Managing a team of engineers at Square


We had the opportunity to hear more from Zach Brock, class of 2007, about what he has been working on recently. He shared some valuable advice for Oliners who want to join a startup. Here is what he had to say:

What Zach is doing now:

"I'm one of the Engineering Managers at Square. I joined in May of 2010 as an engineer working on the server side code. Since then we've gone from 20 employees to over 270 and we're growing fast. I've had the chance to work on a big variety of projects, from client-side Javascript to fraud detection to API development. Right now I manage 14 people spread across four teams, but that number tends to change quickly. One of the things I love about being at a startup is that everything from our product to our process to our organizational structure is extremely dynamic and malleable.

I initially was interested in Square because two of the best engineers that I'd worked with at Pivotal Labs were recruited away in early 2010 and I figured they must have a great reason. Once I saw the product I totally fell in love with it. It was such a powerfully simple idea, beautifully executed. The vision that our CEO presented was so ambitious and exciting that I was completely sold on joining."


Advice for students who want to join a startup:

"Startups are an amazing experience. It's exciting, challenging and an incredible way to learn. Everyone should seriously consider joining one, especially coming out of Olin.

The most relevant advice I have is around getting a job. The very best way to get in the door is to have things to show off. Startups care a lot more about what you've done than what your resume says. If you're joining a startup building an iOS app and you can point to a couple of awesome apps in the app store, your resume almost doesn't matter. You'll also be expected to jump right in on your first day, so you should be ready to hit the ground running on whatever technologies and tools they use.

You also need to be persistent. It's really easy for you to languish on the bottom of someone's inbox when they're dealing with 3 fires an hour. Don't feel bad about following up aggressively. Every startup is desperate for talent. They don't know it yet, but you're going to be a huge help to them."


Why an Olin education is valuable:

"Olin taught me to be really comfortable with ambiguity. Working at a startup requires being comfortable with not knowing quite how you're going to solve a problem or what details will end up being problematic. The project focus at Olin definitely helped me to become a lot more comfortable with this. The other big thing that's helped was going through a curriculum that emphasized design so heavily. Design thinking is critical to coming up with new products and turning them into reality. Having been exposed to UOCD and HFID really helps when talking with designers or figuring out how to get unstuck on a product problem."

Posted in: Alumni Speak, Life in a Start-up, Olin Employers