How investment in Carbon Black's engineering team is paying long-term dividends
While Boulder may not be Carbon Black’s official headquarters, it sure feels like it’s at the center of all the action.
When Built In Colorado last checked in with the next-generation endpoint security firm in late 2018, its growing Colorado offices had less than 100 team members. Since then, the team has hired dozens more and is now looking to bring on 40 additional people to its R&D team in 2019.
We talked with three engineers and product owners about scaling for growth, investing in the team’s desire to improve, and their goals for maturing in the coming year.
WHAT THEY DO: Carbon Black provides next-generation endpoint security, leveraging prevention technology to instantly see and stop cyberattacks before they happen.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Boulder, with offices in Boston and the surrounding area.
PERKS (IN AND OUT OF THE OFFICE): Carbon Black offers flexible paid time off for its employees, as well as employee resource groups and diversity and inclusion initiatives.
JOINING THE TEAM: “An ideal candidate loves gaining a deep understanding of a problem and coming up with innovative ways of solving it while working with other people,” says Senior Manager, Technical Product Management Stephanie Tanner.
Stephanie Tanner, Senior Manager, Technical Product Management
As the manager of a team of 14 product owners, Stephanie thinks in the long term. She’s responsible for building the right plan every quarter with the architectural needs and product vision in mind.
CHEF’S TABLE: When she’s not overseeing product, Stephanie is most likely trying new recipes and techniques in the kitchen. Her favorite dish? Ribeye with shallots, thyme and butter.
You’ve been with the Carbon Black team for almost a year and a half. How has the company grown since you’ve been there?
Within R&D, we’ve kept up with the growth by looking internally at how we’re set up. We split into three different product lines to help some of our more mature products flourish. On my team, I introduced a new role, the product owner lead, to create a management career path for product owners. We are constantly looking for ways to respond to the rapid growth and how we can sustain for the long haul.
As the company grows, the product owner team will grow. We are looking to build a strong community of practice so that we can learn from each other and evolve our own Agile best practices.
What project is currently on your team’s plate? How are you working through it?
We have a relatively new platform called the Predictive Security Cloud (PSC). Over the next few quarters, we need to mature the platform in order to deliver a great experience to our customers. This is not just a cross-R&D effort — this is a company-wide effort. We are all in on the PSC.
As product owners, we sit right in the middle of the business, the development team and our user experience group, and we’re tasked with merging the vision with what’s feasible within our time constraints. It’s a tough role.
We are constantly looking for ways to respond to the rapid growth and how we can sustain for the long haul.”
Your team is preparing to hire heavily in the coming months. How would you describe your team’s culture, and what makes an applicant an ideal fit in that culture?
We have three main values within the product owner team: own the problem, assume less and measure more, and deliver value early and often.
When we are faced with challenges, we always look to understand the core problem at hand before we find the solution. We look at solving the problem early and then building on that solution over time. The ideal applicant has a growth mindset, always looks to find improvements and make things better, and goes above and beyond to deliver great stuff to customers.
Tarun Reddy, SVP, Engineering & Operations
As the overseer of the engineering and operations teams, Tarun ensures each team is working to the best of its abilities in order to make sure customers are getting the best security products for their data and hardware infrastructure.
BEYOND WORK: After a several year hiatus, Tarun began hitting the slopes on his snowboard this past winter.
We talked with you back in 2018 about the big goals you have in place for your team. What’s your vision behind that continued growth, and what can new engineering hires expect at Carbon Black in 2019?
Carbon Black continues to invest heavily into growing our R&D department, as well as focus on renewed growth in Colorado. Since opening the new Boulder office in September 2018, it has quickly become the second largest office for Carbon Black, only behind the corporate headquarters. For 2019, we are working on growing our software engineering teams here and tapping into the highly talented Colorado tech market, which will more than double our current staff.
In the near future, we’re adding four teams to grow PSC, which we believe has a unique ability to address our customer’s security needs — fighting an ever-more sophisticated threat — through a scalable cloud-based software platform.
Our R&D leadership strongly believes that continual growth is a critical part of working at Carbon Black.”
Carbon Black has a quarterly event called, “Big Room Planning.” What is it, and how does it help your team throughout the year?
As companies grow from 10-person startups to 1,000-plus large organizations, a natural occurrence is that folks have a harder and harder time collaborating and planning in a timely and effective manner. Big Room Planning is a way for organizations of all sizes to set aside time to validate the plan for the upcoming quarter. By bringing everyone in the R&D organization into a single large meeting room — and inviting key external stakeholders and partners such as IT, infosec, sales and more — we are able to quickly solve dependencies, answer questions and make difficult decisions.
Meeting in person and clearing calendars for those two days means everyone is available and communications occur in high fidelity. Often decisions and conversations — ones that can take weeks or months using normal mechanisms — take 15 minutes because all the key people are there, from the developer implementing the feature to sales leaders selling the product.
Engineers set your team up for success, but how do you set them up for success? How do you make the engineering team consistently better?
Our R&D leadership strongly believes that continual growth is a critical part of working at Carbon Black. We have opportunities for everyone, every year to have professional development and/or conference attendance.
In addition, we believe in a high collaboration, team-based Agile development environment. Our Colorado office is designed to encourage communication within and between teams by utilizing an open floor plan. This isn’t for everyone, but we believe that the collaboration benefits outweigh some of the noise issues.
Lavie Tobey, Manager, Engineering
As a driver of good cloud practices, Lavie provides support to his team, whether that be through technical coaching, reducing friction or meeting overhead so that they can be more productive.
BEYOND WORK: Lavie is an avid hockey player and especially enjoys playing alongside teammates: “It’s not just the camaraderie that you get from playing with the same group of people all of the time — it’s seeing teamwork overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles,” Lavie says.
Growing at a company ensures your team is always staying ahead of the curve. How does Carbon Black emphasize the importance of internal growth?
My personal philosophy is that mentorship is the best way to grow. I certainly have an expectation of my more senior team members to stay up to date with the latest trends in the industry, but I also expect them to mentor the less experienced members of the team.
I feel that mentorship is a two-way street: We can all learn from each other, regardless of how long we’ve been doing our jobs. Working closely with one another is how we all grow in our respective roles.
What makes your team different and unique compared to other places you’ve worked or heard about?
I think Carbon Black is at a very unique time in its growth. I really feel that my team’s contribution to the product we are working on will directly impact the future success of the company, so it’s a very exciting time to work here.
Also, the security space is an interesting sector to be in. Front-page breaches are all too common, and to be on the side of preventing those for our customers is very exciting. It adds a layer of excitement to our day-to-day work.
I really feel that my team’s contribution to the product we are working on will directly impact the future success of the company, so it’s a very exciting time to work here.”
Where do you see Carbon Black’s product in the near future? How will your team help the company get there?
Carbon Black will continue to become a cloud-native company. It’s a tough transition to make, and many companies fail. However, the product and engineering leadership are all aligned on that goal and have the right ideas of how to get there. I have seen cloud done right, and I see this leadership team striving to do that. My team is uniquely positioned in this effort, since we are working closely with many of the product teams to make that cloud transition a reality.