Technical Recruiting
Technical Recruiting Playbooks: Engineering Hiring for Early Stage Startups

Natasha Katoni

In the first installment of Technical Recruiting Playbooks Season #2, Amplify’s Talent Partner, Natasha Katoni interviews Tido Carriero, Adam Jacob and Vicki Cheung on the intricate world of engineering hiring for early stage startups.  Each episode delivers valuable insights, captivating stories, and expert guidance, all aimed at hiring an exceptional engineering team from scratch.

Adam Jacob

Adam Jacob is the CEO and co-founder of System Initiative, an Amplify portfolio company, and was previously the CTO and co-founder of Chef. The discussion centers around building world-class engineering teams. Adam shares mistakes he made in past early engineering hiring, emphasizing the importance of fair compensation, and the value of having highly motivated and happy team members. He highlights the significance of curiosity and taste in early engineers, and gives details on the interview process he uses to evaluate these qualities. Adam talks about the creative process of building startups and the importance of setting up a strong foundation in team management and alignment.

Show Notes:

  • Mistakes made in early engineering hiring, particularly in terms of compensation negotiation.
  • The importance of curiosity, taste, and skill in early engineers.
  • Insights into differentiating System Initiative in a competitive startup landscape by focusing on team alignment, autonomy, and professional management.
  • Importance of setting clear expectations, professionalizing oneself in their role, and recognizing the creative process involved in building startups.

Tido Carriero

Tido Carriero, the founder of Koala and former VP of Engineering and CPO at Segment joins Natasha to discuss his systematic approach to hiring and building teams. They dive into the intricacies of hiring before and after product-market fit, the importance of understanding a candidate's trajectory, and the value of conducting focused interviews that capture career growth. Tido emphasizes the significance of accurately portraying the company's unique engineering brand and crafting tailored pitches that resonate with candidates. He shares insights on evaluating candidates based on their comfort with ambiguity and adaptability in pre-PMF stages, and highlights the need for strong evaluation practices, such as trial periods. The conversation concludes with a spotlight on the remarkable impact of effective hiring, exemplified by a success story from his tenure at Segment.

Show Notes: 

  • The distinction between hiring pre-product/market fit (PMF) and post-PMF.
  • How to evaluate candidates based on their ability to create roadmaps and handle uncertainty.
  • The importance of conveying a differentiated engineering brand and pitching tailored messages to candidates.
  • Tips for crafting effective pitches that address candidates' career growth and challenges.

Vicki Cheung

Vicki Cheung, a three-time founding engineer and co-founder and CTO of Gantry and former founding engineer at OpenAI, discusses her experiences in building engineering teams at various startups. She emphasizes the significance of finding founding engineers who possess strong ownership mentality, proactiveness, and an eagerness to learn about both user needs and business goals. She addresses the challenges of hiring engineers from larger companies and adjusting their mindset to embrace strong ownership without territoriality. Vicki emphasizes the value of intentional and explicit conversations about goals, potential, and alignment to ensure team members' success.

Show Notes:

  • Insight into qualities that make a great founding engineer. 
  • Strategies for evaluating candidate fit and alignment within an early-stage team.
  • How to tailor management style to individual team members based on their career stage and needs.
  • Tips to build a diverse team.