Engineering Team Values with Jean-Denis Greze

Jean-Denis GrezeJean-Denis Greze is Head of Engineering at Plaid, the technology company giving developers access to the financial system and the tools to build many of the most influential applications and services of the modern financial era. Companies such as Venmo + Paypal, Coinbase, Robinhood, Acorns, Betterment, Clarity Money and hundreds more are built on Plaid – whose investors consist of Goldman Sachs, NEA, Citi Ventures, Spark Capital, American Express, and Google Ventures.  

Prior to joining Plaid, Jean-Denis was Director of Engineering at Dropbox, where he led the growth, identity, notifications, Paper and payments teams. Prior to Dropbox, Jean-Denis worked in fintech in New York and has CS degrees from Columbia as well as a JD from Harvard Law School. Outside of work, you’ll find him trail running, reading, or plotting his next vacation to Japan.

If you want to learn more about Plaid after this podcast, visit them at and check out the open eng roles on their career page – where you can actually apply by API. You can also follow them on Twitter – their handle is @plaid, or give their awesome recruiting team a shout at

On today’s episode we discuss software engineering values and how to enable engineers to be successful at your company and beyond.

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Christian Mccarrick:
[0:02] Welcome to the show John welcome to the show.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[0:07] I think it’s Christian I’m really happy to be here.

Christian Mccarrick:
[0:09] Excellent and you are I was like to point out to people that you coming to the into my corner quotes to do right here in the office so thank you for coming in from your offices in the mission.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[0:19] Yeah that’s correct Mission and 2nd Street so pretty close.

Christian Mccarrick:
[0:22] Mission second okay so outside I that you’re pretty close that’s right that’s right awesome and you’re getting a new person to a new Caltrain Station supposed to come there soon someday eventually right around there.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[0:33] I need the station is I don’t know when the tracks will make their way from from 4th Street.

Christian Mccarrick:
[0:38] That’s great I just wanted to get start off like I do a lot and I guess just quick background I know you had a very interesting one and if you can just kind of the highlights of how you got to where you are today.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[0:47] Sure that today I’m the head of engineering at plaid managing a team of about 15 years the whole company is a little bit over [1:20] they were just reach 125 last week.
I got here honestly through kind of a path that.
I don’t think you’ll find a lot of of listeners necessarily I haven’t gone through but I I I start off as an engineer ACS undergrad at Columbia.
About almost 20 years ago now and you know my first professional experience is working during the first internet bubble.
My company I think I laid off maybe 80% of the staff 7 months after I started so it was it was a little bit of a rough a rough in for the industry I will note also that be capped the most because we were the least 8.

Christian Mccarrick:
[1:34] The cheapest.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[1:35] But yeah that was that was about 20 years ago and after about 4 years in the industry,
can you start to feel like I was too honestly like one-dimensional as a human being I think part of that was not having a great first step in to into the industry made me a little bit,
skeptical about whether I want to spend my whole life building in creating as an engineer so I spent four years of my life doing a detour into law.

Christian Mccarrick:
[2:02] Very interesting.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[2:03] Yeah I wanted to have always love history so my initial indications to get a masters in history my mom and both my parents were.
We’re not super happy about that so I ended up going to law school and really enjoyed law school hated working as a lawyer and and what it did for me is it highlighted.
All the things that I love about engineering and I’m product,
which is the autonomy the creativity that you have the kind of control over your work product that you simply don’t get it in a Services industry where there’s a client that’s not your firm asking you to do something.
And so around leads 2008 I obviously got back into into Tech and at the time I was in Paris.
And there was a boom in vacation rentals and I started.
Advising some vacation rental companies as a friend and then they needed someone to do some girl packing I started girl attacking and then we needed to hire people so I start hiring people and so on and so forth and that’s how I got back into into being a full-time engineering eventually.
Engineering manager.
And there’s lots of details that aren’t that interesting necessarily but for the last 5 years I’ve been in San Francisco I knew a number of people who are to Dropbox I was really really attracted by the idea of working at.
Like on that products I used it everyday I live by it and know when I join Dropbox it was as an Icee was very excited to come to work on the product could really technically deep.
As they were so that was one of the few people there that was an older I had experience as a manager there was a Nashville Pole to meet a fill-in to some of the gas in the org around Engineering Management and I did something that you’ll probably.

[3:44] Find a lot of managers I’ve done it was really skillful at finding a problem starting to tackle.
Convincing a couple of other Engineers to work with me we build a team out of it I’d hand the team off to someone else and then I go do the same thing over and over again it and you do that enough time next thing you know you’re kind of a director would like a portfolio themes reporting to you.
Yeah that’s my path about about a year ago I think Dropbox.
As it’s a fantastic company advise anybody who’s looking for like 2,000 plus person organizations to take a look at another the rumor has it or they filed their ass once again.
WW2 seeing you soon there but it’s it’s a great company great culture it just got too big for me I mean I enjoy 0-2-1 in the initial scaling stages of a firm I like reading culture I like thinking about how do we create like a.
I really like excellent like product team engineering team and and business and and Dropbox it’s all those problems and I wanted to go back in and get another shot at it.

Christian Mccarrick:
[4:42] The awesome and I think we’ll talk about that a little bit more to about really finding that fit for company in the right engineer in the right person for that company that time right and I think that’s important your interesting what did your.
Background in law do you think it would help you at all with being a manager and being able to interact not only heads down with kind of.
Outside of your team with executive teams and boards and things like that.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[5:05] It’s it’s a it’s a good question I’ll be honest with you I think that’s for your break in my life where I was I was focused on.
Dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and with people’s opinions and nausea subjective truth all the time I think that really prepare me.
Tips to deal with the complexity of human beings and I think that’s the biggest biggest value.
The other times where I’ll be on the finance side like.
Lost one I was a corporate lawyer so I worked a lot with can of accounting statements and in the business side of think that’s been very helpful understanding to the business of pod.
But I think it’s more the people last night in DMV Duty that were most important.

Christian Mccarrick:
[5:51] And just for listening to a little like your elevator pitch plaid kind of what is it when you guys do.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[5:56] Supply Hardware.
Especially the Epi layer on top of the financial system so that there’s 10,000 banks in the US They Don’t Really expose their data and services via an API,
plaid [3:20] PSI on top of of the entire system and its use by,
honestly just about any fintech firm that you can think about some venmo square cash for Robin Hood or like better man’s or Lending Club in song,
they use us to let consumers can share their financial data or their account and routing numbers for purposes of,
making transfers or making better loan decisions and so on and so forth.
We think of ourselves as we make it easy for people to start companies in centech there’s a whole range of product Innovation that needs to happen and I’d vertical that just hasn’t happened yet,
it’s now safe in Tekken Healthcare or two areas where the quote product Revolution that we’ve seen affect so much of our life hasn’t yet had tangible benefits of affected the majority of Americans,
but even today if you look at venmo and and and all these products there’s maybe 20 to 40 million people who are who are like using these apps like day in and day out,
but that means there’s you know like a hundred sixty plus million Americans have bank accounts.

Christian Mccarrick:
[7:08] Exactly.
If you step back a bit to kind of gear oil previous to do plaid you you talked about kind of how you do this manager thing you send me the director for a little bit about what was the 4A into management like how did that happen was it kind of.
Organic like you mentioned.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[7:28] Pre drop box it was very much a necessity thing a team that’s going.
Someone needs to do hiring so you hire somebody then that person need somebody to report to you know the domain the report to you now 3 months later you realize well.
I probably need to like learn a little bit how to make this person successful or more so that I have in the past so that I think that that’s a pretty common password anyone that’s been somewhere that’s really fast going where you’re not looking at outside managers good looking at people internally too kind of salt whatever problems at work is having.
Dropbox Dropbox is different in Dropbox when I joined it was it was 90 Engineers they had an established framework for being a manager and what it meant.
And they’re effectively add I’d become a tech lead and again started recruiting and then it was a pretty like clear path is to what I have to do after that to grow I think,
no I think.

[8:26] Because the first few times I was a manager I was at companies were most of the managers were not engineering managers actually got some interesting perspective on I generally how you managed people which.
Which helps you understand like uses different than Engineering Management.
Goals are not as clear maybe you’re not having deliverables that are like you know did it longitude lost it it’s Metro accident I hit my truck so I had some mentors early on that were frankly like of a different breed and that wasn’t today.
You also in some world like like law management kind of non-existent like your partner doesn’t care a ton about whether you’re happy or not I mean it depends on the front.
I’m being more insurable than I really should be.
The focus is very much on the work product and everyone’s a line towards just the work and not so much what the culture is and so on to Joy and if that’s a pretty big contrast to a lot of the companies in Silicon Valley today where I think the culture of the place,
is extremely important I think I want to talk about this little bit later on but you know why are we building companies.
The answer is not for everybody just to make the most money possible right there a lot of places that are because I want to work environment that I really enjoy and incentives.

Christian Mccarrick:
[9:43] And I think that that.
The trend for kind of focusing more on culture is not your it’s Maybe started more in Silicon Valley but you’re really starting to see that grow into the other companies like.
Did G-Eazy already know this is some larger ones too but they’re trying to actually create culture gets even from the bottom line that’s going to be showing that you no more diversity better culture produces a better bottom line.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[10:04] Yeah for sure I mean there’s a lot of studies on on diversity inclusive I’m not sure if it even started in Silicon Valley like that’s the way I experienced it.
There are plenty of free Silicon Valley businesses that I think I had a very similar value stores.

Christian Mccarrick:
[10:23] I was more like Patagonia or something right it’s going to do the poster child that really break kind of culture company and staying for values and beliefs.
Fred snow again and kind of common theme for this podcast what were some of your early mistakes you made when kind of going into management that I can print out now.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[10:41] That was really easy for me to answer the the biggest mistake.
Consisted mistake that I made early on was just not communicating enough and I mean communicating up and down to make sure that we were on the same page as to like why we were working on what we were working and.
As a manager.
You almost can’t over-communicate like if you over communicate like people just are making fun of you by using back with you the words that you use with them.
Yeah then you know did you communicate by something else but until that happens you’re not repeating yourself nearly enough so that was the biggest mistake.
You know the the fault lines that you see there are.
The Delta between what you think is being worked on it what is being worked on at like the week or two we Cadence are you really doing is each check in with team is just off and you know week one is off by 5% and then weak you know to It Off by like 11%.
And you know you really want to get to a place where it’s off by 0.5% so the first thing I think.
Probably the second thing that was very difficult in the transition this is true I think of most first-time managers is,
is realizing that people not going to do this the things the way you would do them right and I think when I first became a manager I was very hard driving I compared everything to the standard of output that I had for myself as an ICU in as a tech lead.
That leads to you being too demanding and and too rigid in your way of thinking and I think it’s interesting is when I became a lead of Leeds I was the opposite.

[12:16] So as a as an initially as and yeah my was very hard driving and very opinionated and then when I became a leader leads.
What kind of software if I dare say because I understood the difficulty about any one particular situation a manager’s ability to like Drive things successful like it’s not on a manager’s control.
Delete of lead II took a probabilistic approach to outcomes Rez as a lead I took a very deterministic like there’s only one way forward approach.
So that was my second if I go back in time to the first couple of teams that I manage I would I would just like.
I was just let go of my expertise of the null space almost wonder if,
sometimes. Better to become a manager for the first time for a team or you haven’t been so so deep and the technical stock that you said that you know all the answers you almost want to be somewhere where you don’t know as much so you’re forced to trust.
Your engineers and get more input from diamond from the p.m.

Christian Mccarrick:
[13:08] Not that other that’s actually pretty good point because you could always have a way that you might do it.
Yeah as a manager to you have that influence and you don’t want to make that suggestion as we talked about the past that now closes the the the past other decisions and other Solutions people might have had without you in the room.
Yeah so awesome.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[13:29] Just like amplifier Point you’re going to be increasingly wrong as a manager about.
Decisions about the details because you will lose contacts over time there’s an exception I think for a kind of tech lead manager who manages a small team and it still spending time coding for the majority of engineering managers as your career of all you are still are good.
You have a good gut on the big strategic decision you just will not understand the details nearly well enough.

Christian Mccarrick:
[13:56] And I’ve been called out of that before my team’s too and I think was the biggest think they talk to me still is I sometimes have the.
Trivializing the effort of some things because maybe I’ve gotten out of that particular klobase in the past.
And it’s become very complicated in my since my absence do it now I don’t play you know Brock the whole thing and then I like that you don’t understand and they get cranky at me and they say I’m at a touch and let you know that we got for yours or yours.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[14:20] As long as they don’t try to push it you’re fine.

Christian Mccarrick:
[14:24] Yeah that’s right that’s right you do have to be cognizant of that right what’s going to happen to that trust and communication Street hopefully they’re not.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[14:32] Yeah I mean that’s like a that’s such a failure mode if you get there that like many many many other things I’ve done wrong along the way.

Christian Mccarrick:
[14:37] That’s right that’s right so is you going to head now what and what are you advised people who are you know whether you’re promoting from within now what are some of the things you tell them to look out for you coach them on as they become first time manager.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[14:56] The high-level perspective that I have on management is it’s a it’s an area under the curve discipline meaning you need to spend a decent amount of time as a manager dealing with different personalities.
To truly become great.
Some people were naturally good at it I have you know can draw from a lot of Life Experiences from the get-go but Unique Kind of.

[15:21] You need a lot of time there so it might my first big piece of advice is you need to understand people.
And most of the really bad decisions that I made or because I thought I understood somebody.
When I didn’t and really the way in which I didn’t there was some to mention about their personality or what do valued what they love what they desired how they saw themselves being recognized whatever it was.
I didn’t understand and I just assumed it was like they were wired for that Dimension the way that I wasn’t that leads to misunderstanding and and and.
Jet spend the time really really knowing people and that’s like the first piece of advice if you truly understand your team.
Their motivations their love their likes their dreams for their life.
What do you enjoy doing if you can recognize when they’re stressed out we go to see what they tell you right if you recognize all these points then you then you can start to really be like a mentor and and guy people correct.
That’s my first piece of advice for for any manager the second piece of ice not really a piece of advice but I think it’s an important lesson people tend to be able to optimistic about the kind of situations they can work with.
Like I feel you Melissa quite often is something’s not working like you know the team’s not quite jamming or I don’t know like the piano have a great like working model and.
Open the approach of the first time manager is still like but figure out a way to make it work and open.

[16:53] It’s you try wants to make it work,
and you see very quickly if the behaviors of the individuals or the dynamic of the team or the process in place I get there and if it doesn’t it probably means you need to do a bigger change that you can’t it’s not like a situation anymore.

Christian Mccarrick:
[17:08] Jackson point right I think especially coming from the engineering background you see a bug is a challenge it’s a popsicle and you’re just wired to try to want to fix it right but not everything can be fixed.
As you mentioned in that micro it might be more of a macro type of sex.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[17:24] Maybe someone needs to go work on a totally different team with different people I need to reset like some situations also just there’s like not a happy ending you know for the situation is off and as a manager there’s just like you do right by the company,
or do you do right by your by your team right by the individuals this is this is like one of the the ethical thing so you’ll have to deal with the in and out and I think.
I incur very much I’m doing right by the people we can talk about,
why later but there’s a point where you need you need to know what you can’t actually do right by all the people and you have to make a decision that’s right for for you know some some kind of figure set of values that you care about.

Christian Mccarrick:
[18:02] Definitely good points good points and I think a lot of people.
Look at when decisions about what companies did to join in with the rolls are in you want from a larger company right as a manager larger company now to your current company Platte right which was how big when you joined.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[18:20] I was I mean engineering was I think 2324 and whole company was 58.

Christian Mccarrick:
[18:25] So what was the first kind what was the thought process right from going from a larger company doesn’t matter which one it is right before going to that larger company now into it you know a true story.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[18:36] You like why did it why did I move.

[18:41] Alluded to it before I I needed to feel closer to the users to the product I needed to feel like.
The impact of what I worked on was more directed towards ultimate success and you get that with a smaller company right.
You know in terms of or building there’s always some Eagle involved so I want.
I thought that I could learn from some of the mistakes of other companies and and help build something great and Lasting help build I guess,
culture of engineering is on those are some of my really high-level thoughts when I decided to look around.
Define replied was really really easy actually so I ended up I had looked around for about 6 or 9 months very softly talking to a number of companies and Founders and actually was.
Called put my search off I was I’d realize how special drop boxes of the place and yet and then.
Out of the blue Zach one of the co-founders of pod got in touch with me.
And someone that I knew really referred them highly is that guy on the I’ll go talk I’ll talk this team and I would think within maybe like 15 minutes of talking to him I just fell in love with the idea of the company.
The mission for me I just thinking about how broken Financial Services were and interests the mission around empowering developers there was extremely compelling from the beginning.
If you’re an engineer you’ve always built tools for both Johnny consumer someone outside of your company but also internally for other Engineers right it’s super valuable to the idea that they was this piece of platform and infrastructure that no one had built out.

[20:14] And that this company was already extreme part of extremely successful at building can of the first steps there and we could build a kind of.
Ews for fintech I mean that’s that’s.
Like as an engineer if that doesn’t make you if it doesn’t get you really excited like I don’t I don’t know why well there aren’t a ton of platforms like.
That are built right there aren’t a lot of very successful platform companies that appear so that was.
That was extremely extremely compelling and then I’d like to talk to the team and the engineer is kind of understood.
Hiring philosophy the philosophy behind the kind of company that did the founders wanted to build it really aligned with my values like you know you are a lot of places are hiring for volume frankly like they just want to be like hey we need to like.
2 1/2 x out of town over the next 12 months like as a you know when they’re interviewing PPI.
We are sure I mean anyone can hire to Napa Steve it’s a question of like what quality of team do you want to build a bike with no problems you have to solve bite are you going to motivate like is our business reason to go buy two and a half and I think William and Zack were very much more,
is it a problem that we have we think this is the caliber people that we need like what do you think and I was looking at it,
I think we have a lot of hard infrastructure problems it’s going to take this kind of profiles with all that.
Yeah I can do that I’m really excited about it is that okay maybe we can only you know how many people.
That’s fine looks like if that’s the bar if that’s what we need to do let’s do it for me that was a very light constructive discussion run hiring and it’s one of many signals that I had with the founders of her I knew I was going to be aligned with them in terms of.

[21:48] Call Charlie wanted.

Christian Mccarrick:
[21:48] Awesome know what about people who.
You know they’ve only added you worked at some larger and smaller companies rights we have some of that that that experience ready what about someone this may be a manager at.
Only in the Dropbox ice ice company and they go to something smaller and they might not be used to write there’s a safety net maybe they have someone who does have the recruiting for them they just get resumes dumped on their laps right how do you.
What are the recommended is going to be huge shock for those kind of people.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[22:17] I’m not the right person to ask I would ask a VP who came from from that background I had to do it,
there are a few very successful series Caesars D companies like in SF right now who have vpns that were you know,
very senior at a place my Google and they’ve been very successful I think.
She might not have the support but I think if you know what best practices looks looks like and you understand that what you’re going to land into doesn’t look like that in your excited about you don’t getting it there over a couple of years it’s fine they give you look at recruiting.
Yeah but you don’t you don’t have recruiters to support you like that’s okay you can any any human being can operate their calendar and write grade email,
and connect with individuals on the phone. Then you hire a recruiter right to take care of that if you’re entering as a VP like you have a lot of agency towards shaping it in the directions.
The Philly roll that are seen more with people who have a more kind of.
A homogeneous background is a tendency to just replicate the structures of the previous.
And I see that in myself and I know it when I say like oh I’d blah blah blah we did do big mistake.
Every company is different at what you need to hire for what’s going to what it’s going to mean to be successful at a company looks different than the process these are different failure modes are different what people are good or bad at is different and so did you really need to.
Thinks very consciously about what parts do you adopt what parts you take wholesale.
I think the other the other mistake that I see quite a lot and I guard myself against is like thinking from first principles on everything like a lot of your one-on-one perfect example please don’t redesign your one-on-ones like it’s.

[24:00] You know what I mean like that there’s plenty of literature about how to have a good one on one.
Read a couple of block post like get a coach if you need to and then you’re fine you don’t need you don’t need to reinvent like I’m going to have like two minute one on ones like everyday versus like one-on-one with it doesn’t matter like that’s not the subway going to meet you successful or succeed or fail.

Christian Mccarrick:
[24:22] No exit and I think you know one of the things and you mentioned us going to previous to is it when the most important aspects of the managers.
Job is our company it manager or managers managers right is to really make their.
People who need some in their Engineers as successful as possible and for you we went to find that one of the most important things for you to an able and engineer success at a company.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[24:44] So the real question is is more for your company.

[24:53] What characteristics do the sex do successful people have.

Christian Mccarrick:
[24:57] Okay excellent.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[24:57] That’s the people talk about values a lot and it generally treat values as an output of some process.
I think maybe initially it’s an output of some process to release an input into everything that you do so.
You need to identify things that make people successful that you’re okay with having ass about you right like you don’t want it to be like backstabbing other people on the.
So I’ll give like a applied example just will use that and try to get out of it so.
Why why does pot exist right we want to empower developers to innovate in infant.
And are we measure of success is by let’s see the amount of money that we make and the number of developers who are successfully.
Kind of connecting their apps in the number of consumers are connecting their bank accounts to these apps and we noticed that like okay what what do you need to do the impact for those metrics.
Then we can look at the team you can do what do people do on the team that’s leading to that impact will my notice I like very very good.
Driving consensus so we’re going to say driving consensus seems like General amount.
Willing willingness to deal with like not necessarily.
Like the most Innovative work but work that aligns really well with Heidi to Quality for the back like you look you look until you see a bunch of examples and out of them you generalize what are the values of the.

[26:37] Looks like pod will have working together will be a value.
Why we chose working together because it’s not we didn’t call like mentorship we didn’t say right we didn’t say like leaves are really good Mentor sit working together like the expectation is everybody is very good at I can Ur facing making the rest of the team better,
we’ve noticed over and over again that the engineers that take like little bit more time doing that or super successful you get these range of values and then.
You try to help level people up for every Dimension and disinfect like it affects your recruiting right like if your company that’s in product engineering.
You don’t need to hire people who are really good at distributed systems right you know that that’s an obvious that so when you do the interview process you’re going to have more questions in a few or I can for the people don’t ask a question in terms of like the way we collaborate and work together,
what interviews can we design that also line with our values.
One example iPod giving her size right now we have heart problems but they’re not hard like very very deep technical problems so whenever we ask we have interview question tell us about a project I really motivated you but I really excited to work on.

Christian Mccarrick:
[27:42] Take note anyone is going to interview.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[27:44] For sure a lot of answers off and we’ll describe something we like amazing technical complexity which is great love, why did you have to deal with the complexity why didn’t you just use an off-the-shelf.
Answer and then sometimes if there’s there’s something missing there like not able to link the impact towards the complexity of the point where they work somewhere where the way you got the promo is you just built like a big sister.
We just don’t need to build big sister,
we realize that so we really care about there is more like ownership and like linking things impact and when we see those things were willing to say like this person really understand,
and I were okay with the fact that maybe they haven’t worked on that really complex technical problems they seem really bright weekend we can like Mentor them and grow with them to get them to be able to have the skills necessary to tackle the heart wrong.
But a different company you might be at a stage work you actually Amy have really deep distributed systems from right and yes you really want people who are really excited just by the technical difficulty because the fact of your of your space that’s what you have.
I’m so I think that’s the that’s the high-level framework I tend to think of too rough dimensions of skills do I called like technical leverage and organizational Leverage.
So technical leverage might be being able to go really deep or being very like Innovative or being very good at thinking broadly of systemic problems going to buy the architecture level so we have some questions I put a test,
people skill there and we said no one is going to be good at all of them are you try to understand what is or the couple things or someone is really really stands out.
And then on the organizational leverages might be more like mentorship or project management or ability you drive consensus and we have some interviews I get it.

[29:21] Does the interview level once you’re at the company it’s the same like our growth framework picks these dimensions and shows people examples and we try to be specific examples of actually happen at plaid we’re CERN Behavior lights,
you try to reward the behavior like.
I really like put forward more examples that we see and you do that enough or you repeat yourself enough and you don’t want to.
Repeat yourself enough to get people to internalize how it’s the same as 6S for the company and exercise where you at as an individual and you see the natural growth of.

Christian Mccarrick:
[29:55] And you talk about you know reinforcing so what are the things that you do to going to reinforce that behavior that you think is positive.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[30:04] I mean I reinforce it in one-on-ones when I see it I asked my managers to I asked like I think there’s that we have a cultural praise so you know if humidity is one of the company values and I would say we.
Spotify doesn’t seem that with that much.
We try to be quite humble like within with one exception which is your lots of Praise other people when they do something that really impressive you serve a praise Channel.
We have also either or bi-weekly engineering meeting you can.
There’s a it starts by Beasley just reading of Praise of different Engineers on the team and and appraise isn’t Center just on the project work that happened it it’ll it’ll Center on like help with like Gina should have saw like culture building and Swan it’s over.
I don’t act like one big aspect of it number 2 there’s a research about tokens we have like this giant hammer.
I didn’t want to find a Time sets on one Engineers desk because someone at the previous owner of the hammer give it to them.
Handing off of the hammer is a big deal pictures are taken do some photoshop involving.
You talk about in performance review and then and then like official feedback right so you want you want people to understand how the incentives.

[31:25] It’s not just like oh nice tap on the back it actually plays into you know what their compensation is going to be and so on and so forth you get external actors within the company to also recognize that kind.
You have to be systemic.

Christian Mccarrick:
[31:40] And what about the opposite then right cuz they’re all trying to.
Going to drive to a certain culture and some things are acceptable in some things maybe less so so what is the opposite of that right we always want to lead with your life coach.
And I coach my kids sports and if it’s always the.
Especially the kids level right it’s always 5 good positive things with the the constructive thing that I feel different from Engineers you don’t do that feedback sandwich kind of stuff right but for you and me to fear.
Driving and you want to eat me to point out some things that are just not really you know align with your cultural values and how do you do that I do that.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[32:16] Ask why a lot people don’t do.
Like people don’t do things that aren’t ideal because they are like that people.
It’s it’s generally it’s about Communication in a misunderstanding of what we’re driving for and how we’re trying to drive there so you like it the example is like kind of may have happened like what you think about it.
Hopefully the person agrees that it’s an ideal outcome and then you ask a lot of why on till they kind of reflect on what’s happening but I think you only do that in one-on-ones and frankly I think people respond much better.
Positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement so I would say.
You know wait until you see enough instances that you know there is a true kind of root cause a needs to be addressed one-off we make mistakes all the time in my own head 10 times.

Christian Mccarrick:
[33:10] And stirring the podcast.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[33:13] For sure in the podcast.

Christian Mccarrick:
[33:14] Know what you talk about to your values to and and you should have talked about you know you’re about your values also evolve a little bit from the early team and seeing it was working it was not working was that.
Is that something that you caught aside then after or is that something you you changed over time a little bit.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[33:32] That’s so weird I think I think the company had values early on and I think.
Those are pretty good. Pretty good codification of what made the entire company successful and then we.
Early last year start to codify the engineering values yeah specific engineering values and those.
Those are great right now and I think you’re correct that they may not be the right values 2 years from now and I think I expect us as a team to get together and have that discussion when we start to see.
I grabbed one of the values around shut the MVP right Thug like literally it’s it’s it’s centered around like keeping or velocity as high as possible and.
That’s rights for maybe today sunny to 80% of the projects I will work on that is like the right trade-off it certainly will not be true for the majority of the projects on saying like 5 years,
so where we’re going we’re going to be visited at some point but it’s I think it’s a pretty explicit conversation with the team I think everyone will hopefully recognize that it’s no longer the thing that we should go for.
Yeah so the I don’t have a good answer I think it’s like I don’t see the failure mode being the values being totally misaligned as long as everyone on the team has a mental framework. They are not there forever or no.

Christian Mccarrick:
[34:52] Exactly and I think that is important point out that.
You’re not only is there the concept of the company values and the company mission for that you know you actually have this kind of sub that set of values that’s the engineering what should I will see you no tie back into kind of deal for I think having that.
Is very important for an organization so that people know where they stand right in the values and I think you know the questions want to put you as well as.
Does you think having the surf strong culture Insurance in value help with decision-making in a company right at all levels kind of an engineering side.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[35:27] Yes I’m trying to trying to have a little salty in my answer to this one.

[35:42] D

[35:45] Like I’m a I’m a few minutes late I think foremost decisions.

[35:57] I’m reset discussion.

[36:03] I think the value speak a lot to how you do things I think the question of like what you should do.
Which is really why you’re trying to get at yes the values can help like if you you know if they give you a framework for like how you collaborate or how you get to decision hope you know we have a very like disagree disagree and commit.
Righteous is like something that means a lot.
We try to leave meetings with decisions made like very explicitly just don’t don’t want to like be any decision-making mode for too long into that helps make decisions but everybody on the same page if people have,
if you’re smart rational people.
Not everybody’s always rational but let’s just say if you’re smart people with as an input to their decision making the same information and rough agreement in terms of what the company is shooting for.
Yeah you make it disagreements but then they don’t matter as much right it’s like you have two solutions but they’re both equally good.
And I think that’s that’s what you need you need everybody to be on the same paper contacts there’s like a.

[37:05] I was having to us before actually what should new managers do or do vp’s event I think what I should have said,
and which I believe for myself is I have a good network of other vp’s at companies that are little smaller a little bigger we share a lot of information and that’s how we learn kind of what works and what doesn’t work recently was about.
What’s about kind of getting to bottom-up Innovation and like one is.

[37:35] When does the transition happen because by which I mean company of 10 people.

[37:42] The founders and Windows 10 people are making effective,
when you get to 100% company and then maybe at that point the founder still have most of the information cuz can of every important piece of data funnels up to them,
but increasingly not everybody on the team understands like everything that’s happening and you look at a thousand person to work and there is no one person who understands enough and if it’s 10,000 you don’t forget about it’s not even possible from you need to start to trust,
individual teams to both gather the data and make decisions can have within their mission there’s fear of ownership that are right for the company.
And like how do you think about that transition in my my point is like.
The thing that’s hard about that transition is when you’re in or gets used to having Founders picking up who know everything you need to go to Northwood they have to accept they don’t that’s a very known failure mode for all startup companies like you can.
People always talk about the transition from like somewhere around 15 to 30 is the first heart.
The second point is around like [1:20] to [1:50] will you get past dunbar’s number and nobody has a contact.

[38:48] The way you make good decisions also changes based on the stage of the company that you’re at right and so I think.
Apply to still at the stage where everybody knowing as much as they can about the entire product can still lead to very very good outcomes but probably sometime between our current size and we get to 250 that’s no longer going to be effectively true we have to be really smart about how we manage this kind of pills change it.

Christian Mccarrick:
[39:10] And as you please. Good point now so and I know that you are growing you have plans to grow what.
As you think about it now as other people might be in similar situations as you you’re at your level your maybe might want to see might be doubling over the next couple years what goes through your head now is you think like what do I what do I have to look out for how am I going to plan for this what are the gotchas and I’m going to try to look out for.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[39:35] I’ve gone to the transition before so I know a lot of the Gauchos from from Dropbox and then I have it I said I have this network of Sears we’re very smart and I’m finding out what the gases are for their company. I feel like I have some kind of.
I see a lot of land mines I had.
How to avoid them is always you know more than you think about.

Christian Mccarrick:
[40:01] But knowing is just right that’s half of the half of the solution right there just knowing that there’s going to be a problem and being pressed in a little bit and in advance to know what to look out for in to watch the signs and ended but then all sweetheart have a plan for how you going to do with that one it is.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[40:16] If it were just killing the way we do things today I actually wouldn’t be worried I think I understand the the landscape fairly well I’ll tell you like one of the kind of issues in my mind right now that I worry about the little bit.
Plascore business is very successful but it’s it’s passes you’re the one meaning,
we’ve got excellent product Market fit and we know what to offer and a lot of our challenges are more around like scaling data quality.
Reliability and uptime is our customers depend on it so much that their expectations for what we need to provide like everyday gets gets bigger than the next,
it’s okay there we need a culture that is very focused on quality and what I would call like.
Upping the level of engineering maturity across or services.
But they’re building you products like where we’ve been kind of focusing recently on on the lending space and providing apis like very specific to that space very excited about it but that’s still in this you’re the one Universe like we have some,
good early like pilot and beat a customer’s a lot of good signal but we need to decorate like we know we don’t have the perfect solution.

[41:26] I know you have other things I could talk about that are also like in the,
like really early stages and those teams need to still have very much as you’re the one can of metallic challenge moving forward for me it’s like how do I how do I,
I restructure internally so that we can be affected by these two very different problems write it like we have a portfolio of rest projects ranging from very very very risky extremely high Roi to less risky necessary to win Encore Market,
Bud like you know maybe lower our why do we do that really if I feel like that’s something up for me is like really really hard because I’ve seen I’ve seen a lot of companies where,
you don’t you don’t.

[42:03] We just have so much opportunity around new product that I think we have it’s not like 20% of the team is going to be working on new product it’s going to be literally 50,
sounds like a kind of challenge for us that I don’t have like a great map for in terms of scaling like you know what happens when I need to we need to think about having needs of leaves like how will that happen.
Personally I worry about those I think their ways they can go wrong but I feel more ready for them.

Christian Mccarrick:
[42:27] Got me those are some problems too that if you have a network network we’ve kind of done so it’s before you know it’s a little different in in your particular varmint but there’s a pattern that we can follow to be successful.
So one of the things you just said brings up an interesting point you are in a pretty.
Regulated environment right and you know we are here and I’ve been in another company in the past to that have been that way how do you.
Serve balance. You know you need your valves just like shift the MVP right.
Shipping MVP if you’re also going to be dealing with peace I love one compliance a compliance finra like you name it there is a lot of constraints on their right and it even personally for myself and my team’s I’ve had some.
You just engineers in the process a bristle little bit under such a level of compliance and checking the boxes and making sure things are done a certain way to meet those those compliance requirements.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[43:19] Yes I agree we’ve we’ve kind of drawing a line around.
The Cordillera the pi in the areas where compliance is extremely important and I think we’ve really been able to.

[43:34] Builder is curry have last velocity but they’re very well defined within plaid and so.
I think that affect honestly I would say like maybe that’s 5 to 10% of engineering is affected by those things that we can let the other 90% run really fast so I give you like a like a very like example right you you need to build.
Need to go beta pipelines. Because you need to run a lot of analytics on data right and if.
If you’re tooling is such that anyone who writes a query has to go to compliance to make sure that the query doesn’t like short pii because you put dye on your data warehouse,
yeah you’re going to be really slow because anytime anything something to happen you can have like this weird a lot of things that have,
however if before you put the date on the data warehouse you either like encrypted all the Pio way or replace it by tokens that still allow you to run the queries but don’t actually make any of the PIR available.
Dance you know you you took that engineer cost Jesse really interesting engineering problem up front right which is which is fine if you don’t want to work on and then you still get the velocity on the other end that’s why I think the pie perspective is when when.
Velocity honesty is a huge competitive Advantage like we look at we look at Banks or like older generation fitting companies in Strong by their inability to move fast in light of all this,
so we just turned out as like a competitive Advantage for us right like if if we can build a systems LS2 to move fast.
Then. So that’s a lie Gap against the competition not just like today but for years and years and years.

[45:07] And that’s the first and the second answer as we’ve kind of split or stack into horizontal layers and the base infrastructure data infrastructure.
Is very very focused on compliance security.
And then everything is built on top of that message it doesn’t not have to worry about as much as like the worst thing to ever say about security it’s a it’s like an embedded in their work by nature of the face of the base being sold.

Christian Mccarrick:
[45:31] Sure right it’s like using stripe is an API or something right so you can fix Toxaway from the average developer a lot of the PCI compliance.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[45:39] Just do the same thing internally for for the day that you.

Christian Mccarrick:
[45:41] How many talk about you know being successful for people you know it’s kind of stepping back is there is there a particular personality type of engineer that you know gravitates more towards this poor very regulated work and and.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[45:58] Yeah we’ve.
We’re actually found that just Engineers who enjoys systems work and data work really enjoyed working at pod that is like traditionally been our.
Are bread and butter I think more recently.
I was actually also been very successful with product Engineers but not choose who love working on my visual product but things like API design developer experience.
We have very few Engineers who have like a deep deep fintech background or who have a lot of experience working with regulated or.
Compliance product and actually if you look at the early teams of places like stripe that was also truth its listeners hard engineering.
And security compliance or just another form of like constraints on engineering Engineers are really good at dealing with constraint we’re lucky today that with Amazon and like the way a lot of security complexity.
I think.
Yeah I really just think of us as a as an infrastructure data and product company that just happens to be dealing with data that has you know a lot of value in the financial face.

Christian Mccarrick:
[47:08] Circling back a little bit too and you talk about it in your values near when we talked about again helping Engineers to be successful when you talk about that.
Kind of how do you the career path for the neck guidance for the what are the things that you feel is important for you to help coach and train and those Engineers to become more successful at your company just as an example in general.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[47:31] Well so that first answers actually don’t think about engineers being successful in my company I think about my Engineers having a successful career and this is like.
It’s a reality today but let’s my dad works at the same time his 30th Anniversary at the same company.

Christian Mccarrick:
[47:47] Got to watch.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[47:48] Yeah I you know I’m I’m almost 40 and so.
I do hope I’ll be applied for that you know for the next like 29 years but I think the truth is it’s unlikely that most of the audience listening here will be working on the same job for over there.
Kind of.
Conversation with anyone who reports to me on the team which is you’re here cuz you really excited about plaid you really said about to contact you really excited about the team and we have a really good system that we can discuss before understanding like.
What type of a Lisa Morris results and impact two ways where you can increase your scope of impact and be successful here.
On the flip side of that right it’s like why do you quit do you want to be in in in two and a half three and a half years cuz the truth is like the four years of the gold standard of how long someone will stay there.
It’s not totally true but right that’s like the Assumption on the average kid should be there and if you really if you can have that discussion will you really understand what the person wants to get out of it and then you can organize the work so that like.
95% of the time it’s like 95 time it’s like 100% aligned with plaid but sometimes it’s 70% line would like the most impact,
right you can,
you’re you’re playing in a really high range there and then on the side of the engineer you’re doing the same thing like sometimes it’s perfectly aligned with who they want to be sometimes it’s less so but the understand that the next project they will work on will likely align more you just have that open discount if you can do that,
people need to understand that you care about them as individuals and you care about their long-term success I have this.

[49:22] I use this in all my recruiting emails it says crews are long in the valley of small bright and I just that it’s just that.
The nature of of what the environment is like today I don’t know if you’ll stay forever it’s Unique I feel very privileged to live in this world you people buy into that they buy that you understand that about them.
And I think it a lot of it becomes easier I have very.
Have Engineers that I worked with you my Dropbox and then the last thing went somewhere they were very successful at a very good relationship with them now and I’m so excited that they’re going in all these way that I know would likely will not work with all of them again but I will get to work with some of them.
I’m really tired and I hope every engineer iPod who’s who’s been there like feel that like both myself the managers like that the founders really bring that attitude to her.

Christian Mccarrick:
[50:09] And I I want to reiterate that too because I value that I think I believe in as well right and really trying to do right by your employees do you write for your engineers involved right and I think it’s it’s really important and in some cases you know for me.
You have even there past the growth couldn’t happen anymore say it a company was at because we were just there was a ceiling right and I’m not going to.
Hamstrung them just because you know it will talk about maybe an exit that might be more graceful he can give us today’s all support you and some of them gone off and done amazing things been.
We work together again right or they haven’t and I’m just so happy that they’re also we have a great relationship no and they recommend me on that recommend them right like I said I think it’s a small Valley and but it’s so.
Fundamentally important testing to do right by you know the employees cuz you’re not just employees are people.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[50:59] I mean that’s my that’s the way I look at it I think I think that’s what the.
The reason why I like coming to work every day is because I really enjoy working with that set of people if I came into work and somebody.
Wasn’t enjoying the work anymore like I don’t want that.
It’s hard to them look at them in the eye and you know ask them to let you know it’s it’s it’s it’s like work really hard on something we know it doesn’t align with who they were.
You can’t you can’t do that long-term that’s not what I believe again. We should we should be aware of that there are like very very few people on this planet who get to think about working that way and.
I know I know for sure that it is definitely not the way you know my family and and and prove Sarah she’s ever got to think about it.
Also I think being aware of that is really important there’s.
There’s humility it’s easy to to take this kind of viewpoint and go to the bit on the side of you know you’re entitled to work on whatever you want to and something else but the nature of.
The lucky the lucky few that we are unfortunately I wish you were the lucky many.

Christian Mccarrick:
[52:07] Yeah I know another another I think another good point right that’s it that’s a great point is to.
To really realize it will be ours is unique and we should be you know blessed about that right any kind of other comments that you wanted to make known about it kind of points want to make to eat to tonight,
audience anything we didn’t discuss that you kinda wanted to make sure you you talked about.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[52:30] Yeah I don’t want to get I’m going to get peachy so I’m going to I’m going to stay away from telling people not to eat social media or do anything like that.
You asked me earlier like kind of for first-time managers like the advice I would have.

[52:45] And I don’t know if this device is actionable but it’s an observation I’d love to hear actually what.
If it’s true of of other managers and leaders and honestly like even Engineers like anywhere in the valley like,
I found it if I look back 6 months by 6 months and what I’ve done I can count on one hand maybe the number of decisions that I’ve made that I’ve had.
My to impact I would say even I said maybe like two quarter if I am lucky or decisions that really matter but I make.
A hundreds of decision the quarter right I have conversations in one on ones.
That leads out Kansai I’m doing things all the time I’m working all the time doing things all the time,
when I look back there’s only a couple of things that actually had this big meeting for impact on my projects my teams you know individuals.
I think it’s easy as a manager to get.
You scared of you focus all the small decisions could you get this feedback cycle of emails and people think are important people asking for your opinion all the time.
In a position to make those big decisions faster than we would otherwise.

[53:59] Putting a team into bike you know at the right time promoting someone as to a manager.
At the right time versus two months later realizing that a project is going off the rails.
Like way earlier than you would and saving 6 months of engineering as I often I wish they were,
a trick to do that I don’t have one like I found I try to make maybe like 2 to 3 hours a week block where I don’t have my phone,
I’m not in the office I just go for a walk around the block or like to the Embarcadero to think about things to force myself to step back but I haven’t found a great way to do that so I think that take away from me of this podcast is I would love for you to do a podcast,
with someone who’s very good at figuring out how to be very intentional about identifying what those decisions are cuz I think I’m good at it but I’m not great at it and I want to be.

Christian Mccarrick:
[54:48] But I think to myself and if we get higher in the organization the more decisions come at you and to the point where I think cognitively there’s only so much you can handle before you get serviced paralysis happen and you just can’t make any sense.
No matter what it is we I remodel my kitchen of years ago and it.
I just became a crisis over the smallest things that I was going to make a decision anymore right it didn’t really matter one way or the other but it was just so overwhelmed I just I just fell apart.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[55:15] How do you how do you fix that you have a kitchen or you still.

Christian Mccarrick:
[55:18] No we do we do but at some point I think my wife and I were just like I don’t care like I don’t care you make the decision and then now they’re like we got to that point.
And that’s a whole other conversation but not just making decisions upon yourself with working in pairs to make decisions or with groups to make decisions because there was a dynamic.
I think you’re right that.
And whether it’s making decision on a framework or a or a team or something up some of them at the end of 6 months A or B is equally fine I think you have to recognize.
What does I don’t see Monumental record what are the larger more impactful decisions were they look like how to identify them.
And to prioritize your time around okay this is a decision I need to think about more or I need to versus a hundred others that and you don’t want to just because you’re making check yet okay this pissed at one of those bigger ones doesn’t.
Fall into that and you make one you know without having the proper information.
No excellent point one thing I ask people to is what resources do you have that you kind of utilize on a week-to-week month basis to kind of keep an Forum professional development and anything like that.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[56:27] Yeah this is a I honestly I don’t really believe much in and reading about about tech I read.
I read very little about tack I think when there’s a big development in Tech I will hear about it just naturally from the engineers on my team or the water cooler or whatever like I may be like a month late and like learning about something but that has never.
Led to a bad decision that the manager level.
Maybe read a book or two on management if you wants every 6 months my personally I find it very hard for myself to improve my skills.
In more than one dimension every 6 months like literally I can make one thing better about myself everyday.
I still think is a lot a lot of years left on this Earth so I can get better A lot of things books at a time.
Any of it so beautiful so so I like I like books I think.
You know on and off Joey have a coach not always and try to change coach so you get different perspectives,
I really believe very strongly and having a network of people who are dealing with similar problems.
So I said I have this group of kind of vp’s and head of engineering kind of directors that I that I we hang out some other groups sometimes one-on-one the point is you don’t just want your company.
You want people who are experiencing different problems you have different cultures different challenges I think that’s a good shortcut to kind of increasing the speed at which you get that kind of area under the Curve.

[58:01] Yeah. I was talking about and I think I think.
This term I can slow AB I I like slow I also like reading non non Tech I can’t I can’t.
You you pick your.
You pick your monthly magazine but I think slowing it down is really important as I said anything for me that gets me to not just make all the decisions quickly but be able to step back at you.

Christian Mccarrick:
[58:32] No actually good point and kind of finally what is the best way for any to listen to reach out to you contact Webb Twitter email anyting.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[58:41] Not Twitter I mean you can you can retweet me in and follow me on Twitter as much as you want please followers are great.
But I will not be contributing much to your Twitter feed you can email me.
The best email to send me is j a g r e e z e at so it’s the first letter of my first name in there. Com.
We have a if you’re interested in working at pot you can email me or you can also go to our website click on careers and NC from there.

Christian Mccarrick:
[59:22] And we give you a hint here to on the question to your interview right.

Jean-Denis Greze:
[59:25] Yes for sure it’s so what is amazing about people is.
This is like two hands but the truth is we kind of give it in the prep materials for for the interviews and,
the trick to any good interview about values is to get people pretty excited about speaking about something and once people get excited about seeing something in there were you living and experience in their head they you won’t you’ll find out a lot about you know who they are.
the best part about managing interviewing right is like getting to know people and understanding like.
What do you value and how they are and I love it when you have an interview will you feel like you get that it’s magical to connect with somebody over.
I like an hour although it when you think about it it’s all so crazy that we’re evaluating people to be.
Do work after like 6 hours of of interview. It’s you know it baffles me sometimes you do you know you’re like retrospecting what went wrong with an interview in six or seven hours of work.
Will try to think out-of-the-box there no more with take homes and stuff but it’s that’s an unsolved problem.

Christian Mccarrick:
[1:00:28] No it I definitely agree well thank you very much for coming in today had a great conversation and thank you for your time excellent.