Why I’m (still) at Qualtrics

I joined Qualtrics in February of 2015 after spending 10 incredible years at Amazon, where I was a Director of Engineering who had just finished launching the Echo product. At Amazon I learned how the pillars of customer centricity, long-term thinking, and data-driven decision making granted long-term competitive advantages. Over time, I internalized and came to personally value those leadership principles.

When asked the question about joining, I usually tell people that I saw in Qualtrics a company that embraced those exact principles I valued. I saw a company that was building software that had a profound impact on how businesses made decisions.  I saw a company that was tackling very hard problems and not afraid of failure. I tell them that the company is growing at an incredible rate, has a business model grounded in strong fundamentals, and has a leadership team that is focused on building a company for the long-term.  I conclude by telling people that I felt like it was the opportunity of a lifetime that I could just not pass up.  

Every week we have a company all-hands meeting.  We call it TGIT (Thank Goodness It’s Thursday).  In a recent TGIT, Ryan Smith, our CEO, asked people to raise their hands if they were in the biggest job of their career.  Over half the room raised their hands.  I know that I’m in the biggest job of my career, and we’re just getting started. I’m happy to say that after 18 months on the job, I’m more excited than ever about being at Qualtrics, and we’re just getting started.

We recently launched the Qualtrics Insight Platform, our powerful research platform that allows our customers to quickly gather, analyze, collaborate, and take meaningful actions with data relevant to their employees, customers, and markets. This was a monumental effort that took the team 2+ years, and along the way, we rebuilt much of the product to position ourselves for future innovation. Some examples:

  • Our Data Platform team is building a world-class data ingestion, transformation, and analytics engine to power our real-time interactive dashboards. Our goal is to create a data layer capable of ingesting enterprise data at scale and joining it with ad-hoc market research data to provide aggregations and analytics for our dashboard applications. Our vision is to provide sub-second interactive dashboard latencies for our end-users.
  • Like many companies, we started off life with a monolithic architecture based on PHP. We found that this architecture slowed-down innovation, and ultimately became a headwind for business growth. A few years ago, we made the jump towards a micro-services architecture, with a goal of speeding our pace of innovation, and building a platform that makes it easy for us to solve our customers’ problems. We’ve made a lot of mistakes (some of which we’ll talk about on this blog) and have a lot more work to do, but we’re already seeing immense benefits from the decision to move towards a micro-services architecture. Our vision is a completely decoupled architecture that allows for rapid scale-out, increased innovation, and an API layer that becomes the bedrock for our developer offerings. Under the micro-services model, our developers build services using languages and frameworks that best address the technical requirements, and today we haved moved beyond PHP to build services using Node.js, Go, Scala and Java.
  • Our customers rely on Qualtrics to build custom forms and reports, model organizational hierarchies, manage participant lists, create interactive dashboards, and much more. To help them do what they need to do smoothly, we have to solve difficult UI and UX challenges in designing our applications, interaction design, information architecture, visual design, and responsiveness. Our engineers play a critical role in defining the look and feel of the product, and many of our most significant innovations have been engineering driven.  Our engineers must build fast, flexible, and modular UI components that our customers use to build rich surveys and interactive.
  • Our customers integrate the Qualtrics Insight Platform into their existing enterprise systems. It integrates with everything from CRM systems (such as Salesforce and MS Dynamics) to ticketing systems (including JIRA and Zendesk), with many of other systems in between. Our customers use our product and these integrations to bonus employees, credit customers, and make critical business decisions.  The workflows that power these integrations, and the reliability and availability standards, must be world-class.
  • The word “Platform” is used quite deliberately. Today, many of our customers (and our Client Engineering organization) have built specialized applications on top of our platform (e.g. product testing portals, usability testing, and more). We’re embarking on a complete overhaul of our developer platform, with a vision of externalizing a set of hardened APIs and extensibility mechanisms that makes it possible for 3rd party developers to build applications on top of our platform, while making it easy for in-house development teams to integrate the Qualtrics Insight Platform into their workflows in a self-service fashion.

I hope this blog post gives a sense for the challenges that we’re solving here at Qualtrics, and a glimpse into the engineering culture that we’ve built. I consider myself lucky to work here. Fundamentally, the software that we build changes the way that our customers operate and the impact we’re making is profound.  And we’re just getting started.

If working at Qualtrics sounds intriguing please visit our Careers page to learn more about the positions we are hiring for.

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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