Duo Security has a unique approach to recruiting engineers. Instead of looking strictly for candidates with experience in cybersecurity, the company also seeks out those with complementary skill sets. This has opened the door for former video game designers, systems administrators and self-taught engineers to join Duo’s team.
The company’s willingness to think outside the box is complemented by its emphasis on continued learning, which helps new hires quickly get up to speed in a new industry.
We recently spoke with four members of Duo’s engineering team to learn more about what they’re working on and how they learn together.
EMPLOYEES: 735 (140 local)
WHAT THEY DO: Duo Security’s cloud-based software makes it easier for organizations of all sizes to secure their data, devices and applications.
WHERE THEY DO IT: The historic Bosche-Hogg Building in downtown Austin.
WHO THEY DO IT FOR: Etsy, Facebook and the University of Michigan.
WHO THEY LOOK FOR: Duo’s ideal engineering candidate is a great communicator who works collaboratively and is easygoing yet passionate about their work.
HEAD FOR THE EXITS: Duo was acquired by Cisco in August in a deal worth $2.35 billion.
Patrick Knight, Application Engineer
Patrick ensures that Duo’s on-premise Microsoft solutions are stable and that they’re addressing relevant issues. This involves everything from creating automated testing environments to managing complex escalations and ensuring his team is tackling the right issues at the right time.
BEYOND WORK: Patrick is getting his feet wet in Austin’s live music scene. He’s also recently gotten really into home automation technology.
What’s the biggest technical challenge you’ve faced at Duo?
One of our most used Windows products had been notoriously hard to test, which slowed down how quickly we could release changes. A teammate and I built a test automation pipeline by using our existing build system and leveraging additional cloud resources to test against our support matrix. This reduced our testing time from weeks to days.
You’re coming up on your one-year work anniversary at Duo. What has stood out most in that time?
I’ve been accustomed to the shine of a job wearing off after a few months, but that hasn’t happened. I’m continually impressed with everyone here. Coming from a systems administration background, I was concerned about the impact I could have. But the skills I brought have been embraced, which has been very rewarding.
I’ve been accustomed to the shine of a job wearing off after a few months, but that hasn’t happened.”
What advice would you give to those interested in joining Duo?
Bring your curiosity and share what you know. Security can seem like an intimidating area, but we do our best work when we bring in candidates with a range of skills. Duo’s dedication to ease of use stays in focus when we are allowed to be curious and bring in a variety of experiences.
Rachel Bentley, Software Engineer II
Rachel is a member of Duo’s data engineering team. A few of her responsibilities include building out the team’s data pipeline, interviewing, writing and reviewing code.
BEYOND WORK: Rachel has at one time or another been into behavioral dog training, sewing and bodybuilding. She’s currently going to school and reading technical books. And you thought you kept busy.
Can you describe the work you’re doing on Duo’s data pipeline?
We’re constantly working on ways to scale our system, part of which involves making customer migrations and disaster recovery easier. I’m working on an Amazon simple storage service connector, which writes batches of data from Kafka and archives it in S3. This makes things more convenient because the data is neatly organized by type, customer and time in one centralized place. Having this persistent storage assists in customer migrations and disaster recovery.
People here are smart and talented, but they’re not arrogant, so it’s easy to ask questions.”
You joined Duo Security relatively recently. What about the company appealed to you?
Everyone was so kind during the interview process and I could sense they were genuinely happy. One of my goals is to grow my technical capabilities, and Duo has a great culture of learning together. People here are smart and talented, but they’re not arrogant, so it’s easy to ask questions. Everyone takes responsibility and we learn together. I come home every day with more knowledge than I had yesterday.
We hear you’re pretty involved with the Austin tech community. How did that come about?
I didn’t major in computer science or go to a coding bootcamp. I taught myself and remember getting so frustrated that I’d sometimes cry. There are a lot of people trying to teach themselves and feeling what I felt. Being involved in the tech community is my way of helping those people out. I am a co-organizer of PyLadies ATX, a Meetup group for Python enthusiasts. I love when people message me after events saying how much they learned or how much it helped them out.
Srini Sampathkumaran, Engineering Manager II
Srini leads the product engineering team responsible for delivering multi-factor authentication solutions for Windows clients.
BEYOND WORK: Srini is an avid fitness enthusiast who helps design functional workouts at his local “box” — or “gym,” for you non-CrossFit practitioners out there.
How do you help new team members get up to speed?
Our culture is built around continuous training and learning together. Everyone has different career goals, and we have the ability to tailor trainings. This includes everything from instructor-led trainings to conference passes, online classes, meetups, software subscriptions, an unlimited book budget and more. I loved taking “Pragmatic Marketing,” a course that taught me how to bring products to market.
I dig candidates who display strong ownership and mentorship skills, both at work and outside of it.”
How would you describe the culture of your team?
Extreme communication. We thrive on mutual trust and feel confident in bringing ample information to the table to make collaborative decisions. We do not operate in silos of code. Application engineers, designers and product managers are embedded with the team and help align our everyday decisions with the customer journey.
What do you look for in interviews, and how do you know when someone is a fit?
I dig candidates who display strong ownership and mentorship skills, both at work and outside of it. And, given that we spend so much time interacting at work, isn’t it natural that we treat interviews as a two-way street? Take control and ask me leading questions. Bonus points if you can describe your five-year career goals and how we can help you get there.
Denzil Long, Senior Software Engineer
Denzil designs and develops software services for Duo’s Microsoft products. Along with writing code, he also mentors younger engineers, reviews their code and participates in interviews.
BEYOND WORK: If you’re looking for Denzil after work, check his workshop. He’s an electronics hobbyist and machinist.
You joined Duo Security after a long career in game development. What made you want to get into a new industry?
The opportunity to learn new things and work in an entirely new problem space were major draws. Initially, I was uncertain if my time in game development was going to be a liability. But after talking with the hiring manager and recruiting, I quickly realized my experience with developing massive online server-based games and dealing with anti-hacking and cheat detection were precisely the sort of complementary skills Duo looked for in candidates.
The opportunity to learn new things and work in an entirely new problem space were major draws.”
Duo’s culture is built around collaboration. Can you describe the role feedback plays in that?
Feedback is a continual thing. It takes place at many levels and from various sources, including code reviews, mentorship, knowledge sharing and presentations. In addition to the open and candid feedback people receive from peers, managers conduct regular one-on-one meetings to discuss personal development and career planning.
Name the qualities that make someone successful on this team.
Taking the initiative and owning a task, feature or product offering. Being confident but also humble. Being results-oriented. The desire to learn and share.