Maintaining an Open & Collaborative Culture within Zenefits Engineering: A Q+A with SVP, Souvik Das

March 27, 2018

Hi Souvik! Thanks for chatting today. As the SVP of Engineering, how do you promote open lines of communication and collaboration for your teams?

That’s a great question. At Zenefits, we have a highly collaborative culture and we sustain that through a mix of tech tools and in-person processes. From a tools perspective, every engineer at Zenefits is an active Slack user. We use this medium for larger organization discussions, as well as for smaller group and project forums. For instance, our Mobile team, Payroll team and Onboarding teams all have channels dedicated to that specific work. This segmentation helps discussions stay streamlined and focused.
As far as in-person routines are concerned, every week, the engineering org comes together for Dev All Hands to discuss new projects, features and releases. The structure of these meetings changes weekly, but we always enjoy having guest speakers – sometimes from other companies, sometimes from other teams inside Zenefits (sales, marketing, finance etc) come chat with us. Through this mix of digital and in-person routines, we’re able to keep the culture of collaboration and open communication thriving.

You’ve led several large engineering organizations over the course of your career. What specifically makes Zenefits engineering culture unique?

The engineering organization at Zenefits is extremely customer focused, and we want nothing more than to solve our customer’s issues. Whenever escalations arise — days, nights, evenings, weekends, our team is on it. As our product evolves, we are always building out features to eliminate gaps in our system. It’s a very exciting time to be working with this team.

If the org was working late to meet an important deadline, what dinner order would make everyone super happy (and sustained)?

Pizza and ice cream would make the team really happy. Next month we’re hosting a 3-day hackathon, and we’ll be sure to have loads of both on hand for everybody.

Hold that thought! Can you tell us a little more about Hackathons at Zenefits? How frequent are they, who gets involved and how does judging work?

These hackathons are a great time for the entire organization to come together, shift their current focus and run with a passion project. We typically host hackathons once or twice a year and the judges are senior leaders chosen from inside the organization. Anyone at Zenefits can participate and we often find that the most unique ideas come from teams comprised of folks from different areas of the business (bonus points given to groups that are both cross-functional and cross-location!). Last year, the winning team created an app to integrate Zenefits PTO functionality with Amazon Alexa! That type of innovation is what we’re always striving for. Supporting these collaborative events further instills a culture of open communication.

Parijat and Jono come together to implement rebrand updates in our product.

What are you most looking forward to shipping in Q2?

I am really looking forward to building out our next generation onboarding system. Onboarding a new hire is an incredibly complex process that requires very sensitive personal information, so it’s imperative that we continue making this business experience the most secure that it can be. We are now revamping the flow to be even more simple, intuitive, and deliver a seamless experience that customers will love. This will be launched iteratively throughout Q1 and Q2.

Can you share with us the biggest achievement for your team in 2017?

Our biggest achievement in 2017 was certainly the massive expansion of Zenefits Payroll. We began 2017 with a robust product that we rolled out incrementally across the country. In just over a year we moved from availability (and customer adoption) from 5 states to all 50! We celebrated that milestone in February and have seen a huge uptake in adoption since then. I am infinitely proud of the exceptional work that the team has done to achieve this milestone.

One word to describe Zenefits’ engineers?

Customer focused.

Your favorite inspirational quote that you’ve shared with the team

Be the change that you want to see in the world.