My name is Simone Salman, and I’ve been working as a software engineer at Blameless since May 2019. In the spirit of thanks as we’re approaching the holidays, I wanted to reflect on my time at Blameless thus far, and share a few things about the culture that I’m especially grateful for.
My Journey to Blameless
My path to software engineering wasn’t conventional. I had a lot of creative energy when I was younger, and originally my outlet was writing. I took a creative writing class, wrote short stories, and worked on a stand up comedy show in college. It was a great outlet, but it wasn’t the direction I wanted my career to go. My dad, an engineer, suggested I check out a Java class. I agreed, thinking it’d just be an interesting change of pace. But when I began, I quickly realized something important: when you’re coding, your results are immediate.
When you write a joke to tell an audience, you never know if it’s going to land. But when you tell a computer “print ‘ha ha,’” it’s always going to laugh. I love this concept of immediate feedback: being able to change something, deploy it, and knowing right away whether or not it performs as expected. If it doesn’t, that’s fine; you go back to the drawing board and build something new.
You don’t have to build it alone, either. The stigma around software is that it’s developed by some lonely person coding away in a dungeon for hours, but it’s much more collaborative. I love the idea of drawing boxes on a whiteboard, having someone else come along and draw some arrows, and everything coming together. Brainstorming around the whiteboard, solving problems together, and seeing our collective success in real time is so empowering. In other words, software engineering gave me the mix of creativity, collaboration, and satisfaction that I was seeking.
It isn’t a guarantee that you’ll find a culture that supports this energy, though. I’ve worked in environments that were more competitive than collaborative. Sometimes I felt like I could never make an impact by working hard, but would have people leap all over me if I slipped even a little. But I believe a shift is coming – away from blame, and towards empathy and collaboration. It’s a change that happens at every level of a company’s culture, and even in the technology itself.
I believe a shift is coming – away from blame, and towards empathy and collaboration
Cultural Changes Through SRE
When I first learned about SRE, I saw it as not just a methodology, but an opportunity to change culture. Implementing SRE looks different for every company; there’s no one set of tools or guidelines you can simply switch to overnight. The learning curve can be steep with new terminology, practices, and even ways of thinking. With the right mindset, however, these challenges provide an opportunity to grow.
Postmortems are a good example. At some companies, this could just be the engineers in a closed room with their boss, trying to dodge the blame. The mindset of SRE encourages you to look back at what went wrong and convey it in an honest and transparent way, as it surfaces priceless opportunities for growth. People become more introspective and accepting of their limitations. When people understand that things can’t be 100% perfect, they’re more willing to seek genuine improvement, and not just avoid blame. More than anything in its tech stack, Blameless appealed to me because of the company’s deep belief in shifting culture.
When I applied to Blameless, I interviewed with CEO Ashar Rizqi. I had already passed the engineering team’s interview, so he encouraged me to see our meeting as an opportunity for me to interview him. I asked him what being blameless meant to him. He explained that it was about creating a psychologically safe space: a place where people aren’t afraid of failure, but can communicate what they’re struggling with and find support.
I truly am passionate about shipping code that people care about, and enjoy the feeling of ownership. When I told this to Ashar during our interview, and he was more than accommodating, giving me a major project immediately. I had some reservations, but he assured me that with the support of the team, I’d be successful.
The Blameless difference
I used to struggle with procrastinating on things I didn’t know. Instead of asking for help, I’d try to avoid the problem. But now at Blameless, when I don’t understand something, I feel safe approaching someone. If I raise my hand, at least two other engineers are ready to help me. Engineers here know that if they invest in the knowledge of their peers, their peers will be able to grow in the direction of the company, and bring perspectives you may not have. We’re all on the same team tackling the same problems, and so we build each other up, and move blame to system or process breakdowns instead of the individual.
If I raise my hand, at least two other engineers are ready to help me
As an engineer, I appreciate being trusted to accomplish things at my own pace. Sometimes I appreciate the energy of working in an office, with spontaneous whiteboarding. Sometimes I want the comfort of working from home, keeping in touch on Slack. I want help to be available, but not overbearing. At Blameless, everyone feels safe to pursue the balance that works best for them.
Something I’ve contemplated throughout my career is how to know whether or not I like where I’m working. The way I’ve learned to answer this question is by reframing it: would I recommend it to a friend as a great place to work? Fortunately, with Blameless, it’s a resounding yes. This is a place where I can feel both safe and confident. At Blameless, I’m happy to say that I’d encourage other engineers to apply.
If you’re interested in joining a team that’s trying to reshape the way we think about culture, check out our careers here.