PART 2 - Bryce & Dean & Christine
We're continuing the conversation (see Part 1 here) about intern experiences with Bryce, Christine, and Dean, three recent graduates who chose to start their careers at Gusto. In this post, they bring more voices to the table about what it’s like working at Gusto to the impact of mentorship and continual learning on their professional growth.
Why Gusto? A Personal Journey Back to Familiar Grounds
Dean's Reflections on Choosing Gusto
During the new grad interview process I ended up with offers from Gusto and a large tech firm. Ultimately, I ended up choosing Gusto. I was drawn back to Gusto for its human-centric values. Unlike the automated processes commonly seen elsewhere, where I didn’t meet a single human until my final round interview, Gusto celebrated sending my return offer with a personal phone call from my manager and my mentor from my internship. I think this distinction captures what makes working at Gusto so special. We’re “the people platform”, and Gusties live and breathe by that philosophy.
As a new grad, there are so many opportunities to start your career journey but having worked as a data analyst in a different industry, I realized that I really missed building cool things with awesome people. Gusto really allows everyone to bring their full self to work, and I really missed being part of a team that believed in what they built. There’s something special about the people at Gusto and what we’re trying to build to make work better that drew me in.
One of the things that helped bring me back to Gusto was my familiarity with my team and the work that I would be doing as a full-time engineer. During my internship, my team gave me the chance to work outside of my original intern project by contributing to several ongoing initiatives that the whole team was working on. This gave me a better taste of what it would be like to work at Gusto full-time, working on multiple projects rather than just the prescribed intern project.
The Significance of Mentorship and Diverse Expertise at Gusto
Dean's Experience with Mentorship and Community
Gusto's commitment to diversity and inclusion shines through its unique blend of people from various backgrounds. As part of "the people platform," the emphasis on inclusion and support is incredible. The opportunity to join various affinity groups at Gusto not only fosters connections with like-minded individuals but also encourages exploring new groups and stepping outside of your comfort zone in a safe and supportive environment.
On the mentorship front, Gusto provides an official program, which I'm eagerly participating in, to further my professional development. In addition, I’ve had so many unofficial mentors in the people that I’ve gotten to work with during my time at Gusto. There is a strong emphasis on collaboration here.
The awesome thing about a larger, more-established startup like Gusto is that it’s small enough where you have immense ownership over your projects and can see your impact while also being big enough to have the guardrails and mentorship to grow. Gusto has mentorship programs and groups where you can formally find mentorship, but as you attend different meetings, focus groups which we call guilds, you can organically find like-minded people to learn from and grow together with.
Something that stuck out to me about Gusto was how much my team, people empowerer (manager), and mentors at Gusto supported me, both during and after the internship process. Not only were they constant advocates for me, they also were willing to support me more broadly as well. Even though I ended up returning to Gusto, my former teammates also did not hesitate to write me recommendations and offer referrals through their networks for other opportunities as well. During my time here, I’ve had the opportunity to really connect with people I consider mentors - some of the best mentorship conversations that I’ve had have been on the train going home after work with my coworkers taking the same train.
Choosing Projects and Crafting a Career Path
Dean on Finding His Niche at Gusto
The great thing about Gusto is that the organization empowers you to experiment with various projects, offering the autonomy of a startup with the stability of an established company. Most recently I’ve been experimenting with how we can integrate AI into both our customer facing products, as well as our internal tools. Gusto paid for a Coursera course for me to learn about LLMs (large language models) and paid for an OpenAI API key so that I can experiment with building on top of OpenAI’s GPT-4 model. On top of that, I’ve joined the #gpt-guild, which is an interest group dedicated to the development of artificial intelligence. Gusto really empowers you to dive into your interests from all angles.
To be honest, choosing projects and crafting a career path is so overwhelming and mind-boggling. I don’t know what energizes me or what kind of engineer I want to be. And I’m so grateful that at Gusto, everyone wants you to thrive. You can see it in the way we call our managers “people empowerers”, because they want to empower you to find what energizes you and help you become yourself. I think the hardest part at Gusto is being able to say “no” and prune the projects and opportunities you give attention to so you can give a fuller yes to what you choose to take on.
I came into Gusto thinking that I wanted to work on infrastructure and site reliability engineering, even as an intern. Entry-level opportunities for site reliability engineering are exceedingly rare, so I’m really grateful that my team took a chance on an intern (and later new grad) like me. They gave me the opportunity to dive deep into that specialty, working with industry standard tools like Terraform, Kubernetes, and Helm. I appreciate that Gusto straddles the gap between a large and small company, being large enough to support specializations like site reliability engineering, while being small enough to not have things get lost in bureaucracy.
The Importance of Continuous Learning and User Engagement
Dean's Approach to Learning and User Impact
Continual learning is a core aspect of the Gusto experience. Part of that learning is engaging directly with users. While our team was developing the 'state compliance management' feature, we set up several UXR (user experience research sessions) to see first-hand how users were interacting with the feature, what questions they had, and what energized them. I felt fortunate to be able to sit in on those sessions and meet our customers face to face. It helps to know who you’re building for.
I love how engineering is a discipline where you are constantly learning and growing. Gusto has these groups called “guilds” where like-minded Gusties come together to learn and dive deeper into a topic. It’s awesome to be able to learn in community and encourage each other. Gusties are really customer-focused, and our engineering teams are set-up so our designers, product managers, and data analysts are all embedded, so we’re constantly saturated with user-context. It makes us better engineers, and I can’t imagine building in any other way.
Every day I learn something new working here, whether it’s just reading through Slack, learning about what our other engineers are doing, or mastering the ins and outs of new tools and paradigms that I didn’t have the opportunity to work with in school to solve fascinating new problems. Even while working on an internal-facing team like infrastructure, our goals are still focused on the customer and end user - for example our incident responses always include what the customer impact was, just to make sure we keep that perspective in mind. Our infrastructure alerts are always focused on the end user as well - when something goes down, it can usually be quantified in terms of the number of errors that end users experienced.
Reflections and Advice: The Path to Gusto
Dean's Advice for Aspiring Engineers
My best advice is to get to know yourself and your habits. For me, I know I need to make a conscious effort to set up systems to keep myself accountable to complete assignments and prepare for interviews.
For example, to make myself do my math homework in college, I would schedule sessions with the math and stats center so that I had an appointment on my calendar where I was going to be “forced” to work on the assignment. When it came to technical interviews, I had an agreement with my younger brother that we each had to do a new Leetcode problem every day, and if either of us missed a day, we owed the other person $10. This still applies even after starting work full time!
In an attempt to get myself to read more pull requests, I asked my manager to check in with me during our weekly 1:1s about what I’ve learned during the week from reviewing other people’s pull requests on Github.
This strategy of setting up accountability systems has fostered a disciplined approach to learning and preparation for me. However, this point about accountability may or may not resonate with you. The bigger point is that you should try to get to know yourself. Your strengths, your weaknesses, your triggers. What starts to ache when you’re getting too stressed out? Look out for those signals and address them accordingly, don’t ignore them! Working with yourself feels a lot better and is more sustainable than working against yourself.
The path to becoming an engineer is so diverse! One of my teammates from my internship became an engineer after leaving nursing school to take a bootcamp and then became a senior engineer on our team. I had stints in data and business analyst roles before coming to Gusto. Everyone’s journey in becoming an engineer is different! My advice is to persevere and continue practicing your engineering fundamentals and you’ll find yourself more than prepared to land that opportunity!
While the saying “anyone can become an engineer” sounds trite, it rings true, especially when looking at my team. My people empowerer majored in psychology before becoming an engineer, while my mentor majored in linguistics at first. A few of my other teammates took bootcamp courses as well before becoming engineers. This diversity of experiences is one of my favorite things about Gusto - if you can dream it, you can do it.
With that, our series on intern experiences at Gusto comes to a close. Thank you for taking the time to listen to our stories, and we’re excited to see your story unfold. Hope to see you as a Gustie!
Gusto is hiring! Learn more at gusto.com/careers.