• December 22, 2020

Ramping Up at RealSelf

Ramping Up at RealSelf

1024 683 Ward Vuillemot

Many companies talk about being truly inclusive, agile and continuous learning organizations; however, few in my experience are able to execute this vision to the extent I have seen at RealSelf.

As I reflect on the first two months in the role as SDM at RealSelf, I’m proud of the positive growth within the business, in our new team, and in myself. While I could write extensively on the subject, the three areas below are ones that stand out the most.

Creating a psychologically safe environment.

RealSelf strives to foster a safe environment everyday with a good example being the process we follow when software deployments go wrong or features break in production.

Like many companies we strive to implement industry best practices; however, when you are moving fast with continuous daily deployments, software sometimes breaks.  When things do go wrong at RealSelf, the business has a celebration of error ceremony with a focus on solving the problem and addressing systems that enabled the error to occur. This leads to several strategic advantages including: 1) creating an environment that is continuously learning; 2) willingness to take measured risks; 3) delivers results; 4) continuously raises the bar; and, 5) fixes underlying systemic issues.

I became intimately familiar with this process during my first week in the role after temporarily breaking part of the user search experience on the website. I appreciate the focus on learning and putting in place systems and improvements to address the root cause longer term.

Fostering an inclusive and diverse team.

This is a focus for many companies; however, it can be hard to execute in practice as the very culture of the organization may attract or repel diverse team members. Being a white immigrant male, I first experienced what it was like to be part of a minority when I came to the US in 2014 working my way through the US immigration system. While I could never truly understand the challenges faced by people in different circumstances, the experience instilled in me empathy and humility for the opportunities I have been afforded.

At RealSelf, diversity starts with the hiring process where we use tools to screen our job descriptions for language bias, we focus on objectively measuring the candidates on their skills to execute in the role, and we actively seek people with diverse perspectives and opinions. RealSelf has 65% women in management roles across the business and 33% in engineering with many perspectives, diverse nationalities, cultural backgrounds and experience represented.

While we have made great progress building a diverse and inclusive team we consider this an area for continuous improvement.

Staying curious through continuous learning.

At RealSelf one of our Operating Principles is to stay curious: instead of resting in the belief that you have it all figured out, keep asking questions and always be looking toward what’s next.

To support this goal, the company provides all new hires in the engineering organization a six-week onboarding program that includes rotations in two different sprint teams. This enables new members to observe, learn, and hit the ground running with a deeper understanding of how the business and teams operate. Through this process I have learned many things including 1) how each team practices agile, 2) broader challenges faced in deployment, and 3) where we may want to consider incremental process improvements.

Our staging environment was identified as one example area where we may not have it all figured out and could grow as an organization. Ultimately this strengthens our ability to execute testing and validation before deployment and increase our delivery cadence and quality. It takes courage and humility for an organization to be able to objectively address weaknesses, and in turn build it into a pillar of strength. 

We have a number of open positions for skilled software engineers, managers, product and data professionals. I hope a new insider perspective will encourage you to consider learning more about opportunities at RealSelf and please reach out to me or our hiring team with any questions.

Written by Aaron Brown, Software Development Manager (SDM) at RealSelf.

In Aaron’s own words

I’m a passionate servant leader with 17+ years of software and digital commercialization experience. Over my career working with some amazing and talented people, I’ve helped launch 22+ successful new products into industrial, medical and consumer markets. I’m focused on building high performance, customer centric software teams and have led start-ups and helped Fortune 500 businesses deliver great technology solutions.