I almost always get asked one question when I’m interviewing for our team: “What’s the engineering culture like at Houzz?” The first word that comes to mind is entrepreneurial. Here’s a quick look at the values that I think define working on our team.
Entrepreneurial Mindset I think a good entrepreneur continuously watches the status quo to uncover opportunities to solve problems that can transform the status quo to a better state. Everyone on the engineering team at Houzz is doing the same thing. We’re all empowered – and expected – to find new ways to do things better, and to enhance the experience for our users. Anyone on the team can identify a problem, model a solution and build a working prototype. Of course, the solution may not always provide the desired impact, but we can iterate to another solution and repeat until we are satisfied with the outcome.
Fast Failure As “entrepreneurs,” engineers at Houzz are encouraged to succeed, but are not discouraged by failure. I am not a skateboarder, but I admire Tony Hawk who has made a $160M brand with his name. I imagine that he wasn’t born knowing how to skateboard and weathered many falls, scratches and bumps until he learned. No one on our team was born with the knowledge to solve all of the challenges that we face today. The concept of a website and mobile application to help people improve their homes from start to finish did not exist before Houzz, and it has taken numerous iterations to bring the product to its current state. Moreover, we’ve had to evolve our backend systems to support our current scale. We’ve made plenty of mistakes as we have evolved, but our culture is about recovering from failure rather than avoiding it. This has helped us to move fast and stay ahead of our game.
Data-Driven Decision Making Recently we kicked off a redesign of our user experience. One of our objectives was to make it easier for people to find the right content by promoting the search functionality. As an experiment, we changed our header and tested it with a subset of users. We found that a majority preferred our original navigation, and that page views to certain content categories decreased. Without this testing, a simple product design change could have had a negative effect on the user experience without us knowing.
Data-driven decision making is not limited to product changes. We apply the same principles of testing when we’re evaluating different technology solutions to support the variety of services we provide our users. Even though a similar solution may have worked for another venture, it might not work for us. We use a combination of data and intuition to find the right solution for Houzz.
Kaizen, Change is Good! Houzz is growing fast. The scope of challenges that we have to solve changes every day, and we have doubled in size in less than a year. If we don’t continuously evaluate our culture and processes as part of a long-term strategy, a routine that worked for only a few engineers and designers may not work for a larger team, and might impair us.
At Houzz, we believe that change is good. We’re always evaluating the tools and systems that we use to make sure that they are efficient and make our lives easy. You may ask if we have a routine process for evaluating things, and the simple answer is “no.” Instead we promote a culture where people on the team can openly share their feedback and changes follow.
Welcome Home One of the biggest differentiators in our culture is our sense of family. Houzz was founded by, and is run by, a married couple who believe that when you’re at work, you should feel like you’re at home. You should enjoy the time you spend with your coworkers. We have built a culture that makes our life in the office truly feel like an extension of life outside of the office. We love coming to work because we enjoy spending time together and building a great product that millions of people use every day.