Startup Engineers thrive in mission-driven teams.
Startup Engineers thrive in mission-driven teams.

What is a Startup Engineer (And How Are They Different From Other Engineers)?

August 21, 2019 in Uncategorized

Over the last few months I’ve spoken with a lot of engineers about Commit, and who we’re building it for. Sure, we aim to partner with exciting and promising seed-funded startups to help them get product-market fit faster, but what we’re really passionate about is optimizing our community for experienced, Startup Engineers–the kind of folks that early stage startups dream of working with (and want to hire). We really don’t think anything currently exists for this unique subset of developers who thrive in startup environments.

Traditionally, there are two standard career tracks for engineers, either specialization or management. Both are great options, but a Startup Engineer is unsatisfied or bored with both. They’re typically happiest when they’re hands on, and when they’re in environments where they can continue to grow new skill sets and solve different types of problems in different industries.

I have personally managed 50+ engineers at different stages of company growth at three different startups. In speaking with many of them about their career progression, I’ve identified three consistent qualities that make someone a Startup Engineer:

1. Creative Problem Solvers

One of the core qualities that I’ve observed of these folks is that they love building new products and solving customer problems. They care deeply about the product, and have strong empathy for customers, thinking about solving real customer problems, not just technical challenges. While they’re not designers, they’re knowledgeable enough to work with designers to come up with the best user experience. They might consider themselves ‘Product Engineers’ who thrive on startup work.

Startup Engineers understand business priorities and know when to make the right compromises, working closely and effectively with the product team–including founders–to iteratively deliver customer value. They are not driven to scale the corporate ladder, become over-specialized or maintain old code. They want to solve problems that they’ve never solved before, or that no one has ever solved before. They’re keen to push themselves to the peripherals of the tech stack to try new things and be all across the map in terms of projects, from frontend to DevOps. A desire for continued growth is important.

2. Engineer’s Mindset

They are thoughtful problem-solvers that take pride in what they build. The quality of the code base is really important to them. They whither in environments where they’re given robotic or monotonous tasks, churning out projects. Instead they want to craft exceptional code that their whole team enjoys working with. They are an engineer’s engineer and thrive in a community environment where they can pass on their learnings to others, and in turn pick up some new skill sets from those around them. They’re eager to hear others’ perspectives. These are engineers who look for inclusive environments where team members respect each other, and as a result can come together quickly, figure out how to fix a problem or tackle a new challenge, and ship code faster.

3. Experienced

While many folks may know right out of school that they are most passionate about working at startups, a true Startup Engineer has actually spent time in a startup environment or innovation wing of a global tech company. They live and breathe lean and agile practices, and know what it takes to manage multiple priorities, fight daily fires, and make things up as they go. These are Engineers who have had a win or two at a large company or developing innovative new products and systems. And they know what they want to learn, as well as what they can teach others.

They are highly self-driven and do not require an environment where they’re required to be in an office or to be managed, or one that values time at your desk over output. They know how to create amazing software individually or within a team regardless of where or when they work.

Learn more

These are the kinds of folks we’re building Commit for. And we already have a brilliant team started. If you’re interested in learning more about partnering with Commit as an engineer, visit to learn more.

We hire Software Engineers to build their careers with promising early-stage startups