Our “DocuSign UP Career” blog series places the spotlight on employees who tell us about their first job (how they landed it, why they chose it) and key moments in their career that lead to greater learning or career momentum. At DocuSign, we believe in the next generation of leaders and want to help them get on the right career trajectory. That’s why we started DocuSign UP (University Program). This week we sat down with Eric in Engineering based in Seattle to learn more about his career.
What do you do at DocuSign?
I run our platform engineering team. We focus on low-level problems or what I often call “everything below the API.” We’re responsible for making DocuSign work well at a fundamental level while maintaining our performance, reliability, and security claims that customers count on every day.
What was your first job after school?
I started in support at Microsoft, debugging problems for predominantly large enterprise customers. It turns out no one wants to work with support on a gnarly problem, so I dealt with a lot of upset customers. But it was a fun place to work.
Why did you choose that job?
I’ve always loved fixing broken things and I figured working on broken things on large systems at Microsoft was a great place to learn from smart people.
How did you get that job?
I knew a recruiter at Microsoft through a college connection and he put me in touch with a team that onboarded college graduates into support. I did a pretty standard technical interview loop and joined after graduation.
Is it related to the type of work you do today?
Even though my career has been pretty eclectic, it all stems from this early experience. To this day, I gravitate to problems that require extensive debugging and fixing on the fly. And I still love working directly with customers. Many of the approaches we use at DocuSign today derive from things I learned the hard way early in my career. For example, support has always longed for tools to make it easier to go from a customer problem statement to a real understanding of what’s causing the problem. We’ve invested a lot of energy in the DocuSign platform to help us get real insight into the customer experience, so we can support customers better than ever. I wouldn’t have had a real appreciation for this problem if not for my early days in support.
How would you describe your career? And tell us about a pivotal moment that helped propel you to another level.
To say my career has been eclectic would be an understatement. And there hasn’t been one singular moment where things changed dramatically; it’s been a series of zigs and zags. I’ve picked jobs based purely on technical problems that interest me and the team I’d be joining. I’ve always figured that the rest comes together over time. Finding those problems has been a constant adventure, and it’s allowed me to move around a lot and work with many types of people.
Are you still hunting down problems to solve?
I really like what we’re up to at DocuSign and I think the best is yet to come. There’s still a lot to figure out and to do, and customers love the product. We’ve also hired a lot of great people, which in many ways is the most important part.
Have you ever taken risks in your career?
I love taking risks. I like not knowing what’s coming next and figuring it out. I had been at Microsoft for almost ten years and wanted new experiences on smaller teams. I left with no particular plan or job lined up. Then I joined the venture capital firm Ignition Partners as an entrepreneur-in-residence to understand what was happening in the startup ecosystem. I learned a lot and was able to meet people from DocuSign because the firm was one of the first institutional investors in DocuSign.
Have you had any important mentors in your life?
One of my favorite groups to learn from was the team at Ignition, who were early pioneers in the PC business. I had studied their work over the years to understand their success, but spending nearly a year there learning hands-on from the team really rounded out my understanding.
What advice would you give a college junior or senior breaking into the job market?
Spend all of your energy figuring out what you love to do and then go out of your way to do it. Too often I see people half-heartedly doing something they’re not passionate about, or trying to become great at something they think is required to move ahead. When I was in college I wish someone had told me that you do your best work when you love what you do.
Have you faced any setbacks or failure in your career?
Yes, of course. The software business is just as much art as science, and sometimes you paint the wrong picture; sometimes you get to the end and think, “Oh man, what did I do?” I’ve built a lot of code that I had to throw away. I’ve built products that ended up getting cut or that we didn’t ship after a year of work. That’s just the name of the game.
At what point did you discover what you didn’t like to do or what `you’d prefer to delegate?
I’m constantly discovering things I’m not particularly great at or don’t love to do. And I’m always trying to find somebody who can take them from me. A big part of hiring is finding complements, finding people to bring into the organization who are fantastic at things you’re terrible at. Building a well-balanced team requires that you create responsibilities for people that complement their passion and joy.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
I might be a teacher. But my wife, who’s a teacher, says I’d be lousy at it — so I probably made a good choice.
Think DocuSign might be a fit for you? Check out our job openings: Careers@DocuSign