This week on Scaling Software Teams, we talked to Austin Broyles, the Director of Engineering at Primer - a Bay Area software company using Machine Learning and natural language processing to help their clients make sense of huge datasets.
Austin has a laundry list of blue-chip logos on his resume (including work at Google, Lyft, and Square), and he has unique insights into the ins and outs of tech leadership at a variety of levels.
But now, as Primer moves into largely unknown and volatile territory within the tech space, Austin is faced with not only finding the right engineers - ones who will be excited and driven by this pioneering opportunity - but also with effectively communicating the company’s challenges to his team members.
In this episode, we spoke with Austin about tech hiring, splitting his time leading both machine learning and pure software engineering teams, the hidden business benefits of improv comedy, and how he increased his offer acceptance rate… by giving job candidates a sandwich at just the right time.
Hiring is a two-way street, and while it’s important to find candidates who will be open and honest in their communication with a company - it’s vital that those companies are equally transparent in letting candidates know what they can expect as employees.
Working for a company like Primer - one that is quickly growing within a new SaaS space - can be exhilarating for some software engineers, but debilitating and demotivating for others.
That’s why Austin makes sure to clearly explain both Primer’s opportunities and challenges up front, allowing the candidate to make the decision that suits them best, rather than creating problems and potential turnover down the line.
One of the best decisions Austin made for his career, he says, was enrolling in an improv comedy course. While this seemed to have nothing to do with SaaS, tech or the start-up world, it nonetheless gave him key lessons in how to better interact with and manage his team day-to-day.
During his time taking these courses, Austin developed more effective presentation skills, got better at thinking on his feet, and learned to build on others’ ideas through active listening and positive teamwork.
As we all look to improve ourselves in 2019, tech leaders should consider thinking outside the box to take on hobbies that will make them more well-rounded in their everyday personal and professional lives.
Early in his time at Primer, Austin had a problem.
While he was interviewing great candidates, only a third of the offers he extended were accepted - forcing him to spend a great deal of his time with candidates who wouldn’t even end up taking the job.
When he asked his team for ideas, they pointed out a key flaw in their hiring process: oftentimes during interviews, candidates would be offered a sandwich to eat in an effort to keep things relaxed. While it’s a fun idea on paper, in practice candidates would then have to answer questions while chewing… something that was bound to feel a bit uncomfortable.
Lo and behold, when Austin extended the interview process to add a no-pressure lunch in addition to the actual interview - rather than during it - they saw their offer acceptance rate double.
This show is brought to you by Woven. At Woven, we help software teams screen engineering candidates so they can spend less time on bad interviews, uncover hidden gems, and back their hiring decisions with evidence. If you want to learn more about how Woven could help you scale your software team, you can check us out here.
We’re excited to help you build your perfect software team, and we’re always looking for your feedback about how to make the show better. If you have anyone you think we should interview, tweet us at @woven_teams and our team will reach out.