This blog series is dedicated to celebrating our Black, Latinx, and Women Engineers who are making an impact in the lives of our Gusties and Gustomers (Gusto customers) every day.
Today, we're spotlighting Joshua Adeyemi, who has been with Gusto for 3 years working on the Data Platform team, helping our product teams, data analysts and data scientists get access to the data they need to derive insights.
Our interviewers are Jeff Dunn and Kim Nguyen. Jeff 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.
Jeff: Tell us a little about how you got to Gusto.
Joshua: In 2019 I was in the market for a new opportunity. I went through interviews with several companies, but Gusto’s interview loop was my favorite by far, from start to finish.
Going through the process of researching Gusto, I loved finding out that some of my friends were Gustomers (Gusto customers), and seeing how their faces lit up when they heard I was interviewing with Gusto. They would then tell me about the amazing experience they had with Gusto, and how it positively impacted their ability to serve their own employees. This in addition to the experience I had with Gusties made me both excited about the mission and working with other Gusties to accomplish that mission.
Jeff: How has Gusto played a role and supported you in your journey as an engineer?
Joshua: In my previous roles prior to joining Gusto, while I have been an individual contributor in title, I have always informally been a team leader. Gusto gave me the platform to fully transition into engineering management and lean into my leadership qualities. Soon after joining Gusto, I chatted with my PE (People Empowerer, our term for manager) about my career plans and we strategized on what I could do in the short- and medium-term to demonstrate that I could succeed in that role at Gusto.
When I finally thought I was ready for the PE role, my manager helped me smoothly transition into the role and provided support along the way in case I had any questions or hardships. I felt like I could openly talk about my career goals and achieve them with their support, and for that I’m grateful.
Jeff: In your role here at Gusto, what has been one of your proudest accomplishments/impacts you have had on the customers we serve?
Joshua: My team is working on an exciting project to revamp how teams measure the success of their features. For us as a company to be able to serve our customers best, we need to understand how they are using our products and be able to move quickly to resolve pain points in the product. Gusto Data Scientists and Product Managers are the main users of these behavior analytics metrics. My team’s main goal was to reduce time to insight for these personas. This required us to standardize how all teams at Gusto instrument their features, make instrumentation simpler for our engineers to do, and upgrade our event collection framework.
We collaborated with different teams to test out the new standards and get buy-in. While the project is still ongoing, it is exciting to already see progress. For example, teams that have used our new framework for instrumentation saw a 50% speedup in the instrumentation process, meaning the relevant parties were able to start gathering insight on how features were working much quicker than previously. Seeing such an improvement makes me excited for the rollout to the rest of the company.
Jeff: We know you recently attended AfroTech. Was this your first time? How was that experience for you?
Joshua: I’ve had the opportunity to attend previous AfroTech conferences but this was definitely the biggest one. There’s something wonderful about being in the same space and interacting with the vibrant Black tech ecosystem. From senior executives to college students, I got to learn about accomplishments from people in all areas of tech – not just engineering.
A talk I attended, that was very interesting, was one organized by Amazon called #CultureRated: A Behind the Scenes look into the Intersection of Entertainment & Tech. The importance of telling different stories in the media and entertainment space, and the difficulty in making and bringing those stories to the screen was discussed. A lot of my daily focus tends to be on the engineering side of things, so hearing about the actual behind the scenes work and calculations it takes to bring diverse stories to the screen from people like Janina Lundy and Jesse Greadington III was very enlightening.
Through working at the Gusto booth, I was able to meet a wide variety of people, from those who just graduated school and were early in their careers, to those who were trying to switch careers. It was great to get the opportunity to speak of my experience in tech in general and at Gusto in particular, offer some on the spot career advice, and direct people to my fellow Gusties who could offer more guidance. I noticed a lot of other companies/conference attendees doing the same, and that is the power of a conference like Afrotech. This was a concentration of people from all over in one place, striving towards one goal, to help equalize both access to opportunity and opportunity for advancement in tech for Black folx in tech.
Speaking to a lot of Black folx in tech, one of the themes that consistently come across is a feeling of loneliness, borne out of usually being the only one from your background in the spaces you work in. Afrotech showed that the community is bigger than any one company or location and I came away from Afrotech feeling energized and ready to do the work to build community both at Gusto and the broader tech community.
Jeff: What does Gusto do to create an inclusive culture?
Joshua: I see inclusivity as equitable treatment and a welcoming environment for all. I think this is a culture that Gusto tries very hard to create and have every Gustie embody. Some of the ways that Gusto tries to create and continue an inclusive culture are through programs like RISE, which represents four key areas: Representation, Inclusion, Social Impact, and Equity.
The company has invested in creating RISE Learning Journeys, which are structured materials to provide Gusties with education, resources and open and transparent conversation about inclusion in the tech industry and society at large. Every PE at Gusto is strongly encouraged to participate in a RISE Journey in order to make sure they have all the resources needed to create and maintain inclusive cultures on their team.
There is also very strong support from leadership for affinity groups at Gusto. Those tend to be lovely spaces where people can feel comfortable just being themselves.
In our interview process, a cross section of Gusties are involved to make sure we are not over indexing on certain attributes and under indexing on others. For example, for engineering interviews, people from other departments apart from engineering are involved in the non-technical portions of the interview process and their experience with the candidate is taken into account during the interview debriefs.
I think creating an inclusive culture is work that is never done, but some of the strategies that Gusto uses create a positive feedback loop that helps the work continue.
Kim: What advice would you give to someone looking to break into tech or are just getting started?
Joshua: Mentorship is very important to me. So whenever I’m talking to people trying to break into tech, I always recommend the following:
- Develop relationships and your network by joining professional development organizations. Some examples of the organizations I have participated in include: NSBE, DevColor, Code2040
- Read. I am always reading, not just programming languages, but system design pattern books. Some books recommended to me early in my career are: “Code Complete” and “Pragmatic Programmer”. I am currently rereading An Elegant Puzzle - Systems of Engineering Management
- Build. I have built many projects and read tons of open source code. This helped me apply my learnings and also discover different approaches and patterns that were used in the real world.
Kim: What's something that working at Gusto has taught you that you will continue to take with you in your career as you grow?
Joshua: I’m always looking to develop my toolkit and pick up new things I can use in my career. Being at Gusto was my first experience with the “SBI” (Situation, Behavior, Impact) framework.
It works well when needing to assess impact for projects. For example, whenever I’m working on a project, I ask myself what the success metric for the project is, and how do we quantify that?
Kim: How have you sponsored other engineers? Is sponsoring other engineers an important aspect of your role?
Joshua: I am really big on mentorship, both mentoring others and being mentored. Before I became a PE, I was an intern mentor and that was an important experience for me to learn what it took to give guidance and direction.
I’ve participated in Gusto’s formal mentorship program and I do a lot of informal mentorship for people throughout Gusto too, where we meet regularly to chat about life and career goals.
Kim: What are some resources you've learned from? Any particular role models?
Joshua: The role models I have at Gusto are both technically competent and humble.
For example, one role model came up with a technical document to make sweeping architectural changes across Gusto. They had to get buy-in from folks across the company to make that change through multiple iterations and async/sync discussions. I really admired their process in how they did that and I think about that scenario all the time when I want to gather buy-in from cross-functional teams.
Another role model for me works across multiple teams. The way they explained very complex subjects in bite-sized chunks was mind-blowing to me. I was like, “Show me your ways!” My takeaway was that they try to understand where their audience is coming from, and meet them where they are in terms of the level of understanding that they would like.
Kim: Any advice that you’d give to a senior engineer on how to start operating at the Staff+ level here at Gusto?
Joshua: I’m a big believer in thinking more broadly about the system rather than just the exact problem I’m solving for. So I would recommend other senior engineers to ask themselves “how can I improve the systems around me? How do these solutions solve business requirements”?
Other things to consider are: Can you influence people outside your team? Can you seek out problems? How do you break down projects to small milestones? These are all attributes I look for in a Staff+ engineer.