Hey, Talented Engineers: These 6 Chicago Companies are Growing Their Technical Teams

by Alton Zenon III
September 19, 2019

Company traditions are important. All of those holiday parties, kickball leagues, book clubs and potlucks help create a sense of community throughout the workplace, and highlight a company’s unique culture. For teams, traditions are just as crucial to cultivating deep bonds with the people you spend 40 hours of your week with. 

For the following six Chicago engineering teams, all with open roles for talented engineers, these traditions range from dedicated time each week to explore new tech, to a Wheel of Fortune game that determines which restaurant they should dine at together. Talented engineers: take a peek at your prospective new teammates.

 

The Mom Project team members working at a computer
The mom project

Who doesn’t love playing in sandboxes? The Mom Project wants its developers to explore whatever professional projects or learning suits their fancy, and gives them time each week to do just that. Front-end Developer Roberto Garcia works at the digital talent marketplace, and said his team gets to learn about whatever engineering topics interest them and share their experiences with the rest of the team. 

 

What is your favorite engineering team tradition at your company?

Every week, we do what we call “Engineering Evolution”. It’s a block of time our team sets aside at the end of every week where you are free to engage in some type of exploration. You can experiment with a new technology, read technical articles, test out a new library, or just scratch an itch in an area of the application that isn’t otherwise a priority. We then briefly talk about how we spent our time during our weekly retrospective.

We do what we call “Engineering Evolution”....where you are free to engage in some type of exploration.”

 

What is the coolest or most challenging project you’re working on right now, and what do you enjoy most about it?

I’m working on the redesign of our home page. I like it because as a front-end developer, CSS is one of the things that I enjoy the most. I’m also working on implementing modern React to our current application, using tools like Context and Hooks, and improving our unit testing, which is super fun and challenging.

 

DocuSign team members chatting in their office
DocuSign

DocuSign wants to give you, and people in need that you wish to help, $5,000. Senior Director of Engineering Keith Litwin said the eSignature company offers up to that exact amount to team members hoping to evolve professionally. It also matches up to an additional $5,000 for contributions to the charitable organizations those same employees wish to support.

 

What are some of the coolest or most unique perks your company offers? 

DocuSign provides catered lunches on Mondays and Wednesdays for the product and engineering teams. We also get three days a year to volunteer, and a gifts program that matches employee charitable donations up to $5,000 each calendar year on an ongoing basis. We offer team members $5,000 a year to spend on education, and we have a gym in our office plus a monthly wellness stipend. DocuSign also offers six months of paid parental leave.

We offer team members $5,000 a year to spend on education.”

 

What is the coolest or most challenging project you’re working on right now, and what do you enjoy most about it?

Working in product and engineering at DocuSign Chicago is like working for a startup or incubator because we are building out new components of the DocuSign Agreement Cloud. Our work is visible and of high impact. It’s also fun that friends, family and complete strangers we meet use our product and love it.

 

Arity team members working
Arity

If you had 100 million of literally anything, you could make a pretty big impact on the world. By digesting that number of data points on a daily basis, Arity is using its jaw-dropping figures to help companies in the transportation industry make important decisions that improve road safety. Engineering Director Kevin Rice said handling all that data is pushing his team to improve the company’s IoT infrastructure. 

 

What is your favorite engineering team tradition at your company?

Every quarter, we have an engineering quarterly review where the entire group comes together to talk about successes, challenges and to learn from each other. This is a celebratory time when people can recognize teammates and create a bonding experience.  

We process over 35 million user trips and bring in around 100 million real-time GPS points per day.”

 

What is the coolest or most challenging project you’re working on right now, and what do you enjoy most about it?

We’re working on data at an enormous scale. We process over 35 million user trips and bring in around 100 million real-time GPS points per day. There is so much data flowing in that we have been able to scale up each element of our IoT platform to not only process it, but also to derive driving scores and other insights from the data.

 

Reverb team members working at a computer
reverb

Software Developer Pavan Sarguru said Reverb has a wheel of fortune, but for food. The online music marketplace, recently acquired by Etsy, uses a wheel to determine where staff across teams go for lunch. It’s a respected practice at the company — one that even has its own rulebook and ethics committee.

 

What is your favorite engineering team tradition at your company?

One of my favorite traditions at Reverb is how we determine where we go for lunch. Our head of engineering recently bought a spinnable wheel that we’ve populated with local restaurants. There is a document of rules, an election system to rotate restaurants on the wheel and a ruling body to root out corruption. Even though we may have gone a little overboard, the wheel has been a great tool for getting people from all parts of the company to share meals together and explore Roscoe Village.

We built an internal CMS tool that allows team members to access data and web components without any technical knowledge.”

 

What is the coolest or most challenging project you’re working on right now, and what do you enjoy most about it?

Our job is to connect the buyer with the instrument they’re looking for. One way we do that is by creating pages on our site that feature items based on categories like “beginner drum kits,” “affordable shredder guitars,” and more. Previously, the engineering team had to build these pages for the marketing team. It wasn’t a great use of engineering time and slowed down the marketing team. So we built an internal CMS tool that allows team members to access data and web components without any technical knowledge. The project required restructuring our frontend repository, establishing multiple frontend patterns and furthering our GraphQL layer. It has been a rewarding process to not only progress our engineering standards but to also build something that empowers our co-workers and benefits customers. 

 

PowerReviews team working with Guy Fieri in the background
powerreviews

Camaraderie powers the engineering teams at PowerReviews. Lead Software Engineer Rina Cao said the different tech units that make up the dev squad at the ratings and review management platform often come together to achieve great things, like evolving a foundational legacy platform. But they also blow off steam together through out-of-office adventures and internet jokes.

 

What is your favorite engineering team tradition at your company?

Whether it’s Tuesday lunches, gifs in Slack, or company or team outings, our engineers always take time to hang out and connect with each other despite being on separate scrum teams. It’s wonderful to work with a close-knit group of people whom I can trust to always give a straight answer, and who are always willing to lend a hand. I look forward to coming into work every day and there’s never a dull moment — we even have a fleet of Razor scooters to get us from one side of the office to the other.

Building our core data platform from scratch involved close collaboration between engineers, product managers, database administrators and even our CTO.”

 

What is the coolest or most challenging project you’re working on right now, and what do you enjoy most about it?

The coolest project has been revamping our legacy platform application by using cutting-edge graph technologies to represent our pool of highly connected products and user-generated content. Not only did it revolutionize the way we store and serve data, but it also paved the way to realizing unique new features such as SMS Collection, Brand Engage, and Review Updating. Building our core data platform from scratch involved close collaboration between engineers, product managers, database administrators and our CTO. The project was challenging but also extremely fulfilling. I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity, guidance and freedom to be a part of this exciting undertaking.

 

Kalderos team members working at their desks
Kalderos

Whether building an API or key elements of team culture, team members need a certain level of autonomy to do either. Lead Software Engineer Nate Jameson said Kalderos, which works with stakeholders throughout the pharmaceutical supply chain to manage drug discounts, offers his team members independence to do both in healthy doses.

 

What is your favorite engineering team tradition at your company?

The company is still so young and moving so fast that we’re still in the process of creating traditions, and it’s exciting to be a part of building those practices and processes from the ground up. I appreciate the opportunity we have as a team to establish and shape these traditions and build an awesome place to work for current and future team members. 

We’re still in the process of creating traditions, and it’s exciting to be a part of building those practices and processes from the ground up.”

 

What is the coolest or most challenging project you’re working on right now, and what do you enjoy most about it?

I’m working on creating an API that will give our users access to data that’s currently processed by our internal team. What’s cool about this project — and all of the projects my teammates and I get to work on — is that I’m given creative freedom and the chance to use the latest technology to build something that’s truly new and unique. If you have a good idea or you think you know how to do something better than how it’s being done now, Kalderos encourages you to explore those ideas. As an engineer, this freedom keeps the work interesting and rewarding.

 

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