When she joined Thumbtack, Software Engineer Heidy Hernandez Breton didn’t have a background in mobile. After 10 months on Growth, she moved to the Mobile team and released her first iOS feature shortly after. In this interview, she talks about the support she received for her move, how she’s working to promote gender diversity at Thumbtack — and how Thumbtack helped take her Halloween costume to the next level.
What does Thumbtack do, and what do you do at Thumbtack?
Thumbtack finds you local pros for any project. I started out on our Growth team, and now I work on the Mobile team, developing our iOS app on the customer side.
Tell us about working on the Growth team.
The Growth team helps attract and retain customers. We primarily use SEO [search engine optimization] to acquire new users, and then we have a variety of tools, including email marketing campaigns and a recommendation engine, that encourage people to keep using Thumbtack after they’ve placed their first request.
Growth also develops features that make Thumbtack easier to use. For example, one of my first projects was adding a media upload option to our request form, so customers could share photos with pros to better explain their needs. I got to implement that from the UI interface to the backend, and there were lots of interesting challenges. I had to figure out how to sort and retrieve images, and how to filter out anything inappropriate.
I also did something similar with our reviews interface. Previously, customers weren’t able to upload photos with their reviews, which play a major role in pros getting hired. So I reused some of the infrastructure from the request project to create that capability, and now almost ten percent of reviews include images.
Why did you move to Mobile?
I was happy on the Growth team, but we were focused mostly on new users, and I was interested in the long-term experience. I also felt like the mobile app was our best tool for retaining customers, because you always have your phone, right? Plus, it has features like push notifications that you don’t get on the web.
“I didn’t have previous experience with iOS, but my manager was really supportive of my move.”
I actually didn’t have any previous experience with iOS, but my manager was really supportive of my move. He encouraged me to talk with people on the Mobile team, and assured me I would have the time and resources I needed to get up to speed. Once I decided to make the switch, it was a very smooth, gradual transition. My teammate Cameron helped me ramp up on iOS while I finished my last project in Growth. By the time I’d fully transitioned, my first feature was ready to release.
How did you hear about Thumbtack, and why did you join?
I was working at another tech company at the time, on a desktop app. It was interesting, but the release cycles were slow, and we couldn’t track how the product was being used, or test features the way you can with a web-based product. So I was ready to try something new, and I had a friend at Thumbtack who was happy here and encouraged me to apply.
The entire interview process was wonderful, from my first call with the recruiter to the onsite experience. I got to talk to these incredible people about what they were working on and what they were excited about. It was easy to see how happy I’d be here.
What’s unique about working here?
I think it’s amazing that I just said, “I want to try mobile” and people were willing to make that happen. There are so many resources here to help you take on new challenges. I transitioned to the Mobile team nine months ago, and now I’m owning major projects.
“People here see technology as a tool to solve a problem, and they think about the user first.”
The other thing for me is Thumbtack’s mission. People here truly see technology as a tool to solve a problem, and they think about the user first. They want to make sure our pros get jobs and our customers get their money’s worth. Leadership is also great at keeping us grounded in why we’re here — for example, they frequently share stories of how Thumbtack has helped pros in our internal newsletter.
Do you use Thumbtack yourself?
All the time! Every employee gets Thumbtack bucks to spend each quarter. I’ve hired a personal trainer, movers, even a face-painter when I dressed up as Black Swan for Halloween. I never would have found that one without Thumbtack. I mean, would you know where to find a professional face-painter? Especially considering I had recently moved here from Peru without really knowing anyone. That’s one of the things I love about our product — you don’t need an established network to find a pro you can trust.
Tell us about Thumbtack’s Women in EPAD (Engineering, Product, Analytics, Design) group.
It started informally before I joined, with the women from those teams meeting up during lunch once a month. Eventually, we started inviting guest speakers. Our first speaker was actually Marco’s mom — Marco is one of our co-founders, and his mother, Enrica D’Ettorre, is VP of Software Engineering at Digital Persona. We’ve hosted several other people since, including Jocelyn Goldfein, who was the first female director of Engineering at Facebook.
“Our first speaker was actually Marco’s mom.”
Our group is also partnering with Thumbtack’s recruiting team to help support their diversity efforts and create a structured interviewing process to avoid biases. We’re also sending more people to conferences that feature women in engineering, and are making sure candidates understand how Thumbtack is a welcoming, friendly environment.