Joe Tsay joined Thumbtack as a backend engineer. Encouraged by his team, he learned the skills to become an Android engineer and eventually a tech lead. Now an engineering manager, Joe talks about his career growth at Thumbtack.
A few years ago, Thumbtack needed more Android engineers. So Thumbtack said that if anyone was interested in switching over to Android, they would train you up. My manager at the time, Tommy, said to me, “Why don’t you switch into it? The company’s paying for this week-long training course.”
I decided to do it — it was always something I wanted to try. But I was worried that a week-long training course wouldn’t be enough. There’s something very different about working in a production environment versus just learning about it from coursework. But Thumbtack gave me a lot of space to get in and figure out how things would work. They made it easy for me to pair with other Android engineers and become productive very quickly. They really made sure I had the resources I needed to succeed. So I was able to become an Android engineer.
I came to Thumbtack because I wanted to go to a smaller company where I could really shape the direction of what we were building. I didn’t explicitly try to optimize for career flexibility when I switched companies. But looking back, it’s definitely something that I’ve been able to take advantage of. I probably could have asked for similar opportunities at my previous job, but it felt like I had to go out of my way to do that. At Thumbtack, we’re always encouraged to branch out and grow.
I’ve been here for just over three years. And we still have that culture where we give people chances to grow their toolset. We find value in having people be flexible across the stack, or even across completely different disciplines. Sometimes people will write SQL and help run analytics on their own experiments, even when their main job is to be a backend or frontend engineer. Of course, not everyone does that — some people just want to go deep on something and do their job really well. And that’s totally fine — there’s opportunity for either path.
“Thumbtack is a great place because we put a lot of trust in everyone — not only to do what they were brought on to do, but to grow beyond those expectations.”
Thumbtack is a great place because we put a lot of trust in everyone — not only to do what they were brought on to do, but to grow beyond those expectations. I became a manager in August, about six months or so. Instead of just saying “Oh, I know how to solve this problem, I can do it myself.” I’m encouraged to give other people the chance to do it. Even if it means it will happen slower. Because in the long run, it means we’ll have more people ramped up on things and it won’t just be me doing everything.
I was able to transition across different technologies and develop my leadership abilities because Thumbtack is committed to developing people. And now as a manager, I try to pay it forward. I really try to push people on my team to try new things and give them the same opportunities that I feel like I’ve been given here. We hire a lot of smart people. But no one is born with the skills to do anything we do here. We trust that people will be able to learn.