Software Engineering Manager, Product Engineering - Americas Time Zones
You're a great (former) engineer looking to build a team of great engineers and an environment where they can do their best work. Ashby builds software that lets talent teams build an efficient, delightful, respectful hiring process. You care about excellence in hiring and what comes after – growing, enabling, and freeing teams to do their best work. As an individual contributor, you developed innovative products and made hard decisions to solve ambiguous technical problems. You’re now looking to build the skills that made you successful in the team you manage.
About the Role
I’m Elénie, the Director of Engineering of Americas at Ashby. Before this role, I drew cartoon elephants. I joined Ashby to work with people like me (authentic, opinionated, a little fearless) and treat them how I’d want to be treated. Let me explain.
We operate in a high-trust environment at Ashby – engineers own their features end-to-end, from product spec to wireframes to implementation, make changes to the development process and developer experience, and self-manage their time (no sprint planning!). As leaders, we have to be a special type of person. First, like engineers, we are owners who will dive in and fix problems when needed because we are part of the engineering team. Second, we are surrounded by such owners and need to let each and every one of them do what he or she does best.
There are a couple of failure modes I see in engineering management. The first is being entirely reactive: order-takers (mostly from upwards) who summarize meetings in emails and add deadlines to tasks but never take risks (or responsibilities) themselves. As a startup, we’re operating in a mode where product, process, or team issues are everyone’s but especially leaders’ responsibilities. You want to catch them before they catch you.
We’re pretty open to a variety of success modes. High-performing teams (and individuals) have a sort of reverse Anna Karenina effect, where the bad ones are all the same, and the good ones are great in all kinds of interesting ways. As an engineering leader, you can see these ways and enable others to see them as well. You know what high performance looks like, and you spend every day making effective (even if tiny) changes so you can see more of it.
We’re looking to scale the team sustainably with a few more folks who’ll be great in their own way, and we need you to help select them, support them, and scale them so that their ability grows faster than the hours they put in. We try to stay within 10 direct reports for each engineering manager to spend time with our teams observing, correcting, praising, and, yes, coding – opening this role is part of our commitment to this paced growth.
Because we value excellence in hiring and quality in code, you’ll have time to work on your own projects. Here are some examples of useful 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.
Rethink how we (and the industry) do pull request reviews by aligning on goals with the team, sampling a set of PRs to understand how effective they are, and writing a proposal to the team about what we could change to speed up reviews while giving reviewers the time and space to give useful feedback.
Design and improve interview tracks based on candidate and team feedback. We pride ourselves on having thoughtful interviews that simulate actually working with us!
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 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 are technical and can hold in-depth conversations with direct reports from infra to backend to frontend. Ideally, you have experience shipping products and user-facing experiences, to complement our current leadership team.
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 principled thinking here, the industry often regurgitates a vanilla description, but the reality is more nuanced.
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 seek out feedback for yourself.
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 think engineering culture and process could use improvement, and you’ve tried or successfully implemented something that sheds the status quo in pursuit of something better.
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've worked on successful products in great environments. You know that going against the current will never achieve the same results as choosing to work in a context where your team is ambitious, the business is supportive, and product has found market fit.
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 are not interested in a supporting role where you take on less interesting or visible work compared to some of your direct reports.
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 “industry standard.” 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.
You have never worked at a product company or in a frictionless engineering culture. This role has an outsized effect on culture and you'll have a much easier time onboarding if there are no mismatched expectations of what success looks like.
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.
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.
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:
Intro Call (30m) - Discuss your application questions, align on the responsibilities of the role, and answer questions about Ashby.
Past Experience Deep Dive (1h) - Discuss your past experience as an engineering leader.
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.
Coffee Chat with VP of Engineering (1h) - Spend time with our VP of Engineering and get to know each other.
Writing Take Home (2h + 30m meeting) - Understand how you think about organizational problems, approach solutions, and communicate.
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!
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.
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.