia, software engineer and tech lead at Bending Spoons

Describing what our Backend team does is always a bit of a challenge. By definition and by design, we operate behind the scenes. But even though our work doesn’t always get the limelight, it forms the backbone of apps used and loved by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

The challenges we face on the Bending Spoons Backend team

Our apps are pretty popular. Every day, around 400,000 people all over the globe download a Bending Spoons product. That’s a good thing, naturally. At Bending Spoons, we like to keep our customers happy, and we also enjoy the challenges that popularity entails. Working on a diverse and in-demand range of apps, there’s never a dull moment, and there’s always something new to learn.

Now, our apps look simple on the surface — but that’s only because a lot of their true complexity is invisible to users, handled behind the scenes by the devices themselves. Thanks to the hard work of our Android and iOS teams, the apps’ vast, backstage logic is always operating under the hood, in our cutting-edge backend systems. That’s how we manage to deliver world-class features while retaining a sleek and captivating UX.

But our backend engineers don’t just deal with our apps or with projects like our ambitious efforts in the field of Machine Learning. In fact, our Backend team has already automated a whole host of more tedious processes, and plans to automate many more — letting our fellow Spooners focus on demanding, creative tasks that call for a human touch. As well as outsourcing tedium to machines, this allows us to improve our performance by surpassing what’s humanly possible. Can you imagine any Spooner monitoring each one of our KPIs singlehandedly? For all our apps, 24/7, in every country we have users? And if the KPIs aren’t on track, could anyone trigger the appropriate countermeasure without a moment’s pause? Probably not, no matter how superhuman their skillset. But a machine can do it.

So far, though, this has all been pretty high-level stuff — so let’s take a real deep dive into some of our current challenges.

Current challenges

App backend

We’re committed to providing a beautiful and smooth UX for our users. That means we need to keep the backend of our apps extremely fast and reliable — and setting stringent service-level objectives (SLOs) is one big step in that direction.

Most of our apps have similar needs, such as monetization, live configuration, and A/B testing. So there’s a team of stellar backend developers who provide what we call Backend as a Service. Our systems allow us to onboard a new backend in a matter of minutes, giving our mobile developers a speedy way to prototype.

But in some cases, more specific needs arise, and our team is called on to deliver a tailored solution — like when we’re dealing with speech-to-text capabilities for Splice, image enhancing for Remini, or autocorrect for Fonts. Luckily, we can generate a custom backend in no time thanks to our tech stack, giving our product teams the ability to iterate on features as needed.

Marketing

Backend engineers play a key role in helping to market our products as effectively as possible. Our efforts to reach potential users span a number of macro-areas, like user acquisition, monetization, engagement, and more.

When I first started at Bending Spoons back in 2018, there was only a handful of us dealing with these challenges, and many operations were still performed manually by our Marketing team. To capture our daring and intrepid spirit, we started calling ourselves “the Vikings.” Before long, we set about exploring, validating, and implementing a whole host of tools designed to help us outperform competitors while keeping our practices profitable. A couple of years later, I’m proud of how things have evolved, and of how we’ve both branched out and branched off, separating our efforts into a range of different, laser-focused teams for each marketing endeavor.

In the course of our marketing work, we generally deal with black-box systems — a fact that keeps us on our toes and forces us to find innovative ways to reach more users than yesterday, every day.

Analytics

The popularity of our apps keeps us busy — like by providing us with a veritable avalanche of aggregated app data. To optimize our products and guide our bold decisions, it’s vital that we make the most of that raw data by transforming it into valuable and actionable insights.

That’s where our team of talented data analysts comes in. To help them do their magic, we build the tools they rely on to answer crucial data-related questions. Our mission is delicate: Their analyses should be easy to perform, but we have to be certain they don’t sacrifice an iota of detail or accuracy. Our Analytics Technology team makes this ambition a reality, automating, wherever possible, the tedious and repetitive parts of data analysis and giving our colleagues the time they need to focus on what matters most. Our tools process, store, and transform terabytes of data from various sources every single day. That makes querying and interpreting the information we gather a cinch for our analysts. Plus, having fewer tedious tasks makes for much happier analysts — trust me!

Platform

Many challenges resurface in different forms for a number of our Backend Engineering sub-teams. That’s why, in keeping with our obsession with maximizing impact and efficiency, we’ve invested in a dedicated internal platform team.

These engineers make the rest of our lives easier day by day, streamlining the way we deploy and productize our tools. For example, they allow us to smoothly interface with Google Cloud Platform services and deliver consistent infrastructure by leveraging Terraform capabilities.

This, and much more, is done by setting stringent security standards. Wherever possible, our security engineers embed strict measures directly into the services and shared modules we use to build our tools. And when security efforts can’t be automated, they support us by drafting crisp guidelines and following up with daily security tips.

As Bending Spoons grows, consolidating our knowledge has become another important task. We keep on stacking up internal libraries, best practices, training materials, and so on, so we’ve found ourselves with a rich repository of communal knowledge — an invaluable resource in reducing the time it takes to release our new tools.

Technologies

We use and teach the following: Python, Prometheus in conjunction with Grafana, Infrastructure as Code with Terraform, Google Cloud Platform services such as Compute Engine and BigQuery, and much more besides.

Clean, modular, and testable code is what we aim for, and we try to reuse as much as possible, with the life-saving caveat of avoiding overengineering. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

And why bother with automation if we don’t then leverage linters, formatters, and other strict checks in our CI? We concentrate our code review efforts on the non-automatable, juicy aspects of logic and architecture.

The Backend Engineering team’s responsibilities

Like any sensible engineering team, we make sure that whatever we devote our time to is going to have max impact. In practice, that means that whenever we encounter a problem, we think very carefully about the value and significance of addressing it before we proceed.

We try to apply that same logic to whatever we do, tackling the most crucial and fundamental problems first — cutting to the heart of issues rather than dealing with their second- or third-order effects. In other words, we deal with big levers. By focusing on these first-order issues, we often discover that we can drop a huge number of corner cases, dealing with which would have multiplied our workload while improving our overall solution only marginally.

We also make learning an important feature of day-to-day life on the Backend team. We’re always happy to share what we know — with one another, the rest of the Spooniverse, and the wider world. Data, Engineering, and Business are not watertight compartments: they’re more like neighborhoods in a well-connected city. We give straight feedback to our teammates and to other teams, and we’re eager to receive it in turn.

Fitting into the Backend Engineering team at Bending Spoons

As we’ve seen, the challenges that the Backend team faces can vary a lot. Whether it means working on a new REST API, an event-driven system, an AI pipeline — or any number of other important tasks — you can play a leading role in efforts aimed at massive global success. What’s more, you’ll see the results of your hard work very clearly: on our team, everything’s 100% transparent. From your first day, you have a voice in technical, design, and strategic discussions.

At Bending Spoons, we live by the “you build it, you run it” mantra. There’s no room for ship n’ forget. When you’re developing a tool, you have complete visibility over every aspect of its development, from conceptualization to execution to performance — and everything in between. Most importantly, you’ll grow at the speed of light. The bright and curious minds at work here make for a collaborative and invigorating environment that’s unlike anything you’re likely to encounter elsewhere.

Why an exceptional tech lead would want to work at Bending Spoons

At Bending Spoons, you’ll skillfully resolve technical disagreements to get the entire team on the same page. Luckily, we’re pretty accustomed to re-aligning quickly. From day one we put an emphasis on helping new engineers reach our quality standards as quickly and painlessly as possible. When a whole team’s instructed in shared best practices from the beginning, technical disagreements are few and far between — and those that do arise always prove engaging.

Here, you can share your ideas in a receptive and enthusiastic environment, making major contributions to crucial technical decisions. To support and maximize everyone’s impact, we also study, experiment with, and evaluate every new technology under the sun. And have I mentioned that we back all reasonable requests for learning experiences too, so you can unlock your full potential? Books, courses, conferences — you name it: if it improves your work, it’s on us.

So, at a glance, that’s what life is like on a typical day as a member of the Bending Spoons Backend team. Add to the mix the remarkable perks of being a Spooner, our wonderful office environment, and over 300 fun and talented colleagues, and you get a job that’s uniquely challenging, stimulating, and inspiring. For me, it’s been a tremendously fulfilling experience. If you like the sound of the work and culture here at Bending Spoons, then I’ve no doubt that it will be for you too!

Thanks for reading!

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