Business catering marketplace ezCater landed in Denver last year with ambitious plans for growth — both in Colorado and around the world. But what started as a hub for its fast-growing team of “Customer Service Ninjas” has since grown to nearly 200 team members from a range of departments, and soon, that will include a robust team of engineers.
At the helm of that team is software engineer Hillary Bauer, who has spent the last five years at ezCater’s Boston office where she’s witnessed the company double and even triple its year-over-year growth — and where she’s grown a whole lot herself.
We caught up with Hillary to learn more about the team she’s building here in Denver, the projects they’ll be tackling and who she’s looking for to join her on the ride.
What prompted ezCater to start building a dev team here, and what excites you most about building this team or the move in general?
We’re looking to double our engineering team this year and again next year, so opening ourselves up to a new talent pool is crucial. The tech boom that’s happening in Denver also made it an easy choice for us.
EzCater is growing so quickly. When I first started at ezCater in 2014, there were only four people on the engineering team, so the fact that we’re building up a huge team is exciting. Plus, personally, my wife and I have been looking to move out west for a couple of years now, so we’re thrilled that this opportunity came up. Three hundred sunny days a year, here we come!
Tell us a bit about the work the Denver-based engineering team will be tackling. Are there any specific projects or initiatives this team will be responsible for?
The new team is going to be working on the ezCater Marketplace, which connects 62,000 restaurants with businesspeople who need food for work nationwide. We have some really exciting ideas on how to give customers an even better experience.
How would you describe the culture of ezCater’s engineering organization? How do you plan to keep that culture cohesive with teams distributed across the country?
We’re a team of smart, driven engineers who love to come into the office, produce high-quality code and go home to live our lives and recharge for the next day. Having a healthy work-life balance and making sure that we create a level playing field for people who can’t work for 10 to 12 hours per day is a top priority for us.
The single most important thing that we can do to maintain a healthy culture across offices is to keep a high bar when hiring — how a candidate performs on our cultural screen is just as important as how they measure up technically. Plus, our “No Jerks” policy means you won’t find any jerks on the team who we keep around just because they’re prolific coders.
The opportunity for endless growth is one of the reasons that I’ve stayed at ezCater for so long. Every time I’m ready for a new challenge, there’s been one for me to rise to.”
As you grow this team, what qualities are you looking for in engineering candidates? Why are these qualities so important?
We’re looking for engineers who want to work in a fast-paced environment where they can grow their skills and help lift up the people around them. We present our engineers with problems rather than solutions, so we love product-minded engineers who work with a cross-functional squad to develop a product roadmap, break it into subtasks and work with other engineers to execute the team’s vision. Being involved in the entire process from start to finish helps employees develop a sense of ownership that we really value.
How have you grown since joining ezCater? How did your team or company support you in that growth?
My entire software engineering career began at ezCater, and I’ve grown so much since then. I used my background in research science to transition from writing menus to become ezCater’s first data analyst. From there, I continued to learn new programming languages, and eventually, I transitioned into a software engineering role on one of our feature development squads as a full-blown software engineer. The opportunity for endless growth is one of the reasons that I’ve stayed at ezCater for so long. Every time I’m ready for a new challenge, there’s been one for me to rise to.
What opportunities are there to work on different products, features or tech stacks?
Over the past year and a half, we’ve introduced two new product domains and switched to microservices, which has opened up a whole new stack of technologies for the team to play with. For most of the company’s history, we’ve been a Rails shop, but when we made the jump to microservices, we introduced React and GraphQL to our standard tech stack. It was a pretty significant shift, especially since GraphQL was still a bleeding-edge technology at the time. Now that we’re up and running, we’re really seeing the benefit of the stack switch, which has been exciting to see.