How Intercom Attracts Exceptional Engineers

Darragh Curran, VP of Engineering at Intercom, offered advice on how to hire exceptional engineers during the Plato event hosted on June 29, 2017 in Paris.

Jul 26, 2017 · 4 min read
Darragh Curran, VP Engineering at Intercom

When your company is new and still unknown, finding exceptional engineers can take some time, and once you’ve hired them, it’s hard to keep them. In a recent “Engineering Management Talks with Plato” event, Darragh Curran, VP of Engineering at Intercom shared insights about how his company recruits and retains outstanding talent.

Read on for some of the highlights from Darragh’s talk, “Our Culture and How We Attract Exceptional Engineers to Intercom.”

Set yourself and your employees up for big and exciting challenges

For Darragh, being satisfied with his job meant working with people who inspired him and who he really believed in, and who believed in him and would push him to be a better version of himself. It wasn’t “just another job.” Darragh felt like he was truly making an impact. He learned from his own experience as an employee that working on big, exciting challenges makes you feel fulfilled and satisfied. “And I think that what’s important when you’re trying to attract engineers — the useful exercise is to put yourself in those shoes again,” he said.

To attract talented engineers to your company, Darragh said it’s important to follow Luc Vincent’s advice and become a storyteller, and also mentioned a few interesting examples of well-known companies and how they tell their stories. Microsoft, for example, had a great mission to put a computer on every desk, while Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected. When you look at Facebook, on the surface it’s a social network, or at least that’s how most people describe it, but if you look at their roadmap 30 years into the future, Facebook plans on building lasers and satellites and drones, to name just a few. But it all makes sense in the context of why they exist. When telling your story, it’s important to explain what problem you are solving and why.

Minimize friction in your work processes

Friction within a company can have severe consequences, not just to the organization as a whole, but also how problems within the organization are approached. Darragh said that Intercom has a common basic framework for approaching problems: no matter how big the problem is, start small and figure out the first step, which will help you determine the next step, and so forth. Reducing company-wide friction creates opportunities to do things far greater than just resolving problems; it can also create a pleasant working environment.

Work with the right people

The more empathy and understanding you can have for the designers you work with, or the researchers you work with, the more you can shorten those feedback loops and get to the right solution.

How can you fight the “everything is getting worse” situation?

Darragh emphasized that it’s important to teach people to not feel distressed and frustrated in a bad situation, but to think, “There’s something we can make better here, and I can contribute to improving it.” That kind of mindset might be referred to as acting as leaders, not victims. It’s honest and realistic.

To summarize:

  • Remove friction, which relieves tension and makes work enjoyable.
  • Put the right people together on the same team so they can be more effective.
  • Empower everyone to solve their problems. Don’t put it all on your shoulders.

Check out the full video below, and visit our YouTube channel for the rest of the videos from the event!

Plato is a community of top-notch engineering leaders who dedicate 30 minutes of their time per week to have calls to help engineering managers, or engineers who are currently transitioning to management roles, their challenges. Sign up to become a mentor or to be mentored.

Inside Plato

Plato helps engineering leaders develop soft skills + build better teams through a powerful network of Mentors from the world's best companies.


Written by

CEO @PlatoHQ (YC, Slack and SaaStr funded)|| You’re a great Engineer; become a great Engineering Leader — Find your perfect mentor:

Inside Plato

Plato helps engineering leaders develop soft skills + build better teams through a powerful network of Mentors from the world's best companies.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade