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Engineering Manager - EMEA

Ashby

Ashby

Software Engineering, Other Engineering
Belgium · Netherlands · United Kingdom · Europe · France · Netherlands · Belgium · Remote
Posted on Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Hi 👋 I’m Colin, Director of Engineering, Europe. How do you feel about engineers writing product specs, making product decisions, and not breaking down projects into individual tickets? If that sounds exciting (even if a bit scary), read on because I’m looking for an engineering manager to help us build a different type of engineering team and culture at Ashby.

To start, why do we need to be different? Time and again, I have witnessed engineers knowing what needs to be done yet being unable to get things done because of “the process” or because “more data is needed.” Some of the most effective projects have been skunkworks projects, where engineers have taken total ownership of a problem and driven it to completion. I want to normalize that at Ashby.

When we think about how these processes came about, we realize they carry a pessimistic mindset. They box people into smaller roles to minimize the chance of not meeting a certain standard. At Ashby. we’re building an environment that is optimistic about what engineers can own and achieve and embraces the innovative engineers (and frankly, often stays out of their way).

To accomplish this, our engineering leaders need to think deeply about individual performance, process, and culture - not running sprint planning or driving product and technical decisions. You’ll focus on building your team, their skills to thrive with the ownership they’re given, and an environment that empowers them to do their best work consistently, with little distraction. For junior EMs we try to stay within 6 direct reports. This enables them to spend time with our teams observing, correcting, praising, and, yes, coding. We like our managers to be hands-on while also making sure they’re not on the critical path.

We’ve already gathered an experienced, talented, and collaborative team of 25+ engineers. You’ll help me manage the growing team of engineers in Europe.

In addition to working with engineers you’ll also get to work on projects yourselves. Some examples of work our engineering leaders have done:

  • Provide feedback on product and technical specs to help engineers identify where to cut scope or improve quality. You don’t make the final decisions, but you’ll influence and coach ICs to reach the right ones.

  • Grow engineers to the point where they can take large, loosely defined projects, and deliver them with little intervention. They still ask for help when needed - the difference is that they’re driving.

  • Jump into our systems and code to debug a customer issue, ship a small bug fix, or improve our developer experience. Engineering leaders at Ashby are great engineers and enjoy keeping their skills up-to-date (while staying off the critical path).

  • Improve how we generate and simulate data in demo accounts. It’s a project off the critical path, but it helps you keep up-to-date on our codebase while immensely impacting the business, from Engineering to QA to Sales.

Why be a manager?

I had two experiences early in my career that set me on my path. I had a great manager who asked tonnes of questions about the decisions I was making and coached me without me realizing it. And I had a terrible manager - being told to work harder after a week of 3am finishes was not what I needed as a young engineer. The stark difference between these two experiences motivated me to become a manager: I wanted every engineer I worked with to have the support I had in the best case.

Since then, as I’ve learned more, I’ve realized that I love the kind of problems I get to solve as a manager. Deeply complex problems with long-term impact both on the company and on people’s lives. One of my proudest achievements is creating a fully transparent pay system, and on the day it was revealed, everybody was happy with it. Nobody stormed out. By spending time thinking deeply about everybody’s pay and ensuring the mechanics of promotion were clear, I put the team in a place where they could see a peer was paid more than them, and it not be a problem.

Despite all this, I love being technical. I sometimes indulge myself and spend a morning writing some code to improve tests or provide better abstractions. If I couldn’t be a manager, I’d be super happy to be an IC.

I’m looking for someone who is passionate. Passionate about both management and being technical. Someone who spots a pattern amongst their team, figures out a better way for us to operate, and then builds the automation that powers it. I introduced a new process that enables engineers to merge 30% of PRs without a human review beforehand. I also built the automation that approves these PRs. I also built that automation with abstractions that make it easy for the engineers to improve the automation themselves.

It can be hard to find seasoned engineering leaders who haven’t succumbed to the status quo in some way or another. We're committed to giving all our people a total and utter lack of terrible managers, and that means we're willing to take a chance on someone early in their leadership journey who's courageous, principled, and has the drive to build themselves into a great leader who can say “Yah I know everyone is doing that, but we won't because...”

Why You Should or Shouldn’t Apply

Engineering leadership comes in many flavors, not all of which fit our model. I thought I’d outline some things I’m looking for to help you decide if this fits what you’re looking for:

  • You love being technical and can hold in-depth conversations with direct reports from infra to backend to frontend.

  • You enjoy management problems. We want people who get excited about driving people to be their best, giving difficult feedback, and building systems that make this easier

  • You hold your team to a high standard and don’t shy away from getting into the details and giving feedback, even to the best folks on your team.

  • You are an excellent and empathetic communicator. Facilitating change at both an individual and organization level requires understanding how to navigate the beliefs, opinions, and past experiences of engineers and figuring out how to both convince them of a new way of doing things while also leaving yourself open to feedback.

  • You know what exceptional engineers look like. You’ve thought deeply about what makes them tick, how to recruit them, and how to grow folks into them. I want to see depth here, the industry often regurgitates a vanilla description, but the reality is more nuanced.

  • You’re good at thinking about product, business, and maybe even design, but you’re not interested in calling the shots and are more interested in building a team that can make the best decisions without you.

  • You thrive in high-trust, high-autonomy environments. We're a young startup where leaders wear multiple hats, and you'll build your own (high-speed) on-ramp through developing strong feedback loops.

Put another way, you shouldn’t apply if:

  • You don’t enjoy coding or don’t find time to stay up-to-date on technology.

  • You’ve gotten into management because it was the only growth path available

  • You want to make all the product decisions instead of empowering your team to make those calls.

  • You're happy with a team of engineers that are predominantly early-career, mid-career, or don't thrive with ownership or autonomy. With enough guardrails, the team can get things done.

  • A staff or principal engineer to you is someone who spends most of their time project managing or doing architecture reviews.

  • You’re not optimistic or convinced that we can build a large engineering team that functions differently than the status quo. You think, at some size, common processes need to be implemented to ensure consistent product delivery (e.g., sprint planning, product managers writing in-depth specifications). You might not say it out loud, but you think, at some size, compromises have to be made for the sake of hiring numbers.

What We’re Building

Talent teams aspire to build a hiring process that identifies great candidates, moves them quickly through the interview process, and provides an excellent experience for the candidate. To accomplish this, recruiters perform thousands of daily tasks to coordinate and relay information between candidates, interviewers, and hiring managers. Teams struggle to keep up!

Scheduling a final round is an excellent example of our customers' challenges. A recruiter needs to collect availability from the candidate, identify potential interviewers, perform “Calendar Tetris” to find who is available to interview the candidate, schedule on the earliest date possible, and perform any last-minute adjustments as availability changes. They must perform this while considering the interview load on each individual and whether interviewers need to be trained and shadowing others. 🥵

Ashby provides talent teams with intelligent and powerful software that provides insights into where they’re failing and automates or simplifies many of the tasks they’re underwater with. We put a lot of effort into designing products that are approachable to beginners but mastered and extended by power users. In many ways, spreadsheets set the bar here.

We have many customers, great revenue growth, years of runway, and amazing investors like YCombinator, Elad Gil, and Lachy Groom. I’ll share more once we meet.

Engineering Culture

Our engineering culture is motivated by Abhik and Benji’s (our co-founders) belief that a small talented team, given the right environment, can build high-quality software fast (and work regular hours!).

Collaboration is Natural, Communication is Deliberate

Our engineering team (and the team at large) consists of lifelong learners who are humble and kind (meet them here!). These attributes create an environment where collaboration happens naturally (we filter for it in interviews). We combine this with research, prototyping, and written proposals to see around corners and get feedback from the team across time zones. Focus time is something that we hold sacred, and, with thoughtful and deliberate communication, engineers can focus 36h out of a 40h work week (Abhik wrote about it here). Even managers can rely on getting consistent time (and support to make, if necessary) to focus and do creative work without the demand of constant meetings.

Increase Leverage, not Team Size

We built Ashby with the quality, breadth, and depth that many customers would expect from much larger teams over larger time scales. We’ve done this through investment in:

  • Great developer tooling. Our CI/CD takes ~10m, and we deploy at least 5x a day. Everyone on the team has contributed to developer experience 💪🏾

  • Building blocks to create powerful and customizable products fast. At the core of Ashby is a set of common components (analytics modeling and query language, policy engine, workflow engine, design system) which we are constantly improving. Each improvement to a common component cascades throughout our app (short video on it here).

Here’s an impromptu quote from Arjun in our company Slack of what it’s like to build a feature at Ashby:

And a demo of one of these building blocks:

Give Engineers Ownership & Autonomy

We, as engineers, find clever ways to solve problems, which amplifies when we deeply understand the problem. All of us in technical leadership did our best work as engineers when we had a deep understanding of the end-user and the business and ownership over the solution. Our engineering culture reflects this experience: engineers own projects end-to-end, from speaking with users to writing product specs to UX design. These are skills that we often don’t get to practice as engineers, and, as a manager at Ashby, you’ll provide mentorship and feedback to engineers to ensure they are successful when delivering projects.

Put Effort into Diversity

Diverse teams drive innovation and better outcomes. As the father of two young girls, I want to see them grow up in a world where all industries are open and welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, gender, or preferences. Helping to build a more diverse team at Ashby is my way of contributing to this change.

Today, 26% of engineers at Ashby are from underrepresented groups. It’s not great, and we are taking conscious steps to improve, like sourcing diverse candidates, providing generous paid family leave, no leetcode interviews, and more.

Interview Process

At Ashby, our team and interview process want to help you show your best self. We’ll dive into past projects and simulate working together. Our interview process is six interviews in the following order:

  1. Intro Call (30m) - Discuss your application questions, align on the responsibilities of the role, and answer questions about Ashby.

  2. Past Experience Deep Dive (1h) - Discuss your past experience as an engineering leader.

  3. Technical Screen (1h) - Add a feature back to Ashby. You'll spend most of your time understanding a specific part of our codebase and write less than 15 lines of code.

  4. Coffee Chat with VP of Engineering (1h) - Spend time with our VP of Engineering and get to know each other.

  5. Writing Take Home (2h + 30m meeting) - Understand how you think about organizational problems, approach solutions, and communicate.

  6. Meet the Team (2h) - At this point, the engineering leadership team is excited about you and you'll meet our CEO, Engineers, Product Managers, and some other folks on the team.

I will be your main point of contact and prepare you for interviews. If we don’t give an offer, we’ll provide feedback!

Technology Stack

I’m sharing our tech stack with the caveat that we don’t require previous experience: TypeScript (frontend & backend), Node.js, React, Apollo GraphQL, Postgres, Redis.

Benefits

  • Competitive salary and equity.

  • 10-year exercise window for stock options. You shouldn’t feel pressure to purchase stock options if you leave Ashby —do it when you feel financially comfortable.

  • Unlimited PTO with four weeks recommended per year. Expect “Vacation?” in our one-on-one agenda until you start taking it 😅.

  • Generous equipment, software, and office furniture budget. Get what you need to be happy and productive!

  • $100/month education budget with more expensive items (like conferences) covered with manager approval.

Ashby’s success hinges on hiring great people and creating an environment where we can be happy, feel challenged, and do our best work. We’re being deliberate about building that environment from the ground up. I hope that excites you enough to apply.

Ashby provides equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. We are committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce and welcome people from all backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, and abilities.