Facebook, Uber, Lyft, GitHub, Pandora - an impressive list of companies. And now Stitch Fix, a company devoted to disrupting the retail industry with innovative technology, and where I work as a software engineer, was in direct competition against these organizations.
The prize? Title of “Best Technology Work Culture for a Large Company in San Francisco”.
Tech in Motion, an organization which aims to bring tech communities together, was holding their first annual Timmy Awards in the Bay Area. And our nomination for best tech work culture had been accepted! The engineering team was eager to win the award and let the region know about our amazing culture.
But our votes alone would likely not be enough to win the prize. Though we were, and are, growing fast, we were not yet the size of a Facebook or Uber. We would need a lot of votes outside engineering to win.
The litmus test for excellent tech culture and the key to our victory would be how excited our business partners were to vote for us. It would be the teams hard at work managing the warehouse and operation functions. It’d be the stylists ensuring clients receive the best custom set of merchandise. It’d be the merchandising team keeping our inventory stocked with the latest and greatest seasonal apparel. And it’d be our customer experience team providing fast and reliable support to our clients. If our culture was as good as we believed it was, then our process and software should reflect it, and the rest of the company would be happy to vote for us.
But what cultural ingredients energize a technical engineering team to be successful with their business partners?
It begins with cross-team collaboration. We are not just ticket takers. Engineering owns the roadmap, and is in close communication with our end users to make sure we deliver the right systems to make their jobs easier. We also work closely with our data science partners to help find solutions to some of our toughest problems.
We have a fascinating product. Since it combines technology with tangible objects, we can directly witness the success of our work. Whether we shadow someone using our inventory picking tools in the warehouse, or watch a stylist use our systems to create a customer fix, it’s very satisfying to know that every line of code we write is helping someone perform an important company function. A tight feedback loop and a copious amount of praise and recognition for a job well done further inspires us to do good work.
All this might be moot if we didn’t enjoy working with our fellow engineers. At Stitch Fix, our hiring strategy is to employ people who are Bright, Kind, and Goal Oriented. These attributes lay a foundation that emphasizes solutions over politics. Although we often challenge each other and our decisions, it’s not to “have it our way”, but to make sure we’re doing our best work with the right tools to ultimately solve company problems. And we have many tools to choose from. Whether it’s Rails, RabbitMQ, Elasticsearch, AngularJS, Postgres, CI, or iOS, we want to use the best tool in each situation.
We know the importance of work-life balance. No matter how interesting the work, productivity ultimately drops without allowing oneself time to recharge. So when we’re ready to close the laptop after that latest commit, we go home to our family, pets, and hobbies to energize and enjoy life.
Cross-team collaboration, fascinating product, a close-knit engineering team, and work-life balance — this is our technical engineering team’s secret sauce to exceptional tech culture.
On July 23rd, I stood and waited with three members of engineering at the gala event where the winner of “Best Technology Work Culture for a Large Company in San Francisco” would be announced. Regardless of the outcome, I was quite confident that I was working with a truly amazing group of people, and thankful to be part of the Stitch Fix organization.
The announcement was made.
Our business partners had supported us in a big way! And they’d proven that Stitch Fix truly does have an exceptional tech culture.
If you’re interested in reinventing the retail industry with innovative technology while working with our amazing engineering team and business partners, we are hiring! Join us at www.stitchfix.com/careers!