As Senior Manager, Quality Engineering at TBP, David Vydra is responsible for building many of the processes and infrastructure that underpin our quality. David does a wonderful job of emanating our culture at TBP—emotionally intelligent, politically active, intellectually curious, and quality-obsessed. Here we talk to him about his journey at TBP, and how he helps us ensure a quality product around each twist and turn.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
What is your superpower?
I'm a very patient teacher. I'm happy to go over the same material with my students as long as it takes until they’ve mastered the material.
What brought you to your role as Senior Manager, Quality Engineering?
I'm always on the lookout for extraordinary companies to work for. Specifically, ones that are both mission-driven and have thoughtful, brilliant people on staff. I met a few TBP engineers at an event called “Silicon Valley Code Camp,” and they said they were looking to build out the testing function. That’s when the conversation started. I then met the founders, who are such persuasive and amazing people; they sealed the deal for me.
You started a QA intern program at TBP and have converted 2 interns into employees. What do you think has led to this?
This happened very ad-hoc when we needed more hands on deck. We are very lucky to attract interns with the potential to pass our bar for full time hires. The people at TBP are friendly, and the company as a whole is very nurturing, which probably made the difference.
You consider yourself politically minded and a strong proponent of TBP’s activism culture. How does TBP go about creating an environment in which you can draw from these qualities?
The key to me is that management is not afraid to create space for us to learn about tough issues. For example, they organized an event where black technologists were invited to speak freely and honestly about their unique experiences in the field. It was a powerful and emotional event for me. I have a lot of respect for our management in that regard. The people at TBP are very thoughtful and want to contribute to society. So again, it goes back to the people. I'm just happy to participate in the process and support as much as I can.
How does TBP ensure a reliable product?
It’s part of everyone’s job to contribute to quality in some way, which makes a huge difference. The solid engineering process helps as well. They started hiring technical and process coaches to keep everyone at the top of their game. The fundamental problem in our industry is, you can hire smart people who went to good schools, but their problems are largely academic. To convert them to what is often called “industrial programming” takes some effort. Having experts on board to coach and guide the team speeds up the process. It's a wise investment in my opinion.
How do you go about building processes and infrastructure that underpin quality at TBP?
We create a roadmap for both quality and release engineering every quarter. We're trying to find the right balance between shipping product and taking on the right amount of risk. As the company evolves and you get more customers, you have to create new processes to accommodate each level of maturity for the company. If you're too risk averse in the beginning, you're probably going to die chasing perfection. You won’t be shipping anything if you're afraid of making mistakes. Then if you're too aggressive in the later cycles, you can jeopardize the experience of your users. Every quarter we try to find the right balance in moving fast while not breaking things. It’s part art, part science.
What is it about TBP’s culture that keeps you working here?
It’s the smart, thoughtful, and supportive people that really make it. Some work cultures in Silicon Valley leave a lot to be desired, and at this point in my career, I have no interest in dealing with people who don't have their emotional intelligence in shape. I look for a supportive place where risk is also valued. We're encouraged to do what feels right, and most of the time, we don't have to ask for permission. Failure is treated as a learning opportunity. It is very much a startup in that we do lots of experiments, both in terms of product and the various technologies that we try. We also have these innovation days or hack-a-thons. It's very fulfilling to be able to play with all the new toys since, of course, a lot of us are in this business to avoid getting bored. I would be surprised if anybody here was bored from a technology perspective, and we have a lot that we're rolling out right now.
Why were you drawn to work on a product that deals with time?
When I was a consultant, I used to fly a lot. It was always very gut wrenching, leaving my family to go work with clients. Having even a few extra hours with them was always very important to me. I think the same is true for lawyers. I know a lot of them work very long hours. Just a few more hours with family is an amazing gift that we can give each other.
Anything else that you want to add?
I plan to propose a more formal apprenticeship program as we grow to help worthy candidates get ahead. We could improve our diversity with longer internships, 9-12 months, and a planned path to an entry level position. We have to do what we can as a for profit business to enact positive change.
Do you think that TBP has done a good job of going remote?
I think TBP has done an amazing job with it. We have a lot of remote events, which are excellent experiences. I also think it's the right decision in terms of attracting very top talent. It speaks to the flexibility and wisdom of the company to take on this new style of management plan. I predict great results, and I’m super excited about our hybrid program where people can choose to either be in the office or remote.