As a Software Engineer, Shawn Souto is responsible for a key new fundamental piece of software for configuration management, which helps us innovate more rapidly. Shawn has the grit, self-starter attitude, and determination that we value at Time By Ping, and having a varied background before landing at TBP gives him a jack-of-all-trades superpower when it comes to connecting with people.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
I had the opportunity to explore doing a lot of different things in life. I think that gave me this perspective that allows for a lot of empathy for other people and what their unique issues are.
I’m good at uncovering a greater purpose and seeing the story. For instance, I started a podcast where I interview entrepreneurs, how they built their success stories, what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. It’s called Hustlers For a Cause.
I don’t have a traditional background, in that I didn’t go to Stanford or know I was going to be a computer scientist from birth or something. I realized school wasn’t for me kind of early on so I tried a lot of different professions. Eventually I got into construction and learned project management from that. I even went into sales and marketing at one point and before I turned 30, I had had over 30 different jobs.
One day a gaming buddy challenged me to start a dollar store online. I did and it failed miserably. But in doing so, I learned so much about building a business and creating software. I realized that what I really enjoy doing is creating something from start to finish and software seemed like the best outlet to do that. I started teaching myself after work and ended up building what was essentially this AI chatbot. I eventually went to school for web development, where I graduated with honors at DeVry and then pretty much had a job right away.
Prior to TBP I had a successful 10 year career at Colgate-Palmolive where I grew from an Analyst to an Enterprise Architect, managing a team. I had the opportunity to work on high visibility projects, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t building the business — I was building tools to help increase margin. I really wanted to jump ship and move to a company where I’d be building the product that was the business itself. TBP was so refreshingly different that I couldn’t say no.
To build great software you have to really understand your users, their mindset, goals, and business processes. Practice management systems are a great place to understand business processes and better understand our users. I happen to really enjoy getting an in-depth appreciation for our users in this way.
"Kanban’s flexibility really helps in the day to day delivery flow, allowing you to shift as needed. Scrum philosophy is a little different. It allows you to better visualize and plan out future processes in sprints."
It’s been both rewarding and challenging to see so much organizational change in such a short time. For example, I had the chance to learn modern agile and kanban alongside Scrum and experience firsthand the pros and cons of each. Kanban’s flexibility really helps in the day to day delivery flow, allowing you to shift as needed. Scrum philosophy is a little different. It allows you to better visualize and plan out future processes in sprints.
Kevin, Niket and I really wanted to start a podcast so we started one internally. One of the philosophies here at TBP is giving everybody as much agency as possible. You’re really encouraged to do things on your own and add to the culture of the company. It’s been really fun to have the opportunity to build and do something new that isn’t wholly related to work.
Something I’m proud of that was work related, for the engineers out there, is a tool I built called a “configuration service.” It allows you to harvest data about the configuration for different environments or customers. Because our product platform is so vast and extensive, it can be difficult to make change happen quickly. What the configuration service enables us to do is start breaking down big chunks of information into smaller manageable pieces, or what we would call micro services. This allows us to innovate more rapidly.
First of all, I’ve always wanted to be on the West Coast and living here in general has been super special. I also did tons of interviews to survey the market, see where I fit in, and there was something so fundamentally different about the TBP team. Even the way I was interviewed — we went outside, took a walk. We were just having a conversation down the street in San Francisco, getting coffee.
"Seeing the way the leadership team was so connected was inspiring. I noticed it all the way down the line, this spark everyone had"
Then seeing the way the leadership team was so connected was inspiring. I noticed it all the way down the line, this spark everyone had. That’s when I knew this wasn’t just any interview, that TBP was doing something special with the potential to go so much further.
Probably not the hardest, but the most exciting company challenges would be making our system more flexible, maintainable, and easier to onboard firms for one.
"Though we may be a time automation company right now, we’re truly an analytics company, understanding how people work, and the data of effort"
Another thing that really excites me is, though we may be a time automation company right now, we’re truly an analytics company, understanding how people work, and the data of effort. In the eyes of the market, the vision Ryan has for the future is phenomenal.