This blog series is dedicated to celebrating our Black, Latino/a/e/x, and Women Engineers who are making an impact in the lives of our Gusties and Gustomers (Gusto customers) every day.

Today, we're spotlighting Hugo Rodriguez, who works out of Mexico and has been with Gusto for 1.5 years and is now on the Payroll Experiences team. He also has 12 years of experience teaching Computer Science at the UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico). 

Hugo wearing a concert T-shirt for Helloween & Hammerfall

Abby: Tell us a little about how you got to Gusto.

Hugo: Before Gusto, I was working for an energy company for 5 years building their frontend and backend systems for energy-price forecasting. Also during that time, I taught Computer Science at the UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico) for 12 years. 

I was looking for a new challenge when my friend Ernesto (who works here at Gusto) told me that Gusto was looking for candidates in Mexico. Hearing from him how much he liked Gusto, I got inspired to take a leap of faith and apply.

Abby: In your role here at Gusto, what has been one of your proudest accomplishments/impacts you have had on the SMB customers we serve? 

Hugo: I’m very proud of the work I did on Gusto Bookkeeping, building out logic that would share data with Gusto’s accounting firm partners. I learned a decent amount of how the payroll system works. I was also able to learn and write a lot of code in React and Rails. 

And now that I’ve changed teams within Gusto to the Payroll Experiences team, those learnings have jumpstarted what I can offer to my current team. 

The team’s name is self-descriptive: on Payroll Experiences, we want to make sure everyone who runs payroll has a good experience. For example, we look into frontend performance issues like unnecessary re-renders in React. After making several improvements, we were able to speed up the payroll flow by around 50% and prevent timeouts for larger companies. 

Abby: How has Gusto played a role and supported you in your journey as an engineer?

Hugo: When I joined Gusto, I was impressed by the size of the codebase. It’s a huge product! 

I’m also impressed by how many people are willing to help and support me in my career. For example, when I joined my current team, they were in the middle of simplifying the Run Payroll experience. The team had been working on some architectural changes for the past few months, and I was able to take ownership over the last few milestones of the project. 

Abby: What makes you excited about the work you do to serve SMB customers here at Gusto?

Hugo: What gets me excited about my work at Gusto is the fact that my dad has his own business, and I myself have tried to start my own business. So I know the pain points around making payroll, paying taxes, and hiring — they’re all part of growing a small business! I naturally see me and my dad as potential end users as I build Gusto.

Abby: What advice would you give to someone looking to break into engineering or are just getting started?

Hugo: I’ve got three pieces of advice:

  1. Don’t compare yourself to others. Different people learn in different ways, and they have different skills. Some people may learn slowly at the beginning and faster later on. Engineering and programming is such a big area that we need people from different backgrounds and skill sets. So don’t compare, your experience is unique.
  2. Prepare to be challenged. For example, there have been many times when I was looking at a bug for a long while, and then someone else took a look for 5 minutes and pointed out the issue. If you’re new, it’s going to feel horrible, but the silver lining is that people at Gusto are always willing to jump in and help you! And once you finally get it, you’ll remember how to solve the same mistake again.
  3. Find a mission that you love. Once you find a mission or a cause that you really care about, it becomes easier to connect to your work and overcome obstacles.
Hugo going for a hike in Mexico city with his dogs, Laboon and York

Abby: What does your typical day at Gusto look like? What are your favorite parts of the day?

Hugo: I don’t really have a typical day, because it really depends! And that’s something I really appreciate about Gusto; it’s that I can be flexible with my schedule, and that my day flexes around what I want to do in my life.

I personally love to work at night, past 8pm. But if I have meetings in the morning, then I won’t work as late. Also if I know I need to do something in the afternoon the next day, I can start my day early and end early.

As for the favorite part of my day, our team uses this app called Gather Town, where a bunch of Gusto engineers from Mexico come in and hang out. We do it almost daily and we love it because we feel like we’re just hanging out.

Abby: What are some resources you've learned from? Any particular role models?

Hugo: I like picking up books on Ruby, GraphQL, and whatever specific topic I want to learn about; of course there’s a wealth of knowledge online. 

At Gusto specifically, when I see someone who loves what they do, I feel motivated to reach out and learn more about them. That’s how I ended up with all my mentors! When I talked to them, they were very receptive to helping me grow my career and plan out what I ought to do next.

Hugo and his partner Karla going shopping at the mall

Abby: Any advice that you’d give to an engineer at Gusto that wants to level up? What are some ways in which higher level Gusties have taught you?

Hugo: First of all, you have to tell your PE. “I want more responsibility, I want to lead a project, I want to get promoted.” You have to let them know that you want to step up, and that’ll get you on their radar.

Second, don’t be afraid of talking to teams that you don’t know. You’d be surprised how much you could learn from even just asking “what are you working on right now?”

Abby: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!

Hugo: Yes, and thanks so much for chatting with me!

Our interviewers were Abby Walder and Kim Nguyen. Abby works on Gusto’s Invite Team to hire software engineering talent, while Kim builds features to improve the partner developer experience as part of Gusto Embedded.

Hugo is a part of Gusto’s newly formed engineering org in Mexico. If you are interested in building solutions that solve real-world problems in an inclusive and diverse environment, reach out to us on our career page. We are currently hiring for Frontend, Backend and Full Stack Engineers - come join us and be an early engineering member of Gusto Mexico!