Know the Business: Entrepreneurial Engineering Culture at Cogo Labs

Engineering at Cogo Labs is different. Our Engineers are directly involved in business decisions—working with product owners to identify, analyze and solve technical challenges that have a direct impact on the bottom line of the projects in our incubator. In this interview, our CTO Jonathan Shapiro explains our tech and describes the the entrepreneurial skills of our Engineering team.

Engineers at Cogo

What's your engineering team's background?

Most of our team has an academic background in Computer Science. We have engineers who’ve built their careers around startups, and some who come to us right out of school. We love to hire full-stack engineers who can work on any component of our platform as needed, but there are also some specialists in the mix for things like UX and high-availability computing. Beyond degree or work history, entrepreneurship is the key to our engineering team. We’re not just writing software here, we’re growing businesses from scratch, so our engineers have to think at the business level. It’s one thing to build a piece of functionality and send it over the wall, it’s another to think about how to best architect systems and services that will scale efficiently as the business grows.

What is your tech stack?

At the moment:

  • Languages: Python & Go
  • Relational Databases: MySql, Postgres, Redshift
  • NoSQL Databases: Presto on Amazon S3 (also on HDFS in our data center), Cassandra
  • Web frameworks: React, Django
  • Other key things: Docker, Travis, Redis, Rabbit MQ

Our activity is split between Amazon AWS and our own data center. On AWS, the services we mostly use are EMR/EC2, Redshift, S3, and Cloudfront.

Our stack is subject to change and re-evaluation as different businesses take off within our incubator. We always want our engineers to be using the best tools for the job, and never want to get locked into situation where we’re using a certain language or toolset simply because that’s what we’ve always used.


Engineers at Cogo Labs

What are some of the cool / interesting problems that you're solving?

Our mission is to build a digital marketing & analytics platform used across the wide range of companies that we incubate. Along the way we get to tackle tons of interesting problems. A big one at the moment is trending content discovery. We process on the order of 1B rows of data per day relating to the web browsing behavior of users. Lately we’ve been using that data to automatically discover and categorize rapidly trending articles and searches. It’s an interesting problem for a bunch of reasons: the scale of data wrangling required is huge, there’s a bunch of nifty machine learning and natural language processing techniques that can be applied, and it’s a huge challenge to keep the signal-to-noise high.

What is the culture of the engineering team?

In general, the culture of the team is based around a few key principles:

  • Less is more: Keeping systems and solutions limited in complexity is really important in an environment where our tools are frequently used in novel ways to support unforeseen workflow needs.
  • Know your users: Engineers at Cogo are very interested in the goals and work of the analysts and campaign managers who use our tools. We are always working to keep the barriers to communication with our users as low as possible.
  • Know the business: Cogo engineers want to make sure we are working hard on the right things—the things that will deliver the biggest impact to our businesses. To make good decisions about how we spend our time and effort, we need to know what matters to our businesses. Consequently, Cogo engineers are very engaged in and curious about the larger context that our work supports.

What positions are you looking to hire?

Beyond job titles and pre-defined roles, we’re always looking for self-motivated, entrepreneurial engineers. Whether or not you see a given role listed on our careers page, if you are a thoughtful, collaborative engineer who loves the energy and excitement of building startups, but likes the sound of doing it within the framework of an incubator with a track record of success and profitability, we would love to meet you.

DevOps Engineer at Cogo Labs

This post originally appeared as part of VentureFizz's Engineering Spotlight series. Click through for the full article, including profiles of a few of our engineers.

If you're an engineer who wants to build businesses, skip the formal application; just fill out the form on our Careers page and tell us about yourself.