Building People building products: Scott, Senior Manager, Software Engineering
Early in High School, I really connected with the idea of building up people and solving complicated problems - especially those involving the subtleties of individuals. So, I decided I wanted to be a professor, in computer science, and that's why I got my Ph.D. - it seemed like the right blend of cutting-edge problems and having a lot of opportunities to build people. I got offered a role at an incredible university and then realized that Professors didn't get to spend much time teaching. It was time to rethink my life, and time to get a job.
I started in Ads Quality at Google. When I did a good job with my job, that meant more people would click on ads. I realized that while it made a lot of money for Google, I didn’t feel like it was really helping real people in their real lives.
So I left Google and went to start my own company. That didn’t get the traction I wanted. So I looked around and decided to go to Qualtrics. Qualtrics aligns with (1) capitalizing on my strong software engineering and technical background, and even more: helps me to build up people. Qualtrics aligns with building people for me in 2 ways:
- Our product is around helping businesses to better understand people, where they're at, and how they feel about things, and to then respond by improving the experiences that those people have with that business.
- My role here allows me to make a big difference in building co-workers, teams, and things like that.
What attracted you to Qualtrics in the first place?
I became aware of Qualtrics through a friend (mostly to humor my friend), about 5 years ago when we were still looking at ourselves as a survey company.
I saw a passion here; people were excited about their jobs. That was very different from my previous experiences, and it intrigued me. But it was really hard for me to imagine so many people at Qualtrics being this excited about surveys. I wanted to be a part of something so passionate, and I wanted to know more.
I saw that customers were not only using our product to help their employees and customers but that we were making a huge difference in helping them make a difference. I came to see that the people of Qualtrics didn't care about “surveys” - they care about the random people now having a better experience, because of what we do, as they “go through the airport,” “eat their yogurt,” “experience their employer and employment,” etc. Qualtrics’ passion is the people who are having better experiences with credit card companies. In fact, most people in the US are having better experiences in life because of what we do here, and that really connects with me: “I want to be a part of that.”
What does your day look like?
My days tend to look like solving problems. Solving problems that make a difference to real people who I work with and people we work with.
How that looks on the ground often looks like a whole lot of meetings. They're meetings to make sure we’re on the same page, help shape our roadmap and timelines in a way that gives our engineers ways to really run doing what they're good at. I look at things like, “this person is good at testing, architecture, XYZ, etc., and is there a way that I can shape our roadmap in a way such that that person can just run with what they're good at and also make a difference for us and our customers?” That’s a really fun problem to spend my days solving.
My day is focused on me making an impact, ideally the biggest impact that I can make. The best thing I can do is to help the people around me to be able to just go and do their thing. The people who work around me are smarter than me, they do better than me. I spend 90% of my time doing things to give those people better opportunities to convert “doing their thing more” into “more business value and value to our customers and value to the random people that are better because we’re here.”
What is your favorite part of your role?
Seeing someone convert some advice I gave, or some opportunity I helped create, or whatever, into personal success for them and real business value for the company.
You moved to Provo for Qualtrics, right?
I grew up in West Virginia and moved here for Qualtrics. At Google, I was in Pittsburgh. The move to Utah was dry: no rain & barely any trees. But Utah was very welcoming to me and I found that I didn't have to be someone who I wasn't. I’ve enjoyed living with a diversity of people, especially people who often think differently than me and my family. I feel accepted and safe here, even when I’m different. And there’s great hiking.
Any tips for someone who is considering a role at Qualtrics? Or advice for someone looking to get into a career like yours? Tips for someone in general?
One strategy I’ve found valuable is to (1) figure out who the people are who influence the decisions that get made, (2) build a relationship with those people, (3) understand why they are making the decisions they are making. It helps you understand what they value and why things are being seen as important or being prioritized. It also builds trust and helps them learn to delegate trust and responsibility for you. That leads to ownership opportunities and also helps you to grow and learn more.
What has surprised you most about working at Qualtrics?
I really like Ryan and I'm super impressed with him. I love how much he tries hard to learn how to be better. He listens hard, and he really wants to learn and to learn how to be/do better. It's very contagious. It infiltrates the rest of us. He's passionate about his vision, and I think he's doing a great job of influencing the culture here in a really super way.
What made you want to get into engineering?
This is: doing what I'm good at that makes a difference. It's taken time in life to figure out what I'm good at and what charges me up, and what's valuable/not. I need to do something that I’m good at that makes a difference. I feel good that I've been able to find a slot that needs what I bring to the table.
What is your top #LifeHack?
Approach every day as:
- Today matters
- Get back up
I find if I get to the end of my day and I haven't "gotten back up" then it's a bit of a loss. I try to get back up a lot. Each day matters: they add up, and just like “interest compounds,” so does the return on what you inject into each day.
How have you become involved in community at Qualtrics? What has that meant to you?
In the first 3 years I was here I was pretty active in the WLD. I feel, and help build, community with my co-workers, team leads, and managers.
So, after all this time, why is it still Qualtrics for you? How has Qualtrics lived up to your expectations? How has it been different?
Qualtrics is still driven by employees that want to impact all those random people in their work that have experiences on a daily basis with all those companies around them, including their employers. I love being surrounded by people like me: people that get up in the morning because they want to make more of that difference.
As for my expectations for Qualtrics? I tend to take life as unknowns and take what it gives.
What's a favorite moment/memory of your time at Qualtrics so far? Or an impactful moment?
If I had to name one, it was the time I grabbed Ryan in the hall and told him something he'd said in TGIT was wrong. And he took the next hour to dive in with me and understand where I was coming from.
What 3 words would you use to describe Qualtrics to someone?
Transparent, All In, and Customer Obsessed.
How do you feel you've been able to apply what you studied at school to your career?
Pretty much not at all. Maybe just: school helped me have more confidence that I could solve hard problems, and helped me get better at that.
What's a myth about your type of job that you'd like to bust? Or about working at Qualtrics?
I’m a software engineer. I think it surprises people that most software engineering is about people. I think there's a myth there. As a software engineer, a lot of the work we do, both when writing code and when not writing code, is about communicating: understanding people, priorities, objectives, etc., and communicating that. Even writing code - people think it's not about people, that it's about the computer; but that’s the myth. The target audience is the people who will see that code later on.
|Scott is an alumnus of BYU and University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, and Indiana University, and started his career at Google. Scott enjoys storytelling, photography, and making people laugh.|
September 1, 2021