Sneak Peek Into Haptik’s Engineering Culture
I joined Haptik as the VP of Engineering a couple of months ago. The Engineering team was around 50 people at the time. Over the past few months, as I ramped up and worked closely with each team, I have been really impressed by the engineering culture ingrained within each and every engineer – the passion of solving tough problems, the mentality of helping and supporting each other and the unique set of values and personality centered on clear goals.
In the past, I have worked with multiple companies in multiple roles. Every company has a different definition of culture. I have seen that culture isn’t based on any common background, a comfort or familiarity between individuals or the shared enjoyment of company perks as ping pong or craft beer. When an employee fits into the company culture, it allows them to enjoy their time, and be more productive. It gives people a framework on how to respond to the challenges facing their teams and helps them with the decisions that each person will take and own up to every day. It plays a role in our work, our meetings, and even social interactions with our colleagues. It is such that each employee:
- 1. Shares enthusiasm about our company’s mission and purpose.
- 2. Works together towards a common goal.
- 3. Creates a mutual understanding of how to make decisions and assess risk.
- 4. Celebrates each other’s success and supports each other during tough and challenging times.
Haptik’s culture is built on 3 core pillars – ownership, honesty, and perseverance.
“Haptik is a workplace where even the CTO sits with interns and interns have full freedom to push code to production. Everyone is given an equal opportunity to say what they want.“
In this blog, I will talk about some aspects of Haptik’s culture which we continuously seek to emphasize and reinforce across our engineering department.
We empower engineers to lead from the front and make decisions
Being an engineer in a relatively young company like Haptik is about navigating through tough unknown problems. Engineers at Haptik are hungry to contribute to fixing challenging problems without caring about how dirty the laundry is. There is a lot of freedom given to each engineer for out of the box thinking. We lay a lot of emphasis on hiring people who are good at what they do, and then just let them do it.
A case in point – a few of our backend systems were running on Python2 and we needed to make a move to Python3, since Python2 was getting obsolete and Python 3 offered a lot of bug fixes, better performance, and security. In spite of some of our code being a monolith, the engineer tasked with this effort did some research upfront and delivered the project as per the timeline set without any downtime and optimum testing. In a blog post on How Haptik Carried Out Their Largest Python3 Migration, the engineer has described how he came up with a multi-phase approach to solve this problem and successfully completed it.
At Haptik, we have complete faith in the talents of our employees and empower them to take important decisions. This extends not just to full-time employees, but to interns as well! In fact, one of our former interns in the Machine Learning team has written about how we empowered him to learn, grow, and work on impactful projects, in this blog – 3 Haptik Internship Stories – Working with a Startup!. Quoting one of the lines by the intern in the machine learning team from the above blog – “I never imagined that I could build something like this and learn so much in such a short time.”
We are always learning, flexible, and self-adjusting
Engineers at Haptik are always excited about making an impact. They are constantly trying to innovate and try new things. Self-learning is immensely valued at Haptik. It provides them with accelerated learning and development in some of the crucial areas of tech. We also follow DevOps practices organization-wide.
Managers at Haptik are continuously encouraged to work with their teams on cross-skilling and up-leveling engineers on newer technologies. We have our mobile SDK development team, that on a number of occasions, was dependent on our backend teams to make corresponding application-level changes. With the pace of their development, the team could foresee this becoming a frequent requirement and took it upon themselves to cross-train on backend technologies. By doing so, they are able to ship code faster by being fully independent and shipping code end to end themselves. This immensely improved their delivery and productivity.
We had an iOS engineer who later transitioned to a backend engineer. We’ve also had a team-member who started as a developer but later went on to become a program manager – eventually transitioning to business development! We nurture the right talent and provide a platform that will be the most effective for each individual.
As a company, we want to be leaders in the development and deployment of a wide range of conversational AI solutions and we are constantly innovating using our future-ready tech stack, powered by Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). We had already built significant expertise when it came to text-based virtual assistants and wanted to develop a Conversational IVR (Interactive Voice Response) solution. The engineering team was tasked with building an IVA served over voice.t They faced quite a few roadblocks but showed tremendous perseverance and continue working on it. They tried out varied approaches and continuously improvised to come up with a successful working solution.
We enjoy working together as one towards a common goal without Silos
For a young company (Yes! We feel we have a long way to go and think of ourselves as a young company) in blitzscaling mode, collaboration plays a very important role in the success of the company. If the team is able to work comfortably with each other the quality of the product enhances considerably and the overhead to deliver quality products reduces drastically. The focus on collaboration has been naturally reinforced by the work we do every day and we also leverage tools that help reduce the communication and collaboration gap such as Slack and all its plugins, Jira for task management, google drive for documents and presentations collaborations and many more.
Sometimes, when the teams are working on a critical project, we set up a “war-room”. The idea of a war room is to physically gather the entire team into a ‘single location’ and work collaboratively. This helps to facilitate communication, problem-solving and status reporting. It increases team commitment and feeling of togetherness along with more responsibility and accountability. The walls of such rooms are covered with sticky notes, photos, wireframes, and user interface designs for easy collaboration.
During our hiring, in addition to all the above cultural aspects, we also put equal weight on candidates who will be great team-players in the long-term. We evaluate such criteria by asking tough questions about situations the candidate has been in and how they handled such situations. Our ability to deliver on our commitments and solve newer technical challenges has been closely tied to how well we can collaborate, while simultaneously giving each person the space to learn and grow.
We promote transparency & communication throughout the organization
Communication is key at Haptik. We listen to each other with the aim of learning and working towards better scalable solutions. We value and share candid feedback and make a conscious effort to get better and grow as a business.
When we communicate well with each other, we learn from our mistakes and iterate constantly. All employees at Haptik value the opinions and feedback of their peers, which helps them have a long-lasting measurable impact within and outside the organization. We encourage engineers to take ownership and hold them accountable for their work. Our open and transparent work environment allows them to express ideas and raise alerts fearlessly.
Each manager schedules weekly or bi-weekly 1:1s with every individual within their teams. This meeting gives an opportunity for individuals to discuss any issues and concerns on their minds with their managers. Regular check-ins help stop larger issues from festering, allows for regular feedback and promote open communication. For the manager, these check-ins help to connect with their team on pressing issues, develop a strong relationship, and ensure that employees feel like they’re working toward their goals.
We have a monthly all-hands meeting to drive transparency and alignment within various teams. In these meetings, we share business updates of the past month, drive alignment around company mission and strategy and give everyone a chance to ask questions. We also spend some time reviewing our key metrics, sales, retention, amongst others. An open Q&A with leadership helps each employee uncover the most burning issues and foster transparency.
We follow an agile scrum process and have 2 weeks of sprints. At the end of each sprint, the teams schedule a sprint retrospective meeting to discuss the just-concluded sprint. During this time, the team self-identifies elements of the sprint that did or did not work during the sprint, along with potential solutions. In this meeting, each engineer is given a chance to talk about things that went for him/her, things that didn’t go as desired or planned and potential self-improvements. Managers constantly encourage each team member to be candid when communicating in these retrospectives. Talking about the success and failure of the sprint is not only the responsibility of a manager but of everyone in the team.
As a part of our interview process, we closely examine candidates on being a “cultural fit” and each interviewer will assess these skills in addition to the technical abilities and ambitions of each candidate.
To sum it up …
The world is moving incredibly fast, and we can’t let anything slow us down. At Haptik, we foster an environment where each and every engineer feels they are treated with respect and equality. Our culture has empowered us to build a strong close-knit team who are there to support each other in success and while facing the toughest of challenges.
We don’t pretend to be perfect and realize we still have a lot of work to do. We are still growing, and the practices that we set up now will shape us as a team for years to come. As we scale up, we are mindful of the fact that we will need to reinforce these practices to an even greater degree. But, these values have helped our engineers do their best work and get them excited to come to work every day. Keeping this in mind, we feel we are definitely pointed in the right direction.
We are hiring. Do visit our careers page.