Jeremy King | SVP of Technology
A little over a year ago, I joined Pinterest as the SVP of Technology. The world looks different than I thought it would around my first “Pinniversary”, but the opportunities before us are more apparent and abundant than ever before.
For me personally, I’m now living with my college-aged children again — right as my wife and I were adjusting to life as empty nesters. It’s nothing we could have imagined, but the silver linings include reliving old traditions like family dinners and game nights, and starting new ones like trying to help with MA26600 Differential Equations and ENGN0040 Dynamics and Vibrations. The same type of silver linings are true at Pinterest. While the world has thrown us for a loop, we’re continuing to build a product that brings people the inspiration to create a life they love, and Pinners are responding with record levels of usage.
With most of the world quarantined, Pinterest seems made for this moment. More people than ever before are coming to Pinterest to search for ideas related to meal prep, homeschool, work from home setups, renovations, and beauty ideas. In the past few months, searches have increased 60% year-over-year and the number of boards created are up 60%. For advertisers, Pinterest is a source for unique insights into how people are living through quarantine and what they’re planning to do next.
In response, we’ve been expediting priority features and shipping weekly products, from a Shopify partnership to give quick catalog uploading access to businesses of all sizes, to today’s news, where we announced we’re working with influencers and publishers on our shopping platform. We also launched the Today tab with daily inspiration including expert wellness information from the CDC and WHO, and escalated our work in the fight against health misinformation. And, we’ve made some real progress using machine learning over the years including developing the ability to auto-organize boards. I’m also really excited about some breakthrough work using AutoML that’s improved engagement, ad relevance and reduced infrastructure costs, all of which help Pinners plan for current times as well as post-quarantine.
As any engineer will tell you, more usage means greater importance placed on keeping the service up, keeping it inspiring and useful, and secure — which is why we’re hiring for engineering roles in areas like growth, machine learning, data science, ads relevance and shopping. Browse roles and apply at pinterestcareers.com.
This might come as a surprise, but we’re a fairly nimble company — 2,000+ people working on a product used by 367 million every month. Each engineer is responsible for about 367,000 Pinners! Pinterest is at this sweet spot where it’s grown outside of the startup phase (in 2019 we generated more than $1B in revenue, and a strong balance sheet with >$1.5B in cash), but is still small enough where each person can have a real impact on how the product and company evolves. This mentality of building for impact and acting as an owner is the hallmark of our engineering culture.
We’ve also continued with engineering internships, with 58 interns recently joining us and 51 new college grads recently joining us full time. I’m proud that we didn’t need to slow down that process for college hires, who are already dealing with so much uncertainty.
How work is changing
It’s clear that engineers don’t necessarily need to be in one or two locations. At Pinterest, the majority of employees will likely be working from home until 2021. The plan is for a very small number of employees (those who need to be in the workplace) to tentatively start returning to the office in August.
Each day we’re learning more about thriving remotely. By nature, Pinterest has a document-writing culture, where detailed information is accessible to anyone who needs it, as well as company-wide usage of Google Docs, Slack, Jamboard, Dropbox Paper and Coderpad for interviews. This has all served us well as we shift to a remote culture. We’ve also implemented a virtual onboarding process to get new hires connected to the work and teams immediately.
We’ve learned to rethink coordination of larger projects through closer collaboration and virtual touchpoints. We’re also staying connected through weekly company-wide video chats, engineering-wide Slack AMAs and virtual happy hours. And, we supplied employees with computer screens, and reimbursement to furnish their home offices so they can work comfortably for the foreseeable future. I’m surprised every week by all the new ways our teams are cranking and having fun together.
We need to be real about how we feel
While many tech companies will be working remotely for the remainder of the year and the discussion of how we’ll work is fresh in everyone’s minds, what hasn’t been discussed is how we feel.
We’ve been working from home for months now, and we’ve gotten into a groove of collaborating remotely, and being vocal when processes need to change. We’re also reminding employees that small changes can help in not feeling “always on”, like turning video off for meetings whenever you need to, going for a walk while taking some calls, and signing off as needed. It’s crucial to be empathetic to prioritizing wellbeing and the differing circumstances among colleagues, as well as the changes day-to-day, as we continue to grow as a remote workforce for the foreseeable future.
For starters, last week we took two days off as a company to recharge, and we’re being open with each other about burnout and balance. Beyond the recharge days, we’re offering a range of mental wellness benefits including free therapy sessions for employees and their partners/dependants, 24/7 mobile coaching support, live wellness classes, manager training on how to support employees, and employee resource groups. This all only works if we put the proverbial oxygen masks on ourselves first.
We’re also giving back through initiatives like engineers volunteering their time to work on the How We Feel project, an app developed by our CEO Ben Silbermann (but that operates independently of the company) to help scientists track the spread of COVID-19.
Where do we go from here?
There’s a renewed energy around mental wellness as well as time with family and finding new ways to be creative, all of which can help inform the workplace, company culture and our product. Personally I’m finding time to enjoy the longer days and hitting the trails early and late, with lots of home DIY projects and new BBQ recipes on the weekends.
I’m constantly talking to the team about how we can be as efficient as possible while supporting new remote environments. Just as with any new initiative, we’ll be testing different options to determine the best path forward as we establish the future of our workplace. Our offices (beyond COVID-19, and when it’s safe for more and more people to return) will always be a special place for teams, collaboration, fun, and comradery, but an evolving workplace means hiring could take place anywhere in the future.
There’s a great sense of stability when you have the opportunity to work on technology people genuinely love. I’ve been proud to be part of this product, that gives people an escape from politics and news, and that serves them in the unbreakable parts of life that will be here during and after moments like COVID-19 — the need to cook dinner for our families, be creative with kids, make a house a home, and find inspiration and positivity in the everyday. With the trust Pinners have placed in us, we’ll continue innovating in areas like video, computer vision, and the future of commerce as more retailers than ever will be coming online.
Most of Pinterest hasn’t been built yet. While over the years we’ve established ourselves as the leader in visual discovery, we’ve just scratched the surface of what’s possible with the product and growth. We have a ton of work to do, whether its evolving Pinterest for new uses or adding capabilities that increase engagement, it’s critical we continue to grow a world-class team that will keep up with our evolving workplace and build a first-of-its kind discovery and inspiration platform. We’ve always grown deliberately with a focus on long-term impact. If this sounds like something that excites you too, come join us!
One year in at Pinterest and looking ahead as we grow was originally published in Pinterest Engineering Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.