We embrace engineering from the top to the bottom.
Many companies claim to be engineering-driven, but few actually are. After much internal discussion, we agreed that the most salient attributes of Wealthfront’s culture exemplify how engineering-driven we are. It’s apparent in everything we do:
- All decisions are made based on objective criteria. Engineers represent more than half our employees, and leadership empowers engineers to drive decisions and lead the culture for the entire company. That being said, this doesn’t mean tyrannical rule. Engineers at Wealthfront ensure the other functions feel empowered to contribute equally, encourage debate, and rely on data-driven standards for decision-making.
- We organize teams to maximize performance. We believe the team owns the code, not individuals. To that end, scrum teams internally organize to deliver projects.
- If it can be automated, we do it. We are dedicated to automating as much as possible, whether it’s software development or client-facing features. A main part of our mission is to eliminate the frustrating manual processes that plague traditional financial service companies and leads to increased client costs and fees. That’s why we are so invested in continuous deployment (see our Continuous Delivery section below in our profile!) and automated test infrastructure from server to mobile.
We don’t have a release cycle, we have a deploy button.
At Wealthfront, we don’t have a QA team by design. Instead, we rely heavily on engineers to own their code’s quality throughout the software development process by investing heavily in multiple levels of automated testing, monitoring, and reporting. We’ve been working in a CI/CD environment since before it became common and our approach to continuous delivery is a core part of our product development process. We actively use A/B tests and feature flags to get code safely into production quickly and often. Don’t believe us? See when we last pushed to production here!
Customer Comes First
“Our clients’ well-being” is one of our core values.
People across America have learned to expect the bare minimum from the financial system, but we believe everyone deserves something radically better. By listening to our clients and understanding their frustrations, hopes, and dreams, we have built a beloved brand in financial services that not only makes it easy to manage your money, but also delivers real economic value for our clients. We did this first in the investment management industry and have now set our sights on building a better banking solution. Why does your bank only pay you 0.09% on average for your deposits?! We don’t know either. What we do know is that your money should make money for you, not for your bank. And we’re here to deliver on that promise and to help our clients achieve financial confidence.
Wears Many Hats
There’s no one path to discover where your strongest passion lies.
At Wealthfront, we encourage engineers to explore and expand their interests by taking on various roles and projects they’re passionate about. While we’re a well-established company with a well-established product, there are a myriad of experiences and opportunities you won’t find in a lot of places. As software engineer Andrew Easton puts it, “The ability to learn and work on many different aspects of web code, deployment, infrastructure, and more is fantastic. But beyond even writing code, there are technical paths, area paths, management paths... and all of it is freely available to explore. It’s a great opportunity to really discover where your strongest long-term passion lies.”
High Quality Code Base
We have well defined optimization principles that are part of every engineer's onboarding experience.
They cover code consistency, using data to make decisions, technical leadership, learning from our mistakes, focusing on automation and developer productivity, writing safe, well tested and monitored code, and shipping small changes quickly and continuously.
Additionally, we have an org-wide proportional investment policy that provides the opportunity to prioritize work that helps improve the codebase and developer productivity. While we value urgency and moving quickly, we also favor doing things the right way as opposed to the fast way.
Engineers are in charge of deploying the right solution for the right problem – from the start.
Ownership at Wealthfront is about prioritizing, designing, and deploying the right solution for a given problem. This requires engineers to be involved from start to finish. As one of our data engineers, Megan Dare says, “Unlike at previous jobs, at Wealthfront I am able to own my projects from the design phase all the way to deployment in production.” What’s more, this starts with prioritization – you can’t do everything and there will always be other factors to consider like business goals, code maintenance, and requests from other teams, so engineers constantly have to prioritize their tasks. “At Wealthfront, I have the opportunity to be much more involved in the process of evaluating trade-offs of working on one task or project versus another, and I’ve learned a lot about the importance of being able to prioritize effectively,” adds Megan.
We believe well-informed engineers can make the best decisions.
Open communication and transparency are incredibly important at Wealthfront, both in terms of developer happiness (feeling trusted and included) and productivity (not being blocked by uncertainty). It also enables insight into other business functions and promotes learning and development – another win all around.
At our all-hands meeting, engineers are able (and encouraged) to ask our CEO anything, or pose questions to other members of the team. It’s our belief that keeping engineers well-informed will allow them to make the best decisions possible and be the most productive. That’s why most information is also publicly shared with the company.
In addition, several of our core operating principles relate to how much we value open communication. We “show respect” by being approachable and courteous, following up with people directly instead of going behind their back, and providing constructive feedback. We “disagree and commit,” which encourages employees to voice their concerns or objections early in the process, but once we’ve reached a decision, everybody commits to it. We also openly communicate decisions and feedback by following the "ask, don't assume" principle. Finally, we "demonstrate urgency," which explicitly emphasizes keeping all relevant parties informed about projects and decisions.
Safe Environment to Fail
Failures lead to learning and we focus on the cause, not the individual.
We believe it’s crucial to learn from incidents and take actions to prevent them from recurring, which is why we’ve formalized this process with blameless post mortems. Our primary goal in conducting a post mortem is to ensure the incident is documented, that all contributing root causes are well understood, and that effective preventative actions are put in place to reduce the likelihood and impact of a recurrence.
For a post mortem to truly be blameless, we make sure it focuses on identifying an incident’s contributing causes without placing blame on an individual or team for bad or inappropriate behavior. At Wealthfront, a blamelessly-written post mortem assumes everyone involved in an incident had good intentions and did the right thing with the information they had. This means engineers whose actions contributed to an incident can give a detailed account of what happened without fear of punishment or retribution.