I’ve had the immense pleasure of seeing DoubleDutch grow from a 5-person family, happy to power one event per month, to the leader in the industry, powering thousands of events per year. Much was learned, and along the way, the opportunities at stake increased. We’re continuing to grow at a rapid pace, and along with our entry into the enterprise, are needing to mature our engineering practices.
Marlin came to us after building and scaling multiple companies, and aside from being a strong technologist, possesses an innate ability to channel his passion towards building and rallying the company. With him at the helm, I have the utmost confidence that he can organize and drive our talented engineering team to new heights. So, we sat down to dig into what his new role means for DoubleDutch…
NC: What path did you take to get to where you are today?
MS: After receiving my BS in Computer Engineering from UC Davis, I went off to work in the telecom industry with CellularOne to build wide area networks and data centers. From there, I founded a consulting company building data centers for major Silicon Valley telecom companies and carried it through two mergers before joining Appirio as their Director of Engineering.
At Appirio I worked with the team to build a professional services application that lived on top of the Salesforce platform. Appirio eventually sold that platform to FinancialForce, which led me to found a new company called TylrMobile, which focused on sales productivity and integrated with Salesforce directly. The core technology of that company was then sold to 2lemetry, who was focused on IoT and eventually sold to Amazon in 2015.
All of which, ultimately brought me to DoubleDutch!
NC: What traits do you value in engineers and engineering leaders?
MS: I look for engineers that are passionate about solving problems. Technology is constantly changing, but passion never dies. Taking that energy and being willing to learn new things and apply the right technology to solve problems is extremely important.
Engineering leaders need to be well rounded and have the ability to communicate effectively. A true leader is one who is able to sell their ideas and get people to follow suit, not just tell people what to do.
NC: Do you believe engineers should be specialists or generalists? To what extent?
MS: It is important to become really good at something, but having the ability to understand complete systems is equally important. Large scale systems are distributed and not written in a single language or technology.
NC: How do you think an engineering team should be organized and communicate?
MS: One of the most important things for any engineering team is communication. First of all, projects are completed as a team and each engineer needs to understand his/her role and how they fit into the bigger picture. It takes a lot of communication to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
At DoubleDutch we’ve organized our teams into domains that are focused on our customer. Behind each domain is a pool of engineers that work to implement the projects on our roadmap. This organizational structure allows engineers to move around a bit and understand the entire system, while also allowing management to put the right resources in place to solve key problems.
NC: How does your team manage communication with product, marketing, and sales?
MS: In our domain structure, product and engineering work side by side. Each domain has a product manager and engineering technical lead alongside QA engineering, designers and data analysts. This allows a small team to develop a relationship focused on understanding our customer. The members of the domain sit next to each other to maximize daily communication.
With sales and marketing we meet regularly to understand how engineering can help move the company forward. This includes anything from product features to in-app marketing.
NC: How do you see your team’s tools, technology, and architecture evolving in the next 24 months?
MS: DoubleDutch is in the process of moving to a service architecture that will allow smaller teams to support the functions necessary to deliver our overall solution.
Over the next 12 months we will have broken our monolith into pieces and fully organized our engineering teams around these new services.
NC: What about your current team/product are you most proud of?
MS: The team of engineers assembled at DoubleDutch is amazing. The enthusiasm of the team is what pushes us forward.
In the space of event tech we are the market leaders and strive to innovate at every turn. The team that is currently in place has the ability to deliver new technology and product features that will continue to revolutionize events around the world.
NC: What do you view as being your biggest upcoming technical challenges?
MS: The biggest challenge facing DoubleDutch engineering is the management of data. We process large amounts of data around an event to improve the experience for the organizer, attendee and exhibitor.
Unlike many applications that process data we must try to make sense of the data in a very short period of time for it to be valuable at an event. Sometimes this means that in order for that data to have an effect on an event we must know answers in minutes and hours instead of days.
Powering hundreds of events a week means lots of data to process. The challenge is exciting and daunting all at the same time.