Meet Tinder’s Chief Technology Officer: Tom Jacques
Tinder’s Chief Technology Officer, Tom Jacques, leads the charge of improving dating technology for the greater good. A veteran in online dating science, Jacques works with his team to solve technical challenges, eliminate fraud and bad actors, and architect high-performing technology. Graduating with honors at Carnegie Melon University in computer science, Tom also holds a patent for a mobile eye-tracking system. We sat down with him to learn about his process as a leader and the team culture of Tinder’s engineering team.
Let’s start with your team, what are you most proud of about Tinder’s Engineering team?
I’m extremely proud of many things about Tinder’s Engineering team, but neck and neck tied for first place are: the strongly collaborative culture we have built that encourages helping each another, asking questions, and growing; and the level of impact that each engineer has and is able to make, which is a testament to both the caliber of talent we employ, and to the focus on creating value that we emphasize.
And how does that team culture translate into your “engineering philosophy”?
I’m a huge believer that Engineering teams can generally think of their jobs as how to maximize value created over time. Thinking this way is inherently collaborative, and leads you to deeply understand what your goals, bets, blockers and problems are. It also challenges you to not only think about the near-term needs, but also what problems you will encounter and how you can either prevent those problems from occurring, or be prepared to address them when the time arrives. And, crucially, it creates greater visibility of your needs, and clarity of your long-term purpose.
Tinder is a one-of-a-kind brand, what’s unique about Tinder’s engineering organization?
Tinder’s engineering team sits at a unique junction of three really important things. The first is that engineers, as the builders of our product, get to work in a domain that helps fulfill a deep-rooted need that creates magical experiences — human connection.
The second is that the level of impact each employee gets to have at Tinder is enormous. We are a very high-scale tech company, but have been very thoughtful in how we’ve scaled, so the member-to-engineer ratio is very high.
The last is the culture of the team. We’re extremely collaborative, and strive to create and maintain a culture where employees are encouraged to ask questions, and help others to achieve goals in a team-oriented way rather than an individually siloed way. The combination of these three things makes Tinder’s engineering organization a really special place to work.
Looking back on 2021, what’s the coolest thing the team did this year?
It’s really hard to narrow this down to one thing, but from an internal perspective I think the coolest thing we did was to create and host an incredibly successful all-company Hackathon! The Hackathon is what led to a huge number of highly impactful launches that are now visible to members in the app, including Tinder’s Explore Tab, Video on profile, and many other ongoing initiatives for 2022.
And looking forward, what are you most excited about working on this year at Tinder?
I think Tinder has an extremely exciting roadmap ahead of us. Something I’m particularly excited about is building out new experiences and ways to interact with others inside of Explore.
Tinder does an amazing job today of helping to find and connect with others, and there is so much potential to create an equally great experience interacting with other people within Tinder beyond the linear experience members have come to know since we launched. We can do this through creating new experiences that build on top of the success and learnings of features like Swipe Night, Hot Takes, and Vibes within Explore — and all of that work is powered by the incredible talent of our engineering org that brings these complicated global projects to life.
What advice would you give to people who are looking to join the Tinder engineering team?
I meet with all of our new engineers in their first couple of weeks for an open Q&A discussion, and I often get asked this question.
First of all, relationships and connections with your colleagues are really important. Take some time not only to meet and to get to know the members of your team, but on other teams, as well. There’s a tremendous wealth of knowledge here. Connecting with others will help you feel more comfortable asking questions and getting answers when you need help. It also makes the work more motivating and rewarding when you feel connected to and care about the people on the team.
The second part is to always try to orient yourself on how you can help create the most value. This will help you ask good questions, have thoughtful conversations with your team, better achieve alignment on what’s important and why, and help ensure that you’re working on what matters the most, as well as understanding why that work matters.
What type of person would really shine at Tinder or on your team?At Tinder, we have three Engineering Principles that I think capture this really well. Those principles are:
- Ship It: Focusing on consistently delivering high value and quality solutions.
- Think ahead: Take a thoughtful, analytic approach to anticipate future needs and challenges, and prepare and plan for how to address them.
- Operate at our best: Ensure systems and processes are reliable, performant, maintainable, observable, secure
We came up with these principles by introspecting on what behaviors have most consistently led to helping teams and initiatives succeed.
What are the top three things you look for in a new hire?
Some of the specific things I look for change depending on what the needs of the team are and what kind of role we are trying to fill. For example, maybe we are tackling a problem we don’t have internal expertise for, and we are looking for someone with a lot of domain knowledge and technical expertise in that area; or maybe on a different team we have a lot of depth of knowledge and experience, and we’re trying to scale up the team. That said, there are definitely common characteristics I look for in all Tinder Engineering employees that I think are really important:
- Partnership: This goes hand in hand with collaboration, but I think partnership is a more descriptive term. It’s really important for every employee to think of working with others as a partnership — treating others respectfully, gaining alignment, building trust, and reliably delivering results.
- Ownership: I think of ownership as the opposite of a “not my problem” attitude. Taking the mindset of how you can help work with the team to accomplish any problem, whether or not it is directly in your scope. That doesn’t mean I expect employees to directly solve all problems on their own, but helping to ensure that there is a proactive approach to not only identify problems and deeply understand those problems and their solutions, but also to ensure we drive progress to implement those solutions.
- Growth: One of the most powerful and important things I look for in new hires is demonstrating a growth mindset. In the long run, there’s nothing more powerful than a consistent dedication to continuous improvement by demonstrating growth. I look for whether employees can identify opportunities for improvement in themselves and others, and how they act to seize those opportunities over time.
Interested in solving problems and working with a dynamic team of engineers? We’re hiring!