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How Shippio’s welcoming culture makes their team flourish

Gloria recently joined Shippio, starting her engineering manager career after previously working as a security engineer. She talks about her role, how the transition went, the company culture, and how she’s helping to shape their security processes.

Photo of Gloria Chow
Gloria Chow

Gloria currently works as an engineering manager at Shippio. She originally arrived in Japan six years ago, hoping to find a job and start her Japan adventures. She said, “Shippio is my third job in Japan. I studied computer science in university and was working as an automation engineer in Canada. I came to Japan many times before for vacation, and I wanted to try living here. Back then I was still young enough for the working holiday visa. So I came here, found a job as a software engineer, and ended up staying in Japan.”

Six years later, Gloria joined Shippio after she was referred by a friend working there. Not only was she impressed by their international and friendly culture, Shippio also offered her the opportunity to grow her career by transitioning from being a senior security engineer to an engineering manager.

I’ve always wanted to try being an engineering manager, but nowhere is willing to hire a manager with no management experience. I was very surprised that Shippio was willing to take this chance with me.

Despite starting a new role in an unfamiliar domain, Gloria has felt really supported by Shippio. She said, “Everyone is really friendly. If I’m confused or anything, I don’t feel like I’m asking dumb questions. Everyone is assigned a mentor, usually someone in a similar role and you have weekly one-on-ones. Chris, who you interviewed previously, knows a lot about the logistics industry and he holds regular study sessions for newcomers. It’s really helped because I know nothing about the logistics industry.”

Overall, Gloria found the transition to engineering manager to go quite smoothly, and she really enjoys the communication and interaction the role involves. She said, “I think for me, it was an easy transition. I find that if I work only on technical stuff, I get bored very easily. I like talking to people. It’s very different from being an individual contributor. Being an IC, you mostly just look at the technology, but as a manager you have to consider people’s thoughts and feelings, what they’re going through and how to help them get through it.”

Gloria manages two teams at Shippio, a product development team and the newly formed infrastructure-security team. She said, “We have daily stand ups, and I have weekly 1-on-1s with the members. I don’t really go hands-on much now, but Shippio does have managers who are coding within their teams. The product manager, designer and I have regular meetings to talk about how the team is progressing and discuss upcoming feature plans. And then I tell the team what’s going on.”

Part of being an EM that I really like is that I’m like a cheerleader for my team. I don’t code with the product team, but I cheer them on and when they do something good I get to tell the whole company ‘look, my team made this amazing feature!’

Shippio gives their engineers plenty of autonomy and opportunities for ownership, and upper management is quick to take action on feedback from the team. Gloria explained, “Shippio is still a relatively young startup, so we’re building out the engineering culture and practices. The executives are really good, they’re very willing to listen. The whole security thing, it’s something that when I started here I saw the situation could be improved and then I just ran with it. I think there’s very few companies that will let you do that.”

Until recently, Shippio’s security processes were managed by a security committee made up of people from different teams. As of last month, it’s managed by the infrastructure and security team Gloria just formed. She said, “This was to centralize it, to have one team owning everything and pushing security forward. Our team is mostly focusing on the engineering side for now, but security is everyone’s responsibility. We’re building out the policies and best practices for people to follow. The long term plan is to grow the team and increase overall security awareness.”

Another example of Shippio acting on engineer feedback is how they use the Shape Up methodology instead of Scrum - there’s no backlog and planning is conducted by the engineering managers, product managers and designers rather than the whole team. Gloria said, “Way before I joined, Shippio used to do weekly or bi-weekly sprints, but the engineers felt very stressed and it was hard to deliver features. I thought it was really good how upper management was willing to listen to the engineers and change the system.”

We have six week sprints, and then two weeks cool down, which is for fixing bugs, addressing tech debt, and planning the next sprint. At the end of the six weeks, the team presents what they did to the whole company.

Shippio believes their team does their best work together when in control of their own time and development, with flexible working hours and a learning budget. Gloria said, “We have no core time, it’s very flexible. Some people tend to work really early in the day, and some people are still on slack at like 9pm. People have children and stuff, so in the middle of the day they leave for a few hours but then they come back and continue working. Because I’m building the security processes at Shippio, I attend a lot of security conferences to get the latest news, and they allow me to go during work time.”

For Gloria what sets Shippio apart is their international working environment and collaborative company culture. She said, “There are Japanese members that don’t speak English very well, and foreign members that don’t speak Japanese at all, but somehow everything just works out. Everyone is very kind and willing to try using English or Japanese. The company structure feels quite flat, like, if I see our CEO Sato-san, he would just say hi. Everyone, even the upper management, is very friendly and open to talking.” It’s a workplace where anyone, regardless of experience level, feels comfortable raising issues or suggesting improvements.

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