Why I Joined Scale
by Richard Ni September 18th, 2018
In the grand scheme of things, most decisions that we make in life are fairly inconsequential. What to eat for lunch, where to get a haircut, which route to take to work… while there’s a small chance each choice has a dramatic impact - maybe you meet your soulmate on the bus - it most likely won’t.
Choosing a company to join, on the other hand, is guaranteed to make an impact. Most people spend more time with their coworkers than they do with their friends and family. It’s an incredibly important decision, so it can be hard to feel like you’re making the optimal choice.
As a recruiter, I’m used to helping people with their career choices. Having to make my own major career choice gave me renewed empathy for the people I meet with. At first, I felt overwhelmed by the thousands of factors that I could consider when evaluating an opportunity, but ultimately I zeroed in on the three factors that were most important for me. While these factors vary from person to person, they fit into general themes that I think anyone can relate to.
Theme 1: The team
Why Scale? Delightful Disagreements: A drive to arrive at the right answer without caring who came up with it
It’s oft-repeated but worth repeating: pick the right team. When joining a startup, it’s generally important to pick the right team in the sense that you think it will be successful and that it can drive the next “rocketship.” However, it’s also important to pick the right team that specifically fits you.
After my first couple conversations with people at Scale, I had a general sense that I’d fit in well with the team. It wasn’t until several conversations later that I realized that Scale had hit on a “most-important factor” for me: a drive to arrive at the right answer without caring who’s right. The team at Scale is very accomplished, but people never boasted about their own achievements. I felt comfortable disagreeing with anyone - whether it be in a serious conversation about which self-driving car company is best positioned for success with the CEO, or in light-hearted banter during a game of Overcooked with a group of Scalers.
The cool thing about working in tech is that things move so quickly and there are so many smart people working on so many interesting problems. It’s important to 1) gather a diverse set of reasonable and well-intentioned people to work with and 2) create a psychologically safe environment where people feel comfortable disagreeing with each other because arriving at the right answer for the team is more important than any individual’s ego. I believe I’ve found that at Scale.
Theme 2: The mission
Why Scale? Expansive mission: Building the backbone of AI has both immediate and long-term impact
Working at a fast-growing startup can be very demanding. On calls with candidates, I’ve frequently been asked what’s kept me motivated. On a day-to-day level, it’s the people: I didn’t want to let my team down by not giving my best effort. On a macro level, say after a long weekend or holiday, it’s the mission that keeps me excited to return to work.
When I chose Scale, it was important for me to form a connection with both the people and the product. Scale’s mission is to accelerate the development of AI as a whole. AI will transform how our society works. It’s been described as the fourth industrial revolution; there are few opportunities to work in such a transformative field. It’s impossible to predict which great idea(s) or companies in the AI space will have the greatest impact, so I believe in making it easier for everyone to build AI.
Having previously worked at a self-driving car company, I saw first-hand just how critical it was to have a massive quantity of high-quality labeled data, and it was easy to see how other AI applications would depend on that as well. I’m excited by the impact that Scale already makes in the self-driving car industry today, and I’m even more excited by the potential we have to make an impact on the most significant AI applications that develop down the road.
Theme 3: The challenge
Why Scale? Growth & competition.
Now, more than ever in human history, it’s important that people continue to develop new skills. With the popularization of the internet, it’s harder to be content with what you already know. Chances are, there’s a wiki page or online course being made to teach others your skill set. It’s important for us to keep growing, and the best way to grow is to be challenged.
Different teams are faced with different challenges. For engineers and product managers at Scale, that may be system design, optimization, or particularly well-designed UIs. For someone on the business team, it may be understanding a highly technical product and selling to highly technical customers.
On a universal level, everyone at Scale will be challenged due to our rate of growth. The level of demand from our customers is staggering, and we’re growing rapidly to keep pace. In this environment, you’re challenged on every dimension - from teamwork & communication (new people to onboard every week!) to problem solving to domain-specific skills.
Before accepting my offer, I asked myself - “is there a reasonable chance that I’ll fail here?” And the answer had to be “yes”, because if there were no chance of failure, then I wouldn’t be challenged enough.
After leaving my last company, I thought I’d take at least 6 months to explore what’s out there and make a “perfect decision.” It was hard to decide early, but I felt that Scale had the low-ego team, expansive mission, and high-growth challenge that I was looking for.
Scale isn’t the best fit for everyone - no company is - but if you’re intrigued by what you’ve read here, and you think Scale may be a fit for you, please reach out, or apply to an opening on our jobs page.