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Hello Hao Le, Software Engineer at Time by Ping

Hao, a full-stack software engineer, embodies the engineering culture we love at Time by Ping: hungry, handles chaos well, resilient, and inspiring to those around him. And he has an interesting story — he left Time by Ping to work at a FAANG, and then decided to come back to us after his sojourn. We’re excited to introduce him to you today.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What’s your superpower?

It’s my good energy. I am naturally happy to see people and smile quite readily. But, it’s been difficult for me to exercise this in the pandemic where I no longer get to see my co-workers in person, where there were plenty of in-passing interactions that are now non-existent, and body language that is no longer as present in everyday communications.

How’d you get to this point in your career today?

I started off as pre-med in college and didn’t make the switch to software until halfway through. From there, I was lucky enough to land an internship with Time by Ping back in 2017. I enjoyed the people so much that I came back for half of my gap semester in the spring of 2018. I went to work at Amazon as an intern later that summer and finally came back to Time by Ping in fall of 2019.

Something that really stood out to me with Time by Ping, as opposed to other places, was professionalism. There were many companies that just didn’t care. They’d think that my time was not valuable because I was just some college student. They’d reply weeks after I applied to their program, or they’d just ghost me. But I remember my call with Kourosh feeling really good. We both had wonderful energy that fed off each other.

You originally interned at Time by Ping, then went to work at Amazon, and now are back to working FT at Time by Ping. What do you feel are the advantages of working at an early stage company versus working at a FAANG?

There are plenty of things I can say about this, but I’ll try to summarize it into 3 points: impact, camaraderie, and career growth.

If you want to look at pure numbers, the income I could be making is less at a startup than at a FAANG, but I’m also learning much more. Compounding returns on what I learn now will more than pay for itself in the long run in the form of career growth.

I have much more to say emotionally about why I chose Time by Ping over a FAANG company. Impact being the biggest pull. The work that I do today directly affects our users’ experience and cements the engineering culture for the company.

Camaraderie is also a no-brainer at Time by Ping. I’m quite lucky! Most people at my point in their careers do not have exposure to the sheer talent density and authenticity I get at Time by Ping.

I believe by working at a startup you have a higher chance of forming a good company. And good companies are an end within themselves, especially in capitalist societies where companies are the vehicles for progress.

How does the culture at Time by Ping differ from the culture at Amazon?

It’s hard to answer this since Time by Ping is one culture, while Amazon (and other FAANGS) are a multitude of cultures. At Amazon, I had friends who were physically shaking from stress imposed on them versus at Time by Ping, where sustainability and mental health are taken seriously.

Access to leadership is easier — I can talk to Ryan, I can talk to Niket or Pat. I can just schedule something on their calendar, then boom, I have direct contact with anybody in the company. But at Amazon, I looked at the organizational chart and I was 11 or 12 levels beneath Jeff Bezos. It was completely inaccessible, which makes sense, but was inaccessible nonetheless.

How would you describe the engineering culture, specifically, at Time by Ping?
"Our shared mission and purpose interweaved in our culture removes the uncertainty of misaligned incentives between team members."

At Time by Ping we’re scrappy, collaborative, and tight-knit. Fellow engineers are more than willing to help me when I run into issues and we get sh*t done. It’s awesome. Not to mention that our shared mission and purpose interweaved in our culture removes the uncertainty of misaligned incentives between team members. We’re all fighting for the same goal and it shows in everyone’s actions.

It’s nice to work with people who you also consider friends, and who can help you when you run into problems. People are competent, they know what they’re doing. And if they don’t know the answer, they’ll find out. Sometimes I feel spoiled because I have such talented coworkers, it’s easy to say, “So and so can help me solve this.”

I was the youngest engineer for almost a year. Recently, we hired someone FT who is younger, and I know age doesn’t matter when it comes to competence but when there are people with 15 years of experience, it’s hard to not compare yourself. Our leadership are role models who are working directly with you.

Where do you fit into that?
"I know age doesn’t matter when it comes to competence but when there are people with 15 years of experience, it’s hard to not compare yourself. Our leadership are role models who are working directly with you."

I’m a bit green. I’ve only been in the industry as a full-time employee for a bit over a year, so I’ve still got plenty to learn. But, we’re all invested in each other and I sincerely appreciate that. I highly doubt I’d be learning more at any other company.

You started the “Hao It’s Made” internal education program at Time by Ping. What pushed you to start this, and can you tell us about it?

One of my leads suggested I do it after he noticed I had developed a certain proficiency with developing the UI. I enjoy teaching and presenting, so I figured why not. It also accomplished the goals of simultaneously bringing transparency to the non-engineering parts of the company as well as providing other engineers with a high level overview so that onboarding would go smoother.

The timing was also quite good, since we were preparing to take on a large amount of UI work to finish a large release by the end of the year. By going over the process — gathering specs, iterating on the implementation, and finally pixel pushing for a pixel perfect finish — I was able to spread knowledge quickly, and thus save the company precious engineering time. And if anyone had questions, they could reference my presentations and documentation as well.

What do you think is the superpower of Time by Ping? What do you get here that you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else?
"You combine talent density with good culture, and it’s just a wonderful place to work."

I’d say sheer talent density. I’m working with incredibly talented people and that pushes me to try my best to push myself 110% as often as I can. You combine talent density with good culture, and it’s just a wonderful place to work.

Thanks for the time, Hao.

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