Over a month ago, my journey with gopuff came to an end. It took me longer than expected to process all the emotions and think about what to do next.

I poured myself into building our industry-defining, vertically integrated, quick commerce business. The first few years were the most productive of my professional career, and I enjoyed every minute.

I didn’t feel the need to write a farewell post. It was, however, an excellent set of lessons for my children. The top ones were ‘don’t count your chickens (I believed I could retire on the equity)’ and don’t sacrifice your quality of life for a business. No matter how much they tell you they respect and need you, it’s not the same sentiment as I get from the kids when college tuition payments roll around 😃.

Several colleagues asked me to share my experiences and what I learned, so here is my first effort.

Looking back, there are many things worth celebrating, and I realize we had a culture of inclusion. Everybody now talks about “Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity’ but all too often, it becomes a ‘box checking’ responsibility dumped on recruiting. Real inclusion is work and must happen internally in the org.

In this hypergrowth startup, I heavily recruited from my network. It would have been easy to lean on my known colleagues and continue to work as we did in the past. That would have been effective, but such favoritism would have been destructive colonization of gopuff nascent culture.

That picture was taken on a lovely Philadelphia morning the day after a significant Friday outage. I sent out a slack saying I’m going into the office and anyone who can help triage this, please join me. This issue was caused by a malfunctioning caching layer in our API, but of course, we didn’t know that at the time.

It wasn’t just the engineers who showed up, and it certainly wasn’t just the ‘leads’ or SRE types. I had input from a broad range of professionals, including General Managers in the field, who supplied critical information about when they felt the app was sluggish. We also had IT procurement and people who ran the internal networks. Product managers and project managers, student co-ops, and even a Perl hacker. QA, as always, led the charge. It turned out the be a fun and insightful day where we uncovered and solved many problems across the system.

In a larger org, it would be inefficient to ‘waste’ so many people’s time, and we improved our response time with a major overhaul of observability and a dedicated release and operations team.

The fact that everyone felt empowered and encouraged to not just “report bugs” but to participate in the solution was really beautiful. I took for granted a culture of unguarded communication and underestimated the work that needed to be done to maintain it.

We could not have scaled our system without this team’s participation. I am grateful to have had such amazing colleagues who became friends.

Do you think that you have this culture?

  • How many people take a breath to talk and then stay silent? (or when people unmute on a call and then don’t speak)
  • How many people in a triage/planning/strategy session come from the same company or school?
  • How much do your engineers truly respect the less technical folks who power the company?
  • Do engineers of similar backgrounds onboard and commit production code faster because of assumed familiarity?
  • Does your manager take goofy selfies while the entire team is heads down and focused??

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