The Backend Guild: How Collaboration Changed the Way We Work

Being part of an international and growing organization is certainly an ongoing adventure. What 15 years ago was an idea shared by two friends is now a public company with over 1000 employees. As you can imagine, this shift and growth requires resilience and adaptability. When start-ups become mid-size organizations, there is always a risk that the culture, mission, and vision might be watered down. To make sure this won’t happen here at Outbrain, we have several employee groups focusing on critical aspects of who we are: from inspirational topics such as Women’s Empowerment and sustainability, to sharing creative ideas and content for product improvement, and more. 

One of the many resource groups and communities we have at Outbrain, and of which I am a member, is  the  “Backend Guild”,  the community of backend developers at Outbrain. A main aim of the guild is to facilitate a horizontal communication layer across our engineering teams. Engineers use the guild to set their own missions, establish technical roadmaps, take on joint tasks for grassroots initiatives, and promote education through experiential learning. This collective action benefits the members, their craft, and our organization. How? By improving development velocity, tooling, and professional development, promoting maintainability, quality, knowledge sharing and general alignments, bridging between different teams and groups, and facilitating professional guidance.

The vision in action

At times, knowledge sharing can be one of the biggest pitfalls of internal teams. The Backend Guild aims to solve this issue via biweekly meetings in which we share relevant content to promote innovation. This includes new dev tools, new libraries/frameworks/language features and – most exciting to me – new internal projects.

Silos are complicated to manage 

Yes, they are, but thanks to the constant communication within this guild, we’ve been able to prioritize and handle “technical debt” in an organized and coordinated way, rather than letting each team manage it separately. This means that developers are assigned to a guild task several times a year, during which they upgrade and modify their projects to align with the guild standards. 

We lean on each other, and help one another develop and grow. 

The guild supports the personal and professional development of its members. We offer workshops about public speaking and how to write a good CFP (Call for Papers), and encourage developers to blog and present at conferences. We can all be a bit shy at times, but with the right support group, anything is achievable! 

Hiring in tech is tough. Very tough. We support the hiring process by creating and sharing interview questions, conducting recruitment workshops, and ensuring diverse, equality-based panels for candidate interviews. Finding the best talent is everyone’s job at Outbrain! (More on that below.)

Ready for action? The Backend Bootcamp is on!   

As part of the onboarding process at Outbrain, newly hired engineers undergo a bootcamp to get familiar with our tools and development process. 

During bootcamp, the participants set up their development environment, build a new service and deploy it to production, add visibility and monitoring, all the while getting feedback from their team members and other experienced engineers. This greatly improves the confidence and productivity of engineers during their initial period at Outbrain. 

The Backend Guild recruitment process 

Backend developers at Outbrain are hired through the Backend Guild, with a recruitment process run by our own backend staff. The interviewers are from various teams, and include both managers and software engineers. The hiring process kicks off with a screening interview, followed by a day of interviews from both the technical and HR sides. We are very flexible – candidates can split the day over two days if they prefer. Each interview takes no more than an hour. We don’t usually give home assignments. The entire process is quick and effective – and hybrid! Some interviews are conducted in person at the Outbrain office, and others over Zoom.

This is the Outbrain way

Ultimately, this is the way to ensure we bring the best people to the Outbrain Family and give them the tools to succeed. We are not only looking for specific candidates for specific roles. We are looking for people with the potential to become great Outbrainers and more specifically, to grow and make an impact in the Outbrain Engineering department. Discover all the open roles here

The Outbrain Backend Guild meets again

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