When you think about small nonprofits, your first thought might not be focused on cutting-edge technology. But as far as Social Solutions is concerned, that doesn’t need to be the case. In their view, nonprofit agencies are better equipped to provide support for communities and people they serve when their tech tools are easy to use and up-to-date.
We spoke with four team members about how Social Solutions’ inclusive and supportive culture mirrors the values of the organizations they serve.
EMPLOYEES: 200 (119 local)
WHAT THEY DO: Social Solutions allows nonprofits to spend less time on compliance and more time ensuring the effectiveness of their service programs for the people who rely on them.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Austin
PERKS: Flexible paid time off and stellar health insurance are a couple of notable perks.
FOR MORE: Like his engineering colleagues, the inside sales director at Social Solutions focuses on building team culture to drive the company’s mission. Learn more.
Tyler Gregory, Associate Software Engineer
Tyler Gregory works on many aspects of feature development, sometimes even joining the product team in engaging with customers.
BEYOND WORK: Tyler enjoys playing team-based video games with his friends.
What does your team do to build and sustain culture?
Our team loves the outdoors and being active. Many of us have joined kickball and bocce ball leagues, and we recently had a company-sponsored baseball game. Being a part of a different type of team with coworkers helps us learn more about each other and collaborate more effectively.
The development team’s LAN parties have been some of my favorite events.”
Name the qualities that make someone successful on this team.
Our team is full of incredibly smart individuals who are constantly learning and challenging themselves. Being honest, eager to learn, and consistently asking questions are the most common qualities that I see in the successful developers around me. As software engineers, we are always trying to improve our processes and the quality of the software we deliver, so having the ability to question everything, no matter how small, is highly valued.
Tell me about a company tradition or team ritual.
With every class of new hires we host a new hire happy hour, which is a great way for the whole company to meet new colleagues. Due to our massive growth and the number of new hires in recent months, this has become a regular event we all look forward to. It’s been a great way to catch up with coworkers in different departments I may not see on a regular basis.
How does your team bond outside of meetings and projects?
The development team’s LAN parties have been some of my favorite events. We have representatives from all of our development teams and the competition is fierce. Even those who are not in the current gaming round have a blast cheering along for their teams and partaking in the catered barbecue. I would argue that watching the matches on the big screen and cheering along can be just as fun as competing.
Is there anything special about the processes this team uses?
Our development teams embrace our ability to experiment and configure our processes to meet current needs. Whenever we theorize a new way to gain efficiencies or have a crazy idea that just might work, we have the freedom to test it out. As a result, we are always trying something new and have seen incredible advances in productivity and creativity.
Indira Poosapati, Associate Software Engineer in Test
Indira Poosapati is involved in every aspect of the software development lifecycle, executing both manual testing and automation where necessary.
BEYOND WORK: Indira enjoys watching and playing tennis and can probably name all Grand Slam winners from the past 10 years.
If you look at your to-do list, what’s the one task you most love to do? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I love to play with a newly developed feature and perform exploratory testing on its functionality. Although it’s frustrating when things do not work in the beginning, I can see myself going through a learning curve, failing a few times initially to learn the best and most efficient way to solve the problem, and finally coming up with a working solution. That gets me super excited and drives me to improve in order to have a better solution.
With the help of my amazing manager and coworkers, I transitioned from a manual black-box tester to an automation engineer.”
What’s your biggest technical challenge, and how do you overcome it?
Transitioning from a manual QA tester to an automation engineer was a challenge for me. I did some coding in school, but it was limited to academic applications. I had to read a lot to familiarize myself with the coding languages used and it took a good deal of trial and error to understand implementation. Building an automation framework for our project was the biggest technical challenge I’ve had to date and, looking back, I did reasonably well. Kudos to my boss and the company for giving me that flexibility to learn and implement a new framework suited for our products.
Name the qualities that make someone successful on this team.
None of us hesitate to step in and help each other when in need. This helps us get things done as well as share responsibilities. We are also organized and communicate well within the team whenever we are trying to solve a problem. These qualities — along with a taste for different cuisines and a sense of humor — would make someone very successful on our team.
What problems are you solving with technology? How are you solving them?
I spend most of my time designing automation tests and making sure those tests have maximum functionality coverage. At the same time, I make it easy enough that someone without any knowledge of the framework can catch up quickly and work on it.
How has the culture at Social Solutions helped to propel your professional growth?
I started with Social Solutions as a QA intern while still attending graduate school. It was my first professional job and coming from India with a completely different culture and upbringing, everything was new and challenging. With the help of my amazing manager and coworkers, I transitioned from a manual black-box tester to an automation engineer. I feel very much a part of the company now and enjoy our work environment since everyone is super encouraging and supportive.
In terms of growth within the company, I’ve been very impressed by how the skills and talents of each person are recognized and rewarded. My current position is the third title I’ve held since I joined Social Solutions, and, seeing how I had little-to-no experience when I first started, it’s very encouraging.
Kateleen Farah, Associate Software Engineer
Kateleen Farah tackles the development of features, repair of defects and maintenance of the legacy codebase.
BEYOND WORK: Kateleen is a video game buff, and she loves music.
What attracted you to Social Solutions?
I originally heard about Social Solutions through a friend who works as a developer here and found the mission of the company very appealing. I have the distinct privilege of working on software that allows organizations to increase the efficacy of the multitudes of amazing things they already do. It’s super motivating to know that our work has the potential to help those in need.
It’s super motivating to know that our work has the potential to help those in need.”
What is the breakdown of your day?
Lately, the breakdown of my day has varied greatly. We recently started a new e-commerce project, so I’ve been able to spend time designing, talking to other departments and implementing a brand new solution. It’s been a unique situation since we’ve been able to seize our own destiny and chart our own path through this project from the ground up — a freedom we might not be afforded at a different company.
How is work divided?
We generally approach projects as a team. As our product VP likes to say, “QA is a responsibility, not a role.” Our team likes to work collaboratively with QA throughout the development process. Team members readily take on QA tasks to help with the workload. We make a commitment as a team and work together to ensure our goals are met.
Is this job what you expected?
This job has far exceeded all of my expectations. Even as an associate software engineer, I’ve had opportunities to contribute in a significant way. Social Solutions puts developers in a unique situation that allows us to really contribute to the direction of the product in a meaningful way. I could not have anticipated working with such a great team — everyone is incredibly passionate about what they do.
Jared Morell, Associate Software Engineer
Jared Morell is a full-stack web developer responsible for designing and programming a new interface for users.
BEYOND WORK: Jared started a bocce ball team that just wrapped up its second season at Oskar Blues Brewery. He also loves exploring different breweries in the area and volunteering with his colleagues.
Describe the approach to training engineers at Social Solutions.
The engineers at Social Solutions have a broad range of experience. I’ve gotten to work alongside some of the brightest computer scientists I’ve ever known. And the best part — everyone is extremely open and willing to help one another. I went from having very little web development experience to becoming a highly independent and capable full-stack developer in just a short while. In addition, we also have access to countless Pluralsight and Code School videos and tutorials to provide supplemental help and knowledge.
I’ve gotten to work alongside some of the brightest computer scientists I’ve ever known.”
Do employees set goals and have incentives to meet those goals?
Every year we set out a number of goals to accomplish. For example, some of mine are to hold a lunch and learn on a topic of my choice and to complete some AWS developer training to better familiarize myself with our hosting services. These goals and our ability to accomplish them are directly tied to raises we receive.
If you look at what this team has achieved so far, what are you proudest of?
I’m most proud of the first product our team was able to deliver. We had built the web application from the ground up, including the whole middleware architecture and much of the API into our back-end system. For me, it was the first web application I had built in my professional career. Seeing it come to life, and my team’s ability to expand our knowledge and expertise in a new area while still getting everything accomplished on time, was a great feeling.
How does this team celebrate when you hit a target?
When our team hits a major milestone, we’ll celebrate with a big lunch, board games and video games, and sometimes even time off.