Size Doesn’t Matter: Why I Moved From Big Company to Small Startup with David Yu, Director of Engineering (Part 1)
Title: Director of Engineering
Hobbies: Movies/TV, grow flowers, pop music, karaoke (used to)
Favorite ice cream flavor: Brandied Cherry
David Yu is the Director of Engineering at Kloudless Taipei. Previously, he worked at Trend Micro, a Taiwanese multinational cyber security and defense company for 11 years. His core responsibilities include planning engineering projects, managing the team, and hiring new engineers. He is often found representing Kloudless Engineering at Taipei Meetups and conferences.
Why did you make the shift from a big company to a startup?
My first job out of college was at Trend Micro, and I stayed there for the past 11 years. It was time to explore other opportunities in the market, because I kept questioning “Working here isn’t so bad, but was this it?” At the start of 2018, I was curious about the value of my experience in the market and how competitive the software industry had become, so I started my career exploration journey. I didn’t specifically target big companies or startups and saw every opportunity as fair game. I wanted to give myself a shot and see what was out there.
How did you compare the differences between opportunities at a startup vs. a big company?
The main reason why I considered startup opportunities is because I wanted to experience something different from big companies. I understood that startups are naturally much riskier, but I wanted to try something different from what I was doing at Trend Micro. I really wanted to know how competitive I actually am in the software industry, so I figured I’d just try it and see what happens. Even if it meant failing at my next job, I can learn something from it, so it’s a risk I was prepared to take on.
How did you first hear about Kloudless? What made you want to learn more about the company?
A friend of mine introduced me to a recruiter and she referred me to Kloudless for the Director of Engineering role. Coincidentally, when she introduced the position, I recalled glancing at the LinkedIn job posting a few weeks ago, but didn’t do much research on the company. I was surprised the role was still open and was curious about Kloudless’ products.
I discovered that it was a software company in the San Francisco Bay Area and that their engineering office was located in Taipei. A noticeable trend was the increase in foreign-invested startups appearing in Taiwan, but only a few of them were software companies.
Since the recruiter asked me to give this role a chance, I started to believe that Kloudless was arranged into my career by destiny.
What was the interview process like?
It started with a phone screen and then a technical phone interview with Tim, the VP of Engineering. Once I passed the first two stages, next was the online coding assessment. The final stage of the process was an onsite interview which was conducted via Google Hangouts by Vinod, the CTO. The onsite interview included a team lunch where I got to meet the members of the Taipei office. I remember this being a special experience for me.
In April, right before my company went on spring break, I receive a phone call from my recruiter informing that I received an offer from Kloudless! They wanted to know my decision after the break. I had some serious thinking to do, especially since I only had 4 days to decide.
Honestly, when I went through the interview process, I didn’t expect to get the salary package of my dreams. I felt fairly relaxed until I received this offer and was conflicted. When I started my search, I was uncertain if I wanted to leave my company and was mainly curious of my value in the market. This was a difficult decision that was going to change my life.
Why did you ultimately decide to join?
The determining factor was meeting Eliot in person after my break. It was a nice change to speak to one of the Co-founders in person about a topic other than my own technical skills. This meeting gave me the opportunity to learn more about the vision and future of the company directly from the CEO himself.
I believe people usually play an important role in any situation and their interactions are significant. Eliot was sincere and shared his expectations and ideas for the company. He was obviously very persuasive! I was convinced and decided to join Kloudless.
How did Kloudless differ from the other companies you were considering at the time?
When I interviewed with Kloudless, I was also considering another large Chinese company, Alibaba. Ultimately, I chose Kloudless because I found the product interesting from an engineering standpoint. I thought it would be exciting to build a useful tool for developers. I also had a great impression of the company after meeting members of the team during my onsite interview. Kloudless gave me a warm, family-like sense that I haven’t experienced before. It was truly an unforgettable experience that was worth the wait.
What was the work culture like at your previous company?
The key difference between my previous company and Kloudless are the number of employees. I went from working at a global company of 6,000 employees to currently 30! At large companies, you have the opportunity to specialize and fully develop a skill or job function. But due to the greater number of people, we tend to move at a slower pace without taking risks. As a result, I often spent a lot of time in meetings. Big companies also have more red tape and it’s challenging to make decisions when employees have less autonomy.
How would you describe Kloudless’ work culture?
The company is still small, so we have fewer meetings compared to big companies (except for 1:1s), which allows us to focus more on our projects. Fewer people translates to less bureaucracy. At Kloudless, we’re not concerned with politics, because we foster a flat organization where we wear many hats.
I’m unfamiliar with the differences in work culture and style between U.S. and Taiwan, but I can share what I’ve observed from my personal experience. I had the opportunity to visit the Berkeley headquarters for a week to onboard with my three Co-founders. When I worked at a Trend Micro, it was a big company that had many established policies, which employees didn’t completely follow. But at Kloudless, once a policy is implemented, it is taken seriously, especially since we don’t have too many to begin with!
We might be strict when enforcing policies, but we give our employees a great amount of flexibility. We offer a Work From Home (WFH) policy, which is uncommon in large companies in Taiwan. It would be amazing if we can continue having this company benefit while the Company is still growing. Having trust in our employees allows us to set our own hours around the clock and provides greater work life balance. Employees utilize this policy, but don’t abuse it, which is definitely something we appreciate.
Favorite programming language, framework, and development tools?
Python is not only the language I use most often, but it’s also my favorite one. Luckily for me, Kloudless’ main programming language is also Python. I like C and C++ too. I don’t have a preference on framework since it depends on which one is trending at the moment and what my company prefers, but we mainly use Django at Kloudless. Our current development environment is on Mac OSX, and I’m using Vim which is an editor I like.