Today we are honored to be joined by Tim Jenkins, CoFounder & CTO of SendGrid.   SendGrid solves problems for companies sending transactional e-mail. Tim is currently involved with back-end development, operations, and support, and has worn many hats as SendGrid has grown from 3 team members to over 300 over the last 8 years.

Join us to hear the founding story of one of the most successful email deliverability providers on the web, take a journey through the ebb & flow of a CTO’s responsibilities as a company scales massively, and learn about how SendGrid’s culture has been defined by the 4 H’s: honest, hungry, humble, and happy.

Favorite Quotes

  • Email is a problem that all startups have to solve.
  • Rather than try to solve it themselves, our service takes all that pain away.
  • In the early days, my role was driving things.  Making sure the trajectory of things is going in the right direction.  Lately, it’s stepping back from that.  Our chief architect directs things now.
  • My role now is knowing where the pitfalls are.  It’s a lot more steering committees than writing code.
  • Speed of getting things done used to be the primary consideration.  As time has progressed, managing concurrency and scaling was the primary consideration.
  • We’re moving things to Kafka.  We’ve been into microservices for a while now.
  • The elasticity of the cloud allows us to scale up and down our services when we need them.
  • You’ve got to have a good pipeline to get the good candidates.  Your recruiting team has to be top tier like everyone else.
  • Recruiting has to be everyone’s job.  Not just HR.  
  • Never accept a bad candidate, even if it’s a position you really need.
  • Have an awesome culture where people say “I want to work for them”.
  • People like startups, but they also like knowing it’s going to be there in a couple years.
  • 4 H’s of their culture = honest, hungry, humble, happy.
  • The cornerstone of our culture is the 4H’s:  honest, hungry, happy, humble
  • Only 1 small portion of our interview is technical — the rest is about who they are and if they’d be a good fit in our company and we’d be a good fit for them
  • They don’t do contract to hire, but they do quarterly evaluations to make sure everything is working out and they’re still happy working for us and we’re still happy work for them.
  • I code when it’s needed.  If there’s a fight to be had and they need me in the ring, I would be there for them.
  • We compiled a custom version of Cassandra just getting the stack to come back up.  
  • No matter how much you test things, things can still go wrong.  When things go wrong, make sure things downstream don’t completely fall over.
  • Make sure you have some sort of a backup plan.  If things go sideways, make sure we know about it.  Then make sure it doesn’t impact your customers and your customers’ customers.
  • When you have a scaling problem, throw hardware at those problems first.  Solve problems on our own time.
  • Ensure that you’ve thought far enough ahead.  It’s not “is this going to work now?”, it’s “is this going to work in a couple years?”