How Company Values Impact Engineering Teams

Davin Hazard
Published in
7 min readJun 7, 2021

I joined Dover three months ago as the sixth person on the EPD team, coming from a small New York-based creative agency where I had been the first engineering hire. During my interview process, I sensed that Dover’s values aligned with mine. Upon joining, my intuitions were confirmed as I got to experience the great balance of collaboration and autonomy that defines our culture.

For those that don’t know, Dover is building the first end-to-end recruiting orchestration platform for the world’s top companies. We combine best-in-class candidate evaluation technology with bespoke process automation to help companies find and hire top talent for their open roles.

Dover went through YC in 2019, and today 100+ companies use our product to run a better hiring process.

By the time I joined, our values at Dover had been developing naturally, but as we’ve grown rapidly from 5 to 35 people over the course of this last year, we realized that it was time to formalize our values to maintain the strong culture we had built.

Last month, we officially established our company values. This blog details what those values are and how we embody them on the EPD team.

🏆 1: Ownership

At Dover, when we see a problem or an opportunity, we never think “that’s not my job”. We take responsibility for our results — both successes and failures. We drive projects to completion, even if it means doing unglamorous work or work that’s outside of our job description.

How we practice Ownership on the EPD team

Unglamorous work is going to be a part of any startup job — and something highly valuable for us are our Reliability Days.

When I started, we had a Reliability Day every other Wednesday, where we focused strictly on addressing tech debt. Today, Reliability Days happen three days in a row, once a month to allow us to devote more time to tasks that might not have been completed in one Reliability Day. It’s not as glamorous or exciting as feature work. But we care that much about our code quality, longevity, and sustainability that we are intentional about dedicating team time to this. We’ll refactor code, improve our monitoring, and generally work to make our codebase and systems better for everyone. I actually get excited for Reliability Days now, because it’s rewarding to see the improvements we can make when we designate the time to it.

On the EPD team, we also practice ownership by understanding that we have to take responsibility for seeking help when we need it. As a new hire there’s always some hesitation: “am I asking too many questions, should I already know how to do this?” but people vocalized to me over and over that I shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. In my first one-on-one with Max (our CEO), he gave me the advice to tell myself that I wasn’t asking enough questions, and that asking too many questions wasn’t possible. Noa (one of our Engineers) was my onboarding buddy, and he also reiterated to me that there’s no such thing as too small of a question. From day one, we’re “teaching people how to fish”.

🧠 2: Intellectual Honesty

At Dover, we are intellectually rigorous and reason from first-principles. We’re very open to trying things out and running experiments. We believe it’s okay to be wrong — learning is valuable and helps us get to our ultimate goal. We make conclusions based on facts and data. We’re honest with ourselves even if the conclusions are inconvenient or make us look bad.

How we practice Intellectual Honesty on the EPD team

On the Eng team, we review each other’s code closely before shipping to production. When we open pull requests, someone else on the team will review and offer feedback on our code. There have been times when I felt like none of my code was in good shape after a review. It can be heart-sinking to feel like I didn’t do things in the best way (or even right at all), but ultimately I value getting feedback from teammates with more experience and different perspectives than me. Getting constant feedback in this way has improved my coding practices and elevates our team’s code quality overall. When we’re proactive about intellectual honesty, we’re also helping each other build a thicker skin and take feedback less personally in the interest of constant improvement.

There’s a sense of humility on the Eng team where people are very open to feedback. We view feedback as an opportunity to learn. There are no big egos on our team.

🌎 3: Big Picture Thinking

At Dover, we optimize for what’s good for the business, long-term, over our individual/team-level interests. We’re not territorial; we avoid politics and gatekeeping. We think through externalities and the long-term implications of decisions that we make. Instead of doing things as one-offs we build processes and playbooks.

How we practice Big Picture Thinking on the EPD team

On the EPD team, we’re constantly thinking about the long term. We value creating value for the customer and our internal users. Whether it’s making the Engagement Manager or Customer Support jobs easier or the customer experience smoother, we’re constantly shipping features with them in mind.

With Eng decisions, we always ask ourselves: how is this going to be potentially used in the long term? We structure things with scalability in mind. As an example, I’m in the middle of scoping out a design doc for a rather large project in reworking our onboarding flow. I’ve spent days on it, meeting with multiple people to gather the requirements and understand the high level goals of the project. I’m eager to start working on it, but I understand the value in having a thorough understanding of the problem and solution before diving into the implementation. We consider the technical details and deliverability, as well as the impact it will have on other aspects of our product. We think of these questions up front because time spent there ends up saving us time in the long run.

⏩ 4: Gotta Go Fast

At Dover, we bias towards action. We value output and results over face-time. We are deliberate in identifying the MVP and are comfortable cutting the right corners.

How we practice Gotta Go Fast on the EPD team

On the EPD team, we believe in getting things functionally complete and shipped so we can help customers and people on different teams, even if the first version doesn’t look perfect.

The first thing I ship won’t necessarily look like the design specs. And that’s okay — I’m prioritizing speed, so I can get feedback faster and deliver value more quickly.

“Gotta go fast” is a phrase that’s repeated all the time on the Eng team. Working on a fast-paced team means learning to optimize for speed and taking an incremental approach toward delivering new features. I can be meticulous, and naturally I want to make sure I’m doing something right before putting it out there. I’ve learned that it’s okay if it’s not right the first time, and that I never need to feel judged by anyone. We’re constantly reviewing each other’s code and giving feedback, so it’s safe to move fast.

🌱 5: Slope over y-intercept

At Dover, we value experience, but don’t discount people who don’t have it. We believe good ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. People who do great work grow the fastest. The business needs them and pulls them into new areas.

How we practice Slope over Y-intercept on the EPD team

Coming from a creative agency, most of my development experience had been focused in frontend. At Dover, we’re expected to touch all areas of development — frontend, backend, and infrastructure. While it was intimidating at first to think I’d be working in areas that I was less familiar with, the supportive nature of our team helped me dive into full stack work in my first couple days here. Three months later, I have far more confidence in areas that I may have felt rusty or less experienced in when I started. Our team highly values growth and learning, which I find to be one of the most exciting parts of being at a startup. The Eng team even has a weekly reading group where we read and discuss Eng books together. I’m constantly exposed to new problems and ideas and information-sharing within our team, and it keeps work exciting!

❤️ 6: Active Generosity

At Dover, we make time for each other — whether it means getting to know someone personally or helping them up-level in a new area. We are enthusiastic about acknowledging and celebrating each others contributions — both 1:1 and publicly. We have a sense of humor about ourselves, and take things lightly. You should be able to laugh at yourself.

How we practice Active Generosity on the EPD team

This was the value I really felt during my interview process that drew me in to Dover. I’ve seen friends of mine join other remote teams this year, and they’ve had very different experiences from mine. Most of them feel disconnected from their new teams and don’t know anyone they work with.

I’m based in New York with a few other Dover employees, but most of our team is in SF. I was concerned about this before joining and how it might affect my ability to build relationships with my coworkers. I still haven’t even met anyone in person yet* — but I feel like I’ve actually made friends. Everyone is so enthusiastic about celebrating each other, and it fosters a supportive environment. We’re excited to call out each other’s wins.

As an example: during company-wide meetings, DRIs for our projects usually present their work or give updates. It’s standard practice that these people will give credit to every single person who helped them ship whatever they were working on. People love shining a light on the work of those around them — and we’re always saying thank you.

*Just after writing this, I got the chance to meet a lot of our team in person in NYC! :)

If these values resonate with you, check out our open roles! We’re hiring across the company.