What’s It Like to Be a Bronto Engineer?

Erik Morse, Vice President of Software Development

Author Bio

As vice president of software development, Erik leads the effort to scale Oracle + Bronto’s technology organization in order to meet the increasing performance demands of the company’s rapidly growing roster of commerce-focused companies. Erik also leads Oracle + Bronto’s product development teams, bringing his lengthy SaaS experience to continually deliver innovative, yet easy-to-use functionality that helps retailers to maximize the impact of their marketing campaigns.

Prior to joining Oracle + Bronto, Erik was the founding employee at Peopleclick, where he served for thirteen years as COO and CTO. During his tenure at Peopleclick, Morse was instrumental in building the technology organization and leading key product development initiatives, including the establishment of the company’s successful and rapidly scaling SaaS business model. Prior to Peopleclick, Erik served as a director of development for Seer Technologies, a leader in enterprise software infrastructure products. Previously, Erik held a key role at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) as a senior software engineer.

As the VP of Engineering, I interview a lot of candidates, and I always invite them to ask questions about our corporate and engineering environments. Most candidates ask, “What’s it like to work in engineering at Bronto?” Here’s my answer.

Some positive aspects of the environment are self-apparent. We have a fantastic office in a great location. Engineers are often out and about, away from their seats, using the game room and soft-seating areas, taking advantage of the kitchen perks or collaborating at white boards.

But even the best office environment can’t compensate for a poor culture. During my career, I have been lucky enough to have worked in a few really positive engineering environments, and Bronto tops the list. In each of these cases, the founders were still involved at some level and the companies had strongly identifiable cultures.

At Bronto, we have three core values: Passion, Approachability and Transparency. These are words that could easily just appear on standard inspirational posters showing a backlit figure in some nature setting, but Bronto truly lives them. There are no offices. All employees, from the CEO to the new hire, share common, open seating areas to promote communication and collaboration. The managers can often be found away from their desks, in the kitchen and common areas, and efforts are made to openly and honestly share company and engineering progress and challenges. The managers also tend to relocate their seats on a regular basis to spend time with different parts of the team.

The engineering efforts we undertake are challenging. We deal with hundreds of millions of system-generated events every day with massive volume fluctuations during peak days. Given the flexibility of our software, our customers do a lot of unexpected things, and sometimes those behaviors generate lots of unexpected activity. We cannot predict all of our system activity, but we know unpredictable things will happen and we engineer with that knowledge in place.

Good engineering problems attract good engineers, so we have a really sharp team, but we also work hard to avoid hiring people with outsized egos. Even our most senior architects leave their ideas open to scrutiny. We all want to get better and better serve our customers. We want to utilize, create and share better technology. Our engineers recognize that every solution we have created can be improved upon, and quite often has to be improved upon, to keep up with our success and growth.

People advance in the organization by finding an area of interest and choosing to become the expert in it. We don’t just hand out elevated job titles or roles. People earn them through their passion, efforts and peer recognition. Management and engineering career tracks provide advancement opportunity without asking people to sacrifice areas of passion.

We’ve had a lot of success, which means we’ve had to scale both our systems and our organization. We knew we couldn’t effectively do that and maintain any sort of velocity with a top-down management approach, so we developed cross-functional teams that can operate largely autonomously. Management is there to provide high-level guidance and help with cross-team dependencies, but it is up to each team to set their priorities.

Finally, we trust each other. We celebrate our successes and give credit where it is due. We believe each engineer wants to do good work and create good solutions. And our engineers know that when we do have a problem, we don’t look to assign blame. This allows everyone to talk openly about mistakes and decisions that did not turn out as expected, and consequently helps us avoid similar issues in the future.

It’s good to work at Bronto.


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