Embrace Your Inner Pterodactyl

What a wonderful time to be in the tech industry! Established companies are pampering employees with great compensation packages, lavish holiday parties, and even sprucing up mundane chores by offering on-site laundry! Like all good things, they come at a cost. I grew frustrated with the inefficient use of my time largely driven by the corporate culture that made these perks possible. As a former engineering alumnus of a prominent Seattle-based Fortune 500 company, I hope to share some of my experiences.


Corporate overhead

I had always felt that the annual review cycle was a waste of engineering time. From what I gathered, the engineers passionate about their work just wanted to do more of it, not spend a week to write about it.

Even when passionate engineers were allowed time to come up with good ideas, I’ve seen many of them stifled by the inefficiencies of the corporate hierarchy. Good ideas are routinely passed up for reasons as innocent as missed details while communicating up the chain of command. On the off chance that the leadership team can get all the facts, they are sometimes so far removed from the engineers in the “trenches” that they fail to see the value.

In our digital age, meetings are oftentimes the only opportunity to meet face-to-face with others to engage in collaborative discussion. In a corporate setting, meetings are instead used as a forum to debate offloading ownership of functional areas. Most engineers would agree that it would be far more efficient to use that time to work on the solution.

In contrast, as a small startup, every face at Ivy Softworks is familiar, so there’s no need for a lengthy review process to identify what we did over the last year. As an Innovation Studio, our leadership team encourages prototyping our ideas. As for getting stuff done, it’s in our blood.

Not invented here (NIH) syndrome

It’s indisputable that the tech giants make it a point to hire the best talent. What happens when you put a lot of smart people together in a room is that they reinforce amongst themselves that anything is possible. On the surface, this is great; however, when engineers conclude that they can build a better wheel, they’ll reinvent the wheel for everything, oftentimes, for non-technical reasons.

I personally found it challenging to keep abreast industry standards due to the non-standardized technology of my day-to-day work. This distanced me from industry standard open source frameworks, protocol specifications, and even basic building blocks such as JSON — all because the corporation refused external systems.

Ivy Softworks embraces the open source community. We believe in (and practice) code reuse. Unless there’s a compelling reason to do so, reinventing the wheel is wasteful and inefficient.

The butterfly effect

There’s a not-so-old adage derived from chaos theory, of how the act of a butterfly flapping its wings could potentially affect the path of a hurricane halfway around the world. Your impact at a large company is similar. At the end of the day, you are one of hundreds, maybe thousands of brilliant people; how loud do you have to yell for your voice to be heard?

At Ivy Softworks, instead of a butterfly, you’re a pterodactyl — everyone’s voice is heard, loud and clear (come visit us, and you’ll see that this is literally true). In practice, this means that anyone can influence our product, from the UI to the platform architecture.

Domain expertise

While it is a great achievement to be recognized for your craft, large corporations often don’t understand that most of us are eager to master another skill to broaden our technical toolset. Instead, domain experts end up confined to an area for the sole reason that they excel in that area.

At Ivy Softworks, your domain expertise is noted, valued and utilized. At the same time, we believe in serendipitous discoveries, so we encourage experimentation while learning something new.

Where’s the catch?

As mentioned, all upsides come with a cost. I will miss the army of development tools that I once enjoyed. On the bright side, a startup like Ivy Softworks is ripe with opportunity, especially with the constraints of a leaner team. We believe that the lean approach is better, as long as it’s easy. We can substitute the slew of development tools with a defined and repeatable build and deploy strategy that works for our team.

The efficient startup

Although startups avoid many of the corporate inefficiencies above, not all startups are efficient. An efficient startup needs to foster an environment where builders can build. I think we have that environment at Ivy Softworks, so it’s time for more builders to join us! Whether you’re like myself, and want to make a bigger impact with your time investment, or you’re looking for challenges of a larger scope, or you’re simply bored with the norm, check out our job openings and come (efficiently) build some cool stuff with us!