Growth and Real Estate

It’s hard to believe how much the Qualtrics Engineering organization has grown since I’ve joined. We’ve added close to 150 folks into Engineering over the last 24 months, and we’re aiming on track to double that number in 2017. When growing that quickly, you face many challenges as an organization: interviewing, onboarding, communication, to name a few. One of the bigger issues is just having the necessary amount of physical space to fit everyone into. It became very clear in early 2016 that we were going to grow out of the 10k square foot space that we occupied, so we began an exhaustive search to find additional office space that we could call home for the next 3-5 years.

Space is a critical ingredient in creating high-performing engineering teams. An effective space facilitates communication, fosters creativity, and helps define your brand and culture. Top-tier employees want to work in great environments, so we wanted to find something that would set us apart in the Seattle market. Given all that, we took a principled approach to looking at space. For our search, we wanted:

  • Room to grow. Our old office space was 10k square feet, and we wanted to find something in the 40k – 50k foot range. It was also important that we had plenty of conference rooms to facilitate cross-office communication.
  • Single floor plate / open space. This is a hard one to find, and becomes impossible at higher square foot ranges. But our ideal setup was a single floor plate, setup for an open, modern, environment.
  • Location. We wanted a location close to the heart of the city in Pioneer Square, close to transit hubs (for folks commuting), close to restaurants/bars/pubs, and ideally one with a killer view.
  • Bike Lockers / Showers / Parking. We wanted Class A office space with plenty of amenities, to make coming to work and staying productive as easy as possible.
  • Outdoor space. Another “bonus” would be if we found a space that had dedicated outdoor space, where our employees could get some fresh air for their 1:1s or do some pair-programming while looking at the view.

After an exhaustive search, we found what we think is the perfect space: 505 1st Ave South, a seven floor Class A office building in the heart of Pioneer Square. We took the entire top floor (7th floor – 47k square feet) and at the time of writing this, we have just moved in and are getting settled.. It checked every box on our list:

  • Expansive city/sound views
Anderson Quach

Courtesy of Anderson Quach

  • Private rooftop deck
  • Light filled atrium which is going to become a casual “central meeting” area, with pool tables, and plenty of space to relax.
  • Coffee shop with three different ways to make coffee (pour-over, drip, and Keurig style single-serve)
  • Huge kitchen with plenty of room for our catered lunches
Chowdhury Yeameen

Courtesy of Chowdhury Yeameen

  • Bike locker, showers, and plenty of parking

This new office space gives us room to easily hire another 150-200 engineers in Seattle, which will be critical as Qualtrics continues to grow like crazy, and I strongly believe this new space will help reinforce the culture we’ve established here at Qualtrics.

Anderson Quach

Courtesy of Anderson Quach

Speaking of culture — when I’m interviewing candidates and ask them if they have any questions about Qualtrics, the most common class of questions that they ask revolve around culture. What’s it like to work at Qualtrics? What’s the culture? How has the culture changed? Where do you see the culture going?

Culture is this interesting thing. In my opinion, you have an opportunity very early on when you are building a team to incubate and influence what your culture will become. As a leader, it is important to demonstrate and set an example for how you want the culture to scale, and it’s important to be thoughtful about it very early on, because it becomes a lot harder to change the culture of large teams. It’s easy for leaders to declare the cultural principles they want, but it’s much harder to cultivate them throughout the organization without careful thought.

The cultural norms at Qualtrics writ large are a great starting point: ownership, scrappiness, teamwork, commitment, and customer obsession. Those translate directly into our Engineering culture. I like to say that we follow a “radical ownership” model, with the following traits:

  • Small Teams. We try to keep teams between 3-5 engineers, who work on a well-defined, discrete functional part of the product or the platform, ideally with hardened APIs that act as the “interface” to the rest of the company.
  • Empowerment. You own methodology, technology decisions, and work hand-in-hand with the business to establish priorities, roadmap, and goals.
  • Ownership. You build it, you operate it. We like the tension that comes when engineers operate the code they build.
  • Move Fast. With a careful eye towards ensuring we have the right mechanisms to deliver quality software, we move very quickly on behalf of our customers.
  • Engineering led innovation. Some of our most powerful features have arose because an individual engineer had an idea about how to innovate.

So how does our new office space reinforce this culture? Well we have an open floor plan, which makes it easy for small teams to communicate with each other and move fast. Need a code review? You can just turn around and look over someone’s shoulder. Dealing with an operational issue? Your entire team is right there in a supporting capacity. We also recognize that innovation requires uninterrupted time and the ability to get into the “zone” — so we have plenty of spaces where individuals can find a “quiet spot” to get and stay in the zone (e.g. massage chairs overlooking Pioneer Square). Our office reinforces Transparency (a core Qualtrics principle) with glass walls and a centralized meeting space for our weekly company-wide all hands meeting.

I already loved coming into work every day, but with this new office space, I’ve found myself even more excited. Are you interested in learning more? We are looking for great engineers who want to help us disrupt how companies collect, interpret, and act on data critical to their customers, employees, and markets.

Please visit to learn more!

Anderson Quach

Courtesy of Anderson Quach

John Thimsen on GithubJohn Thimsen on Linkedin
John Thimsen
VP, Engineering at Qualtrics
John joined Qualtrics in February 2015. Prior to Qualtrics, John spent 10 years at Amazon in various roles, most recently as an Engineering Director on the Amazon Echo team. His previous experience includes Microsoft, Active Voice Corporation, and Openwave.

John's career has been focused on building large-scale web-based products that impact millions of users, including recommendation systems, consumer hardware products, and e-commerce products. Working at Qualtrics is a continuation of that trend, as Qualtric's SaaS based insights platform helps companies gain insights into their employees, markets, and users. John has a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Washington. He is a long-time Seattle resident, and enjoys biking and snowboarding.

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