Dropsuite’s Engineering-First Culture
Dropsuite is a global software platform that enables SMEs in over 100 countries easily backup, recover and protect their digital assets. Our network of preferred reseller partners like GoDaddy and Ingram Micro have a combined customer reach of millions of small and medium-sized businesses worldwide.
Our reseller partners appreciate and depend on the quality of our products — and we take great pride in our software engineering team because without their efforts and the quality of their code, we would not have been able to achieve so much success in so little time.
What’s the secret to Dropsuite’s success so far? One of the main reasons for our rapid growth and credibility within the business backup sector can be attributed to the “engineering-first” culture we’ve fostered within our organization.
10 Ways We Aspire to Be An Engineering First Company
- We Hire Quality People (aka the Best Engineers)
- We Have A High Engineering Staff Ratio
- We Apply Engineer Thinking To Problem Solving
- We Value Collaboration Over Cutthroat Behavior
- We Code In A Desirable Workspace
- We Cultivate & Encourage A Rapid-Response Mindset
- We Strive For Creativity & Balance
- We Foster An Open-Learning Environment
- We Admit Our Mistakes
- Fast Time-to-Market Is A Core Business Differentiator
Let’s peel back the outer layer of our company culture a bit to see what engineering first really means.
1. We Hire Quality People (aka the Best Engineers)
Obviously, hiring is the most important process we follow to ensure that the best and brightest software engineers are writing code for Dropsuite. We love engineers who are self-motivated and have a willingness to explore, learn and experiment. But being self-motivated and curious is not enough. We look for engineers who are team players as well. Creating a solid product isn’t always led by a single coder. More often, it takes a small team of motivated coders to put together a winning solution. Being able to communicate and assist our weakest links is crucial — and people either have that type of compassionate personality or they don’t. To find such software engineers, we have incorporated unique ways to analyze prospective hires to better understand their personality type. We also hire engineers based on recommendations from existing staff, as well as from referrals from external sources we trust.
2. Have A High Engineering Staff Ratio
What better way to prove that we actually are an engineering-first company than to look at the type of people who are on our payroll. For the first two years of our existence, the ratio of engineers to nonengineering staff at Dropsuite was about 1 out of very 2. We’re about 1 out of 4 currently, as we have added business support staff in marketing, sales and service. The reason were are able to keep our non-engineer staff count low, such as in customer support, is directly proportionate to the quality of our coding. By hiring exceptional engineers who write exceptional code, we’ve been able to limit the support team required to run our business because our code works beautifully. This allows us to scale without having to play whack-a-mole to a host of bug fixes. In our case, engineering-first has resulted in support less. We kinda like it this way.
3. We Apply Engineer Thinking To Problem Solving
Scale requires us to look at the world a bit differently — and the way software engineers problem solve is by making decisions based on logic. Be it writing code for a new program or adding a new feature in the existing solution — or imagining where the future of cloud backup will take us — we enjoy taking a methodical approach to problem-solving. We thoroughly gather and analyze all requirement to better understand and architect to most efficient solution possible. We try our best to ensure that our software engineers are not overloaded with too much work by assigning the work in a distributed team.
4. We Value Collaboration Over Cutthroat Behavior
Political infighting and blame games are common amongst employees working in many organizations. In such companies, employees are looking to stand out to management and will do almost anything to make themselves look better than their peers. But, this type of cutthroat working environment can destroy trust and take the air out of an honorable, high-growth firm. In such a dismissive culture, engineers might concentrate more on hitting their numbers rather than writing exceptional code. Or completing their deadlines at the expense of their peers who may need coaching or a bit of a helping hand. At Dropsuite, we value personal integrity and positive work ethic. We believe that successful collaboration ultimately can change Dropsuite’s core business strategy and social purpose of our business enterprise.
5. We Code In A Desirable Workspace
Our experience has taught us that software engineers tend to prefer working in a quiet workplace with limited sunlight, which is highly-conducive for work — a place that doesn’t feel like your average office cubicle setup with unpleasant fluorescent lighting and cookie-cutter surroundings. Instead, Dropsuite engineers work out of our corporate headquarters at Block 71@ One-North, Singapore, which is often referred to as Silicon Valley, Singapore — a young, hip, high-energy location packed full of startups. We provide fresh fruit, free snacks and expresso coffee in our office kitchen. And if your taste buds crave something more hearty, Timbre+, the first shipping container & food truck style food place In Singapore, is located next to our office. The MRT subway station is one block away and there are ample bus and taxis available to shuttle staff back and forth from home to work and back. The end result? Dropsuite provides an ideal environment for our team members to create the best quality code that our clients expect and admire.
6. We Cultivate & Encourage A Rapid-Response Mindset
Dropsuite engineers tend to be very sensitive individuals. They hate bugs and errors and prefer to fix these issues quickly before they fester and get out of hand. Whether the problem is related to their own PCs, software they are coding, or a partner integration, rapidresponses to any issue that might pop up is a highly desirable outcome. Dropsuite’s work environment encourages and rewards engineers to resolve issues as quickly as possible, as long as quality is never sacrificed. This positive mindset is emulated by other Dropsuite departments as well, including HR, Finance, Customer Support, Marketing, Sales and User Testing. Whenever issues arise that are not quick-fixes, we will draft select engineering staff into company solve sessions. We will also work with external experts if needed, and then share the learnings with our team. Dropsuite is a company that believes involving our engineers in solving the problems of the day is the right thing to do. And by doing so, our employees feel more satisfied and respected, which results in greater company loyalty and less staff churn.
7. We Strive For Creativity & Balance
Let’s face it. Getting engineers to do things they don’t want to do is like herding cats. It’s not going to happen unless there is an incentive to do so. The employment contract we have with each employee ensures that 80% of the core tasks of any job get accomplished. That leaves about 20% of our engineering time that can be devoted to things that engineers really get excited about — like creating products or services primarily for the sake of radical innovation. Dropsuite invites and encourages our engineering staff to share their ideas and unleash they collective imaginations. Whenever possible, we incorporate the best of our team’s ideas into our technology stack, or we allow select skunk works initiatives to develop over time to see where they lead. By rewarding our engineers with flexibility, time and recognition, we continually shine the spotlight on our most value assets — our employees — while fostering a culture of creativity and innovation.
8. We Foster An Open-Learning Environment
Engineers love to explore new technologies that are related to their work. We have noticed that if one engineer is good at a particular skill, they tend to enjoy teaching that same skill to other engineers. Considering this willingness to teach co-workers for the betterment and goodwill of the organization, we have encouraged new ways of learning within our organization. For example, we’ve set up hackathons for our junior engineers, run by our senior engineers rather than by a professional instructor. We did it this way to encourage the transfer of practical workplace knowledge from seasoned staff to new staff in ways a teacher might not be able to do. We also hold weekly team meetings that are very open and interactive. When we get special requests from our engineers to learn more about a new technologies, we will take a follow up action, such as arrange for a guest speaker to address our team, purchase and distribute books all can read, or schedule a field trip to a customer location so that our team can see and feel what it’s like to integrate our product from the client end. This helps our engineers learn new things without having to exert too much effort — and it injects some fun into the workplace.
9. We Admit Our Mistakes
Every human being — every company — makes mistakes. Be it an engineer or a well-known CTO, nobody is perfect. At Dropsuite, we’ve created a culture where accusations, scorn and embarrassment for bugs and mistakes are shunned. When management is humble, thoughtful and understanding about the human condition, it’s easier for staff to pony-up and admit mistakes after they are made. Dropsuite saves valuable coding time that could be wasted by hiding the mistake. For example, if one of our star engineers makes acoding error (the horror), instead of avoiding or covering up the error for fear of retribution, our engineers are more likely to accept the mistake — saving us countless hours of needless finger-pointing and investigation. A simple, if it’s broken, fix it, model works. Holding engineers accountable for their work without publicly highlighting every fault, is just one of the ways Dropsuite’s engineering first culture leads to a better quality product and a faster time to market.
10. Fast Time-to-Market Is A Core Business Differentiator
At Dropsuite, an engineering-first, culture means that at our core, we expect faster reaction times to challenges and opportunities because that’s what engineers like to do. This enables us to have speedier go-to-market capabilities than many of our competitors. In fact, Dropsuite’s CEO, Charif Elansari, has a unifying vision for how to get things done. His focused work style trickles down into everything the company does, especially on the software development and support side of our business. Charif expects each engineer to execute accordingly, and to his or her own ability. We’ve seen that quick reaction times of our engineers can drive better coding outcomes because when speed of activity is combined with work flexibility plus enhanced communication, the outcome is a time-to-market ability that is unrivaled. The business benefits are clear: accelerating time-to-market is a repeatable activity, which allows Dropsuite get our products to market faster. By increasing our market opportunities, we increase our odds of growing market share, brand recognition, and revenue.
Creating an engineering-first culture requires much more than the 10 basic steps we’ve outlined on this page. We thought that by sharing what we’ve done to embrace an engineering-fist mindset might provide some insight into how we hire, how we create our products, how we run our company and how we treat our customers.
Dropsuite isn’t perfect. But we strive each day to live up to the ideals we hold high. The software engineer mindset is about solving the problem. Roger that.