A conversation with thoughtbot

Next event | | 5 min read

Ahead of Silicon Milkroundabout April 2019 we chatted to Rob Whittaker, Development Director at thoughtbot about working at thoughtbot, the open spots on their team they’ll be discussing at the event, and his current projects

Who are thoughtbot?

thoughtbot is a design and development consultancy founded in 2003. We were founded in 2003 and there are now 100 of us found in six different studios worldwide including in London, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Austin and Raleigh. Our London studio has been open for more than 10 years and in this time we’ve worked with great clients including Red Bull, Walt Disney, and the UK government. You can find out more about the people in our London studio on our website (https://thoughtbot.com/london).

Work makes thoughtbot a great place to work?

At thoughtbot, we focus on making sure everybody involved feels fulfilled. This could be our designers or developers, or it could be the clients we engage with. We have a culture of self-management, continuous improvement, trust, and quality where every day is about doing our best and also always striving to be better. A big part of our culture is giving back to the community and we all like to share what we have learned but you are not expected to give up your personal time for this. Everybody gets one day a week to invest in themselves, thoughtbot, or the wider community. Work/life balance is integral to the thoughtbot culture, we don’t expect people to work long or irregular hours and we work at a sustainable pace. You can find out more about our purpose on our website (https://thoughtbot.com/purpose).

What is your favourite thing about working at thoughtbot?

The freedom to do whatever you want. We put a lot of trust in the people who work with us. If you think it is a good idea, then it is a good idea. If you think it is a bad idea, then you shouldn’t do it. We are looking for people who will be comfortable in this sort of situation.

One of the main perks of working for thoughtbot is having your own autonomy. You decide how we run the studio, what perks we should have, and have the freedom to do whatever you like. At the moment, our perks include investment time one day a week, a free lunch every Friday, quarterly outings and working at a sustainable pace.

People know thoughtbot for our best practices and we take great pride in this. We are not going to make something because a client tells us to – we are going to have a conversation to make sure we are making the right product together. If you want to work for thoughtbot, then we would expect you to take the same pride in your work.

Tell us about your current projects and what you’re most excited about

At the moment, we are working on a variety of Rails and React projects. These are for projects in a wide range of industries for people across the globe. In the future, we are hoping to work on more mobile projects, especially in React Native, which feels a lot like the early days of Rails as you are able to get going and create an MVP on which to test and iterate.

Personally, I am excited about the React and React Native community, there seems to be a lot of energy there. I have been working on a Rails project recently and the patterns in creating a maintainable and sustainable filter have been interesting. I am writing a tutorial that will help a lot of people and I get excited about sharing best practices. People shouldn’t have to worry about solving a solved problem.

What job roles will you be bringing to Silicon Milkroundabout April 2019?

We are looking for both developers and designers at thoughtbot. There is some overlapping between the two roles, we expect our designers to have some programming knowledge and we also hope our developers will have some experience in product design. We expect both developers and designers to have strong consultancy skills. We don’t have any product managers or Scrum masters at thoughtbot – designers and developers handle these roles themselves.

What does a typical hiring process at thoughtbot look like?

At thoughtbot, there are several parts to the hiring process. Your application will go through an initial blind review. At this point, we remove all personal, identifying information from your submission. This enables us to decrease any chance of implicit or explicit bias. We want to make thoughtbot a diverse and inclusive environment and this is one of the tools we use to help enable us to get to where we want to be.

Once you are through the initial review, you will then have a conversation with one of our directors. This will cover who you are as a person, how you approach your work, and what is important to you. A lot of this will be to see how you are able to hold a conversation and your ability to communicate well. Consulting is a big part of the developer and designer roles. You have to be able to talk to people.

After the non-technical interview, you will have a chat with one of our developers. Don’t worry we won’t ask you to solve a problem on a whiteboard. Nobody would ask you to do this in the real world, so why do it under interview conditions? The developer interviewing you will act as a product owner and will ask you how you would go about solving the problem they have. We are looking to see how you would interact with a client – these are problems that come up in day-to-day development.

What’s your top tip for Silicon Milkroundabout attendees?

Be yourself. It is as simple as that.

Check out thoughtbot’s company page for more on their open job roles. Applications for tickets to Silicon Milkroundabout April 2019 close  at 3pm on Wednesday 24th April – don’t miss out!  Apply for your free ticket  today.