Go East, Young Developers

5/22/13Follow @dcancel

This week, Yahoo announced the acquisition of Tumblr, and journalists, pundits, investors, and advertisers alike speculated on what the acquisition means for Tumblr users, for Yahoo’s future, and for the technology space overall. What was missing from the dialogue was what the acquisition could mean for the East Coast, specifically my hometown of New York and my current residence in Boston.

Spoiler alert: East Coast innovation is back in a big way, and Boston and New York are poised to aggressively compete for the talent and resources needed to build once-in-a-generation companies.

It used to be that anyone who wanted to join a game-changing team headed out West to the Valley to find other like-minded people and build their dream product or company, and I’m proud to say that’s changing. The Tumblr acquisition is just the latest sign that East Coast companies are poised to recruit, retain, and elevate the top developers, designers, and engineers in the business. New York has exciting growth in Silicon Alley, and the tech and venture capital scene in Boston is growing at a rapid clip. To date, these debates have all been about whether the East Coast can retain great developers; these changes indicate that the conversation is shifting from protecting our talent to attracting the best and brightest from across the globe.

Below, I’ve outlined the characteristics that define what high performing organizations look for in engineers and why I believe these qualities are critical in building product teams that are world class.

1) Obsess Over Cultural Fit: At HubSpot, we take culture very seriously. Former Netflix Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord spoke recently at HubSpot and said: “You want to create the kind of place where you’re all innately curious about what each other does.” We couldn’t agree more. We believe in radical transparency and giving employees autonomy to solve big problems on behalf of the company and the customer. We loathe complacency, and if you’re someone who tolerates or accepts the average, you will fail very quickly on our team. To that end, we spend less time poring over qualifications and experience than gauging an individual’s commitment to excellence. We want people who value the team over themselves, the company over the team, and the customer over the company.

2) Get S*&t Done: When push comes to shove, you need developers and engineers who do not rely on titles or defined roles to get things done, but rather who will push the product and company forward when no one is looking. We look for people who want to think smarter and better about each element of our business every day, and we value humility and hard work over hype. Building an exceptional product is really really hard and humbling. Starting is the easy part; having the courage and drive to see it through is what matters. Hire people with the integrity, patience, commitment, and drive to actually get s%$t done, not just talk about it.

3) Forget YOUR Idea, Focus On The Problem: If you’re in the startup world, chances are you have lots of ideas about how businesses should be run, what your company should do, and new products it should create. But if you don’t hire people who are in tune with what your customers’ real problems are, you’re stuck in an echo chamber. A lot of companies want to shelter their engineers from the rest of the company; one of the first things I did when I got to HubSpot was to ensure that our engineering team was talking to our marketing team daily. Why? Because marketers constitute our customer base, and if we are not solving for their challenges, understanding their feedback, and addressing it proactively, our product will always fall short.

When push comes to shove, your software is only as good as the people who build it and the passion they put into it each day. I can teach someone our systems and approaches; I can’t teach them drive. The money we invest in acquiring talent is really an investment in the future of our software and the future of our company.

Today, we’re announcing a program to encourage people to send us the best and brightest people they know by rewarding the referrer with $30,000. Some people see it as a bonus; others see it as a reward. I see it as an investment in HubSpot’s long game, and as just one more step we are taking to build the best engineering organization in the world.

David Cancel is the Chief Product Officer at HubSpot. Prior to joining HubSpot, he was the CEO of Performable, the co-founder and CTO of Lookery and Compete, and the CTO of BuyerZone. Follow @dcancel

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