Decagon had the opportunity of a fireside chat with Bryan Pratte, CEO and co-founder of Quarkworks. He told us his story, shared his learnings and gave advice to young software engineers. Below are some excerpts from the interview. Keep reading to learn more!
Decagon: Tell us about yourself
Bryan: I have a background in electrical engineering, then software engineering. I’m a co-founder of Quarkworks, around for 8 years which started while I was in Grad School for
electrical engineering. My identity used to be wrapped up in my company till I got married and had a daughter. So, they come before Quark. We do a lot of Android, backend, machine learning. I live in San Francisco but most of the company is in Missouri.
Decagon: You help startups get their products into the market, how do you do that?
Bryan: Consulting is a reputation you build over time. You’re selling risk management. In our early days, no one touched us. We were a bunch of young kids in a dark room. You’re too young, they said. As we went further in the bay area, people saw what we were doing and began to say, we should be investing in them.
Decagon: It truly takes a lot to continue despite setbacks. Some could have given up. What was your driving passion?
Bryan: Tenacity. Stubbornness. We’ve not made it yet, we still have a long way to go. At the end of the day, it’s not about being successful, but about building stuff. Seeing users use your software.
Decagon: Who has impacted you the most?
Bryan: My Grandfather. He had a PhD in Electrical Engineering. Electrical engineers were the rockstars then but today, it’s computer science. The other person will be the CEO that took a bet on me when I dropped out of school to make some money by selling software. I couldn’t afford the tuition but this guy gave me his card after we met at the sales job. He gave me a job in his company and I was able to continue my study. I owe everything to him because he took a bet on me.
Decagon: What was one big mistake you made?
Bryan: Not defining our target audience when we started. Spreading ourselves, not able to go through one specific niche. It’s a lot of pain to be one thing to everyone rather than honing down. Big mistake in the beginning.
Decagon: What is the skill set you look out for when hiring? What gets through the front door?
Bryan: We hire people with traditional backgrounds. We take lots of risks. We look at people’s ability to learn and are focused on learning. You need to have mental frameworks and take concepts from one technology and apply them to the next. Do they ask questions? When you’re amongst your team, you need to ask questions with the intent to learn.
Decagon: If you have two equally qualified candidates, what will be the underlying factor in hiring them?
A candidate does several rounds of interviews. The manager, the person leading the team, gets to pick. He or she will be working with the candidate and they usually have the final say.
Decagon: What are the mistakes junior developers make that are most frequent in your organization and beyond?
Bryan: (Laughs). Good question. Again, a JD is so focused on not slowing down and understanding what you’re doing. You don’t understand some underlying things. Read the documentation, what are the frameworks? Why is the way you picked the better one? Getting an understanding of the technology. Not learning on a surface level. Slow down, make sure you understand and increase in speed as your knowledge builds versus simply hitting goals. Understand what the technology works or just copy codes. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.
Decagon: How do you make people remain creative in your organisation?
Bryan: There are several stages, getting ideas out, as engineers, we immediately think of all that has to be done to accomplish it. Train yourself as an engineer not to think of obstacles but ask, will this be interesting? Get people comfortable and voicing their opinions. People feel relaxed and comfortable enough.
Second, what kills creativity is when a bug happens or people make a mistake and you punish them for it. When people have permission to fail, they take risks and they will move faster. People start second-guessing every time so that they don’t get yelled at.
Decagon: If you could do anything different, what would it be?
Bryan: We started by working for businesses but I wished we had switched over to building our products sooner.
Decagon: How do you deal with Imposter Syndrome
Bryan: Imposter syndrome is real. Reminds me of when a CTO liked us as we had done things. This was a CTO of a big company. I just remember how nervous I was, will he know that half of the time we were still in school? However, it’s not about the milestones you’ve made, but do you believe you can solve a problem? So keep telling yourself that. Being good at your work will give you confidence.
Decagon: What resources will you recommend?
Bryan: I like to read books. High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove, Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters, The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. Also, try and find other founders that are solving the same problem as you.
We strongly believe that you have learned a lot from Bryan. No matter the obstacles on your way, keep going and keep building stuff. You can do it!
Watch the Full Video of the Interview Here