As an early stage tech startup–especially one building products for developers–SignalFuse [Mar 12, 2015: now SignalFx] is mostly (80%) engineering.  Our engineers helped build the infrastructures that run Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, and Quora. They participate in the open source community with projects like Docker and MaestroNG. They’re the life-blood of our company

Culture is key to building a great product and company. We’d like to share some of the specific things we do to promote the values we talked about in our first post, in practice.

  • Respect for each other as individuals is paramount, keeping focus on the content of discussions and debates.
  • Practice transparent and open communication, where everyone knows what others are working on and can have informed discussions about the tradeoffs of every decision.
  • No one person dictates how the system is built. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to contributes ideas, lead discussions, break things, fix things, and solve problems.
  • When engineers start, they get a review of our systems and architecture from the people that built them. They’re encouraged to critique the system from a fresh perspective.
  • Then they choose a starting project to learn from the bottoms-up.
  • They decide for themselves which team to join and what problems they’d like to work on.
  • Everyone wears a product hat. We are building something by developers for developers. Our engineers define, build, and own a product they would like to use everyday to make their own lives better.
  • We support balanced lives, because we’re not going to be successful if we burn out. We have lunch catered, go out together to eat once a week, have comfy and varied work areas in the office, flexible hours, great health insurance, support learning activities, and there’s a healthy foosball ladder.

We strive for everyone having an impact on the business and understanding how their work contributes to SignalFuse [Mar 12, 2015: now SignalFx].

Problems That We’re Working On

The real test of a culture is whether what you’re trying to build gets built, problems get solved while people are happy doing it and customers are happy using it. It’s a continual process of learning and growth. We think we’re off to a good start with what Ben Horowitz (our investor) calls a “Can-Do Culture”.

On our way to coming out of stealth, we’re steadily tackling greater challenges. We can’t tell you everything, but here are the kinds of things our engineers are working on:

  • Scaling streaming data and analytics
  • Visualizing runtime environments
  • Building a continuous integration pipeline with things like Docker, Jenkins, and Salt
  • Working with distributed systems open source projects like Zookeeper and Docker
  • And we’ll be contributing a lot of our work back to the open source community after we launch

We are actively hiring, so if this resonates with you, we’d love to talk.

About the authors

Phillip Liu

Phil is the CTO and Co-founder of SignalFx. Previously he led the development of Facebook's Infrastructure-as-a-Service platform and several web-scale application management solutions. Phil has more than 20 years experience in distributed systems, and was a Distinguished Technologist at HP.

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