A Day in the Life with Nashville’s Head of Engineering
Since starting to build our Nashville engineering team in 2014, we’ve added more than 20 people and continue to hire at a steady clip. To flesh out the opportunity for curious engineers (maybe that’s you?), we spent two days tailing Bryan Mayes, our Head of Engineering in Nashville. Although each team member’s experience is different (folks work on a wide range of projects, many based in other cities) Bryan’s day-to-day is to be aware of all the opportunities — and match them with the right people. Don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Hey Bryan. Can you tell us a bit about what it means to be the Head of Engineering here?
There are three main things I’m working on. I have responsibility for the team members who directly report to me, and the projects they work on; I build relationships with cool people in the Nashville community; and I’m generally a leader for the office — which is a key role because headquarters is 2000 miles away in San Francisco.
For a moment, can you speak directly to engineers who might consider working here? What do you look for in an engineer?
Sure! I really like having team members from different walks of life. I like people who are smart and approach life as generalists, but also have an interest in something specific, and their own perspective on it. Same on the technology side — they’re interested in a number of topics, but they also have a focus.
People must be able to work productively with a wide variety of people. My general goal is to create a team that’s fun, can work hard, and where team members can learn from each other and their respective specialities.
We also really try and hire people who are interested in learning — and ideally self-directed learning. I think a lot of people here acheive great things because they basically say, “I like this. I’m going to learn it because I’m passionate about it.” And then they do just that.
As a leader, is there an experience you’re trying to create for people on your team?
In terms of management style, I tend to be pretty hands-off, which works well for some people. If someone needs something different, though, I’ll try to adapt my style. At Eventbrite, there’s a lot of flexibility, but with that flexibility comes responsibility. We have people who come from places where it was a bit more, “This is the way it is — there’s no other way!” We try to instead say, “Hey, there’s a lot of ways to do something, but here’s the big picture. We’ve hired you because you’re good at taking the big picture and synthesizing it down to something simple. You like solving problems. We think you can solve this one.”
We want to put fun problems in front of team members, but, like all teams, we also have less glamorous work, like bug fixing and tackling legacy code. From my perspective, the idea is to help get the repetitive stuff out of people’s way. I’d like for everyone to be growing all the time. To create that experience, I have to provide problems they can’t find anywhere else. That’s the core of my job in a lot of ways.
Let’s turn the tables here. What was your path to Eventbrite?
I lived in California my entire life up until two years ago. I grew up in Orange County, went to school in San Luis Obispo and was working in the tech sector for a number of startups in the Bay Area. My wife is from the Nashville area, and we came back to be around family in 2014. When we first moved, I was working on a project called PeeqPeeq. It was pretty cool but we never made it big, though we did get covered in the New York Times. When I was ready to move on, I got in touch with an ex-Yahoo! Colleague, Firewall Paul — actually, his real name is Paul Pieralde. He’s Eventbrite’s Ops Director and he introduced me to some other Eventbrite team members, and we hit it off.
Has anything about Nashville surprised you now that you’ve been here awhile?
I was ready to leave California, though I didn’t know anything about Tennessee so I can’t say I knew what to expect. There have been a lot of surprises, in a positive way. The South sometimes gets a bad rap — which I think is unwarranted. People are smart and humble, and not to mention, Nashville is a great place to raise a family.
When we moved, we chose to live outside the city. At first I was working from home, and when this opportunity came up I was worried I wasn’t ready to give up the flexibility of working from home. My wife pushed back. She pointed out that taking the job with Eventbrite was a great opportunity to get to get to know the city and people in the community. And she was totally right. This job has been good for me socially because part of my role is to get out in the community and meet great people, which is really cool.
This probably sounds odd coming from a team leader, but I wasn’t born an extrovert.
Let’s get into some details. Can you talk about the projects the Nashville engineering team is working on? How is engineering organized at Eventbrite?
As of now, most of the engineering team is in the Bay Area, where Eventbrite started, but the balance is shifting as we uncover more and more talented people in and around Nashville. We also have a growing engineering team in Mendoza, Argentina.
In Nashville, a major project on our plate is RFID [radio-frequency identification], which is fast, fun, and new. It’s like a baby startup within our adolescent startup. Basically, we’re working with RFID tags in event wristbands and badges. Organizers can manage entry into large-scale events, as well as access to special areas, like a VIP lounge or backstage facilities. RFID also lets our organizers enable things like cashless payments, where to purchase a beer or band merch you just have to tap your wristband on a sensor. They can also measure foot traffic rates to help manage the physical flow of an event. We’re just scratching the surface of what we can do with RFID technology, and our team is leading development here for the whole company.
In this office we also have members of the consumer, mobile, purchase-anywhere-enablement, data, ops, and finance teams. Finance includes accounting automation, financial architecture, and risk management. Other people are building tools for our event organizers.
Our team members works on everything from APIs, all the way up through the main applications and native mobile applications. We also have a bunch of responsibilities around SEO as well as discovery, which is heavily based in machine learning — though that team is not reporting to me directly.
So if somebody joins the Nashville team, are they likely to work with people here, or could they be working with engineers in San Francisco and Argentina?
They could be working with any of the teams, anywhere. In terms of what they’d be working on, we’re opening up new lines of business here all the time. We’re not trying to force it, though — when we have somone who’s excited about a particular challenge, it’s my job to find a team that could use their help.
What’s the vision for Nashville engineering? What does the future look like?
We’re going to keep growing, finding new people, adding new functions, augmenting existing ones. The Nashville office will continue to grow because we’ve been able to attract really good people and have very low turnover. Of the dozens of people we’ve hired, only one has left. I think it helps that Nashville is so affordable, especially compared to the coastal hubs.
How does Eventbrite compare to other local opportunities?
We’re a medium-sized team, with a couple of dozen engineers in this office. What tends to resonate though — including with me — is that, while we’re a close-knit group, Eventbrite is unique in the Nashville area. We’re the only consumer technology company working at global scale, so the problems we’re solving affect millions of people.
Coming from out-of-state, I noticed that there’s a great work-life balance here. In the Bay Area, I sometimes felt like every conversation was about technology. That was really exciting when I was younger, but at some point my priorities shifted. Now I get my tech fix at Eventbrite, where I work with—and learn from—amazingly smart people. But I’m learning and growing in other ways, too. Today’s me is “Bryan the human, a member of my community in more ways than one.”
Human after all. Do you have any fun hobbies outside work? Or just kids?
Kids are kind of a full-time job. I play volleyball and do outdoorsy stuff, like fishing. Fishing is something I grew up with, but I didn’t get to do it much when I was in the Bay Area. I’ve gotten back into it since moving to Tennessee. Compared to a lot of people I’ve met here, I’m full-on amateur hour, but I like to think I’m catching up.
Editor’s Note: To help tell this story, we partnered with Job Portraits, a creative studio that tells stories about fast-growth companies.