September 10, 2012

As with every technology company, we consistently complain about how hard it is to hire great engineers (and we're lucky -- we have a great recruiting team, a fun culture, and a really high accept rate once we find people we like ... we went four for four last week!).

One of my favorite stories to tell people, though, isn't about an engineer that we've recruited. It's about a woman named Megan, who started her tenure at Hearsay Social on the customer support team. She graduated Stanford last year with a degree in, well, something other than Computer Science...I can't actually remember for sure. She joined us supporting customers -- she was literally the voice at the other end of the phone if you were lucky enough to get her when you called. 

She quickly started automating her job away, though, writing up phenomenal self-service FAQs, tutorials, and help documents that dramatically reduced her already-low call volume. Then, because she was bored or just awesome, she came to me one day and said that she wanted to learn to code so she could "help out more." Now I thought she was helping out a lot already, but I'm never one to turn down more help.

Having heard this before, though, I said "that's great, here are some pointers to get started" -- and quite honestly, I didn't expect to hear much more about it. Many people get frustrated or overwhelmed, and without some guidance, get bogged down.

Instead, Megan came back before too long and said "ok, so I think I understand this stuff ... here's what I built. What should I do next?" Impressed with her coverage of HTML, CSS, and Javascript, we got her started on some deeper Python & Django lessons, and she rocked those too. Before long, she had built enough on her own that we were willing to give her a small work project to tackle (appropriately, it was related to making it easier for customers to get support). See our blog post on how we work for details about how we make this really safe and low-cost.

Kick-ass ... it worked! Weeks and plenty of code-reviews later, she shipped her first production code, and we celebrated. The deal became "get all your support work done, and you can work on engineering features", and she gradually took on bigger and bigger projects, sought out more and more mentors, and rapidly increased her engineering ability.

Fast forward six months, and having hired her own replacement on the support team, Megan transitioned full-time to the engineering team in July! She's part of Team Content, building and shipping all the awesome marketing systems that you know and love. We're lucky to have people like Megan, and the many engineers that helped her ramp up as quickly as she did.

Since CodeAcademy recently launched support for Python, more and more of our team here at Hearsay Social has taken up the coding challenge. From the rumors I've heard around the watercooler, 've got my eye on Ronny as our next potential convert!

In the spirit of out-of-the-box solutions, when you find it hard to hire engineers -- build them instead!

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