Apr 27, 2022
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8
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Join Akita as We Come Out of R&D

by
Jean Yang
The Akita team on a journey
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A few years ago, I started Akita on the premise that developers need better tools to understand the production behavior of their software systems.

My belief in the size of the opportunity led me to leave my tenure-track professorship at Carnegie Mellon University. At the time, there were many open questions about what it means to build a more accessible observability product. What should such a product look like? How much would it be possible to understand about system behavior from watching API traffic alone? The desire to answer these questions is what drew the rest of the founding team—Cole, Jed, Mark, and Brennan—to join the cause.

This quarter, as we’ve gotten more confident about our product’s value, the team and I have been shifting from prototyping to polishing. One of the biggest things that’s changing is how we’re approaching team construction. In this blog post, I’ll talk about how we’re planning to grow our team—and why now is a great time to join us. For more information, check out our jobs page here.

R&D in the early days of Akita

A photo from our very first in-person post-pandemic work session.

Since the beginning, our top priority at Akita has been proving product-market fit. We didn’t set out to build a better version of an existing product, but rather, the first version of a product that’s never existed before. Because of this, it was essential to gain confidence that we were building the right product for the right segment of the market.

How we’ve tested product-market fit is by building as little of the product as quickly as possible, while testing as much as possible with users. The initial stages of Akita involved a lot of product R&D, first with user interviews to construct personas and later with user research based on prototypes. To date, we’ve also spent years on tech R&D: figuring out how to power the desired user experiences with cutting-edge algorithms for collecting and analyzing API traffic, real-time and at scale. During our private beta, we’ve been shipping and iterating weekly towards building a product that meets our users’ needs.

We built our early team for R&D. We needed to move quickly while continually challenging our fundamental assumptions about the product and market, so we built a core team of experienced engineers comfortable with everything from low-level network capture to frontend development, who were also interested in working backwards from the end-user experience. Now that our product is further along, we’re ready to get to the next level with building our team as well.

Building out our team to build out our product

In the last couple of quarters, we’ve hit some major milestones for our product. We got into our first major production deployments. We’re starting to have users that regularly use Akita to understand their production traffic—with all of the quality expectations that come with it.

Now that we have a more well-defined product and confidence that we’re on the right track, we’re expanding our hiring in a few key ways:

  • We’re making our first non-technical hires. Now that we know who our product provides value for, we’re ready to hire our first product manager, developer advocate, and (coming soon) designer.
  • We’re ready to hire more specialized engineers. In the early days, having the whole team be as full-stack and user-facing as possible allowed us to move quickly. At this point we have enough work for people who want to work only on the frontend, only on the backend, or even only on scaling up our data infrastructure. 
  • We’re ready to hire less senior engineers. Previously, we were building a small team of domain experts to iterate quickly as we figured out what the product should look like. Now that we’ve got more of the product built out, we’re ready to add people to our team who are excited about what we’re doing and who have some experience shipping software already, but who may not yet have domain expertise.

In the next two quarters, we’re planning to grow our team of five to a team of fifteen. Here are the open positions where we’re looking for an experienced person to take a lot of ownership and define how we operate:

  • Backend Engineer – Data Infrastructure. We’re processing production API traffic real-time, at scale—and currently using PostgreSQL. We’re looking for a database aficionado to help set up our systems for scale, including spearheading a migration to a time-series database.
  • Founding Product Manager. If you love talking to users, love thinking about developer experience, and are looking for a good 0-to-1 product problem, we’ve got a job for you.
  • Founding Developer Advocate. Join us in rallying 99% developers! We’re looking for someone product-focused who can represent our users to the rest of the team.
  • Founding Designer (coming soon)

Here are our open positions where we already have existing expertise on the team and where we welcome less experienced developers to apply:

  • Backend Engineer – API and Integrations. We’re looking for people with experience shipping user-facing code to help build the APIs and integrations that power our developer experience.
  • Backend Engineer – Akita Agent. Calling all low-level programmers who perk up when they hear “eBPF.”
  • Backend Engineer – API Traffic Inference. We’re solving hard problems making sense of API traffic. This is potentially a fun role for compiler people, distributed systems people, and data people.
  • Product Engineer – Fullstack. If you’re a product engineer who wants to work on improving developer experience for understanding production data, 🤙.
  • Product Engineer – Frontend. We’re doing lots of interesting and hard things in the Akita Console. Join us to work on everything from a smoother “one-click” onboarding experience to helping users more easily explore their API behavior.

If you’re an early-career engineer who wants to get into developer tools, we encourage you to get in touch! (And if you have more experience, we certainly won’t complain. 😊)

As we build out our team, we will continue to build out our remote-first culture in our virtual office. We will also continue to get the team together in-person quarterly

What to expect if you join Akita

We have fun working together!

The next few quarters will be exciting for us! With a smoother user experience and the ability to hit greater scale, we’ll be focused on bringing value to more and more users. There are going to be fun product design and engineering problems, as well as more and more fun scaling problems. If you like a challenge, don’t worry: the hard problems haven’t all been solved. We’ll continue to work together as a team to bring “one-click” observability to the world.

Here are some things to expect about how we work:

  • Ship and learn. We believe the fastest way to test hypotheses about the product is to ship often, measure what we can, and learn from the outcome. Expect to ship within your first week or two and expect to iterate on what you’ve shipped based on what happens when user traffic hits your code.
  • The right amount of process helps us go faster. At Akita, we believe that having up-front discussions helps us ship and learn faster. We plan larger goals quarterly and sprint milestones weekly. We adjust prioritization weekly based on how features are landing and daily based on new blocking user issues.
  • We believe being committed to work means having boundaries. There’s no denying that work is a big part of our lives at Akita. But we also believe that it’s important to make the most of your time when you’re not working. We aim to be organized enough that people can be “on” while working and “off” while not working.

We’re not yet at the stage of the company where we’re planning to scale like crazy, so you should expect to know everyone you’re working with for at least the next year or two.

Interested in Akita?

Mark can scale up open-faced poker to any number of new people.

Here is what we believe as we build out our team:

  • The most important thing is fit. When hard problems are involved, it’s easy for the same person to be massively productive and fulfilled in one environment, but not meet expectations in a different environment. On our side, we’ve worked to get as specific as possible about the skills and experience we’re looking for at each stage.
  • Fit goes both ways. We want to be able to provide an environment for you to do your best work! Throughout the process, we aim to be as transparent as possible about how you would fit at Akita.
  • Staying lean is good for us. It’s important to us to build a high-trust, high-ownership environment where everybody plays a critical role to the success of the team. We believe that not growing too quickly is an important part of that.

Here’s what to expect if you interview with Akita:

  • Two phone screens, one about high-level fit and one about how your experience fits with the nuts and bolts of what you’d be doing at Akita.
  • One to two hands-on exercises. We’ve designed exercises that reflect our daily work as much as possible. For instance, most of our engineering interviews involve a debugging exercise and a small hands-on implementation project. No leetcode required.
  • Two behavioral deep-dives. This is where we test fit. On the technical side, we’ll ask about how you’ve gone about choosing technologies, setting up infrastructure, and delivering software. On the motivation and teamwork side, we’ll ask about how you choose projects, the kinds of results you’ve delivered, and your past team experiences.

As for compensation, we target 75% of market rate for early-stage companies. Candidates familiar with early-stage startup comp have often been pleasantly surprised when we’ve provided numbers. Because we’ve kept the team so small, the equity situation is extremely good if you join at this point. We can tell you more during the process.

If you or someone you know may be interested in working at Akita, we’d love to hear from you!

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