How I joined a San Francisco startup as a software engineer
I’ve gone through a few life-changing events in the past few years. I got a one-way ticket from Shanghai to San Francisco last year after deciding to call it home. I went through Hackbright Academy after deciding to become a software engineer. And now, I’m one of the crew on a start-up ship, sailing towards the heart of the ocean with dreamers at Netlify.
There’s a lot to say about each of those life-changing experiences, and maybe one day I’ll write them down and share with you, but for now, I want to share what it was like to join Netlify.
“We’re hiring. Let’s talk.”
After I finished the software engineer fellowship program at Hackbright Academy, I knew I wanted to pursue a career as a software engineer. I knew that given the chance to work in front end development, particularly to follow my enthusiasm for visual interactions and become a better communicator across design and development, I’d jump at it.
At the ForwardJS after-party, I bumped into Mathias Biilmann who is the co-founder of Netlify. I was looking for alternative solutions to AWS for deploying my pet projects and hearing Matt describe Netlify’s platform had me immediately interested.
Towards the end of the conversation he said, “We’re hiring. Let’s talk.”
One of the first things I did after I went home was sign up for Netlify. With a few lines of code, I deployed my website successfully! It was way easier than I had even imagined.
Then I searched for Tweets from Netlify users. I saw a lot just like this:
The combination of seeing the product in action and hearing from the community prompted me to reach out to Matt. He introduced me to David Calavera, CTO of Netlify, and they gave me a short project as a technical assessment. The project was to create a single page application using React.js that consumes an API endpoint. The main goal was to evaluate my understanding of general front-end coding patterns, React.js, error handling, and asynchronous programming.
“We’ll give you a laptop and you’ll figure things out. We’ll be here to help.”
The technical assessment turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve had interviewing!
I really appreciated the amount of empowerment and access the Netlify team provided throughout the interview process. I was given full autonomy to decide the scope of the project, interacted with the team over Slack to ask any questions that came up, and received constructive feedback after I submitted my work. I was able to get a sense of what it would really be like to work at the company.
During the final interview, Matt and his co-founder Chris indicated that, as an early stage start up, speed and shipping features are the top priority. While a candidate with experience is preferable, as the company grows, it’s hiring for drive, commitment to the space, and willingness to learn.
Soon after, I received the offer from Netlify. My first full-time job as a software engineer was at a San Francisco start-up!
“We’ll give you a laptop and you’ll figure things out. We’ll be here to help”. Matt said, half-joking.
Shipping a feature on my second day
While my friends were embracing Oktoberfest, I was celebrating my first day at Netlify.
Shortly after I greeted everyone in the office and found my desk, Matt offered me my first task to work on: updating Netlify’s Form Handling feature to add a hero card and CSV download button, enabling users to export all their form submissions.
Whoa… I couldn’t believe I was asked to implement a feature that directly interacts with users on day one!
But wait, where do I? How do I? What?!?
Luckily, my awesome teammate Bret walked me through the codebase. Thanks to my supportive teammates, I was quickly able to start writing stories in Storybook. I deployed the form hero UI component the next day. From zero to “hero” in 24 hours!
“There are no dumb questions!”
In the first few days at my new job, good ol’ imposter syndrome found a burrow in my brain. Even though I’m no stranger to a professional working environment, it was still my first full-time job as a developer at a San Francisco start-up.
My co-worker, Irene, sensed something and told me, “I know it’s really hard to believe that there are ‘no dumb questions’! I feel it all the time and worry that I’m going to sound dumb when I ask, but for every question you have, there is most likely at least one other person in the team with the same question who hasn’t dared to ask, and would really appreciate someone bringing it up.”
This is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
I was happily surprised by how many different viewpoints are represented at Netlify.
As a team of 20ish people, our footprints cover Spain, England, Portugal, Kenya, China and states across the U.S.. Nearly half of the team has international backgrounds.
Many of the team work remotely across several different time zones. Most of our communication happens over Slack or in GitHub issues. Most of the decisions and actions are made through GitHub.
I used to have doubts about working within a remote team structure — mostly because I’ve never experienced it before, and the effectiveness of communication remained a question mark for me.
Now, I’m convinced remote teams can really work. I’ve noticed that if there’s any problem with communication, it’s most likely not because of being in different locations and different time zones.
In fact, having a global team helps us best serve our clients from all over the world and allows potential candidates to have more flexibility in where they want to live.
Three months in at Netlify
Time flies, it’s been three months since I joined Netlify. In my first month I shipped two UI features, completed my first UX/UI research, wrote my first technical blog post and documentation, attended my first GitHub Universe conference. The two months that followed brought more features and announcements, a week-long all-team gathering, and unexpected projects like implementing a UI for SAML Support.
I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate the amount of support I’ve received from everyone on the team and the potential I see for my own growth alongside these amazing people.
From professional backgrounds to personal traits, every Netlifier strikes me as a superstar. Yet, everyone is humble enough to learn from each other and support each other and take care of each other when “shit happens”.
Along those lines, Netlify is still growing. If the above made you think that you might want to join us and help create an extraordinary platform for developers, check out our career page.
As Matt says, “We’re hiring. Let’s talk.”