A culture of open communication at Autify
Samuel Johnson shares his experiences of working at Autify, where he does a mix of SRE and backend engineering. He explains how their product and working environment make it an attractive opportunity.
Samuel first came to Japan to visit a friend living here. “I spent a few weeks here,” he said, “I fell in love with Tokyo, the food, the culture, and I loved being able to wander around and find new things all the time.”
Once he returned to the US, he began studying Japanese with an online tutor, while working as a software engineer. When he reached a point in his career where he was ready to move on to the next thing, rather than looking for another job, he moved to Japan to intensively study Japanese.
After about a year of studying in Japan, he decided he wanted to continue to live here, and so set out to find a developer job in the country. He applied to a number of different Japanese startups before accepting a position at Autify.
The number one thing I wanted was to have a team where I can feel like I’m making a difference and my voice is heard, and that’s how I felt during the interview process.
Autify offered both an attractive product, and an appealing work environment. He said, “I really wanted to be in the developer tool space. Autify’s product was really cool. I would use it on my own. Also, the CTO and the other people that interviewed me seemed really easy to get along with. The number one thing I wanted was to have a team where I can feel like I’m making a difference and my voice is heard, and that’s how I felt during the interview process.”
The international focus of Autify also appealed to him. He said, “Compared to other Japanese startups I interviewed with, Autify has a great trajectory in terms of not just focusing on Japan. It’s also growing in the United States, Singapore and other places around the world. That’s a unique aspect of Autify I didn’t see with other Japanese startups”
Joining Autify, his role was a mix of backend engineering and SRE. He said, “I worked as a SRE for Trello and, so I had some background in infrastructure, but before then I was also a software developer. At the time the only developer with infrastructure experience was the CTO. So they were looking for someone that could do both Rails backend work and also infrastructure work.”
This kind of hybrid role was appealing to Samuel. He said, “I get sort of bored, just doing feature development all the time. So it’s nice to sort of be able to move around, which is another reason I wanted to be at a small startup. If I was tired of doing something I could switch focus.”
There’s a lot of leeway if you’re really passionate about working on something and think that it’s a good idea. There’s less rigidity than I’ve experienced at some companies.
Samuel is in the process of introducing a GraphQL API to better separate the frontend and backend. The idea for doing this didn’t come from above, but rather an idea he and another developer had. He said, “I think the most fun and creative part of the job is that if you see something in the product that you really want to change, you can do it. For example, with the GraphQL API, it wasn’t on our roadmap, but me and this one front-end developer thought it would be a fun idea to see how hard it would be to implement, and if it would help our lives, so we just started working on it. When we did a demo for the team, we got a lot of support from the management team. I thought that was super fun. There’s a lot of leeway if you’re really passionate about working on something and think that it’s a good idea. There’s less rigidity than I’ve experienced at some companies.”
Since Samuel joined Autify, the company has more than doubled in headcount. With the increased growth, he’s noticed a big increase in the development speed and quality of the product. He said, “When I first started, we were running into issues with quality and bugs. In the last year and a half, we added a lot of tests using our own software. That has reduced our bugs a lot. We’ve also brought in a lot of great engineers. The speed has gone up and things have smoothed out a lot.”
At Autify, the team is quite international, with members from around the world. Samuel communicates almost exclusively in English. He said, “At work events, or for casual chatting, there’s a mix of Japanese and English, and then sometimes talking to the Japanese customer support people we’ll use Japanese, but it’s mostly English.”
Samuel recommends working at Autify for the flexibility they offer. He said, “Occasionally I’ll work from somewhere else. Like, next week I’m going to a cabin in Karuizawa. It’s nice to be able to do that. I also like to go to the gym during the day when there’s no people there, so I’ll take an hour off and go to it, and work later or in the morning or something like that.”
He also appreciates the open communication he can have with management. He said, “There was a time when we were running into some issues with having bugs in production. The CEO made some comments that I didn’t agree with in one of the meetings that we had. So I directly messaged him, and then we got on a zoom call and talked through it together. I thought it was really a great experience, as he was very open to the ideas that I had about it, and we worked together on solutions for it, so I thought that that was really helpful.”