The PERN stack

For the last year or so, I’ve been working in a pretty standard Javascript stack – Mongo, Node, Express, React. Modeled on the so-called MEAN stack, this has the advantage of a native Javascript data store along with some reasonably mature tooling. But I wondered – why didn’t this have its own four letter acronym? […]

Managing rapid growth

As I look back on my time at TripAdvisor and HelloShopper, and think about conversations I’ve had with various startups, one of the recurring themes has involved building and managing engineering organizations, particularly during rapid growth phases. From five to fifteen, to twenty five, to seventy five, to a hundred fifty, and so on. Each of these ramps […]

On not knowing

Some people are hard to read. Some situations are complicated, with pieces moving behind the scenes in a Rube Goldberg mess of not-quite interlocking puzzle pieces. Sometimes people intentionally withhold information – maybe they were told in confidence, or perhaps there’s an HR reason for keeping a secret. Sometimes it’s none of your business. Or it is, […]

Special Skills

Consider the generalist software engineer. She has a solid grasp of CS fundamentals, knows several programming languages, can write scripts, program user-facing front-end code, and work on deep algorithmic problems in the backend. For her, coding is a set of logic puzzles, debugging, patterns and anti-patterns, architecture, and tradeoffs between fast, cheap, and good. Most developers […]

Ownership

Interviews are weird. Of course there are the nuts and bolts – getting there early enough but not too early, dressing nicely but not too nicely, the technical and behavioral questions, and so on – but more interestingly, every so often someone asks you a question that really forces you to reflect seriously on your experience or worldview. […]

Closing shop

The plan had always been to go for an A round in April. We had a solid idea (personal shopping!), enough cash to carry us through June, a great set of investors (seriously, some very nice and sharp people), and, to the degree to which you can depend on these kinds of things, a solid expectation of […]

AWS: a case study

At TripAdvisor, the devops team managed about 400 physical servers spread across three server rooms. We ordered and provisioned new hardware, scavenged parts (and sometimes whole servers) from the live site teams, replaced hard drives, installed and upgraded OSes, rebooted, rewired, and were generally on call for all manner of problems. What a pain. I mean, seriously, […]