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How I Got Here: Crossbeam Engineering Manager Dan Singer on collaborative cultures and his Philly return

The Penn grad is coming back to the East Coast after time spent in San Diego. Here's a look at the tech career path that led him to embrace management.

Crossbeam Engineering Manager Dan Singer. (Courtesy photo)

This is How I Got Here, a series where we chart the career journeys of technologists. Want to tell your story? Get in touch.

A former Philadelphian is making his return to the area, thanks to a career path spanning geographies and software roles, and a drive toward leadership and inclusive culture.

In his first professional role after attending University of Pennsylvania, Dan Singer was surprised to see how closely software and business ended up interacting in his different roles across his decade-long career.

The former physics major and current Crossbeam engineering manager found that software problems were applicable to business problems starting at NYC-based finance company Bloomberg, where he designed software for someone to use at a trading desk.

After graduating, Singer worked as a financial software developer at Bloomberg for three and a half years. He enjoyed the learning experience that the opportunity presented but ultimately left because he didn’t have an affinity for finance, he told Technical.ly. After that, he began work as a consultant and was fascinated by the difference between working at a large company and what he could do on his own.

“It was cool coming out of Bloomberg, where I learned client management, marketing and branding,” he said. “As a consultant, I did problem solving that you can’t do at a 10,000-person company.”

Singer ultimately left both roles for the same reason: He prefers working closely with others. In his frequent volunteering with bootcamps in San Diego, where he’s currently living, and Philadelphia, he likes to advise people that while there are many ways to succeed in software, the fastest path comes via working on a team.

Now, as an engineering manager at the venture-backed, fast-growing, Center City-based software company Crossbeam, Singer said that his top responsibility is finding ways to help his team succeed. He works with the product team to ensure that it is working on important and interesting problems through the full lifecycle of software development. He also supports individual engineers in learning and growing in the work that they do.

Of course, he thinks the technical work itself is interesting, too. Singer said the Clojure programming language is used heavily in his work at Crossbeam.

I didn’t have a clear vision in 10 years that I’d be on the management track. If I could have told myself anything earlier, I wish I focused more on where I was happiest.

“Our primary tech stack is Vue, Clojure and Postgres,” he said. “We use Clojure for the data ingestion system that constitutes our primary offering — at the end of the day our product makes data actionable — and Clojure in particular is a very interesting language. Folks who join Crossbeam in full-stack or backend roles tend to be excited to work in a purely functional language.”

But people have always been what appealed most to Singer about tech, and in his role at Crossbeam he considers himself fortunate to collaborate in a leadership role on a diverse team. Combining that with the opportunity to impact an entire organization by helping others write code efficiently makes his work fulfilling, he said. He’s also the head of a book club among his Crossbeam coworkers. These roles have made him take a hard look at what it takes to be an effective leader.

“Management has a lot of different pieces to it,” he said. “There’s people, product, technology and then process. You have to really learn the craft with people and meet with people in your company. With product, you have to learn the business, sales and marketing. Understand how the stuff you build impacts users. Process comes from learning what works.”

He had previously worked in what he called a collaborative, smart and inclusive culture in his previous engineering work at Knewton, an adaptive learning company. After his final round of interviews he realized that he would be working with a similar team at Crossbeam.

Earlier in his career as a software developer, Singer said he was not sure what his professional journey had in store for him and wishes he focused on what made him happy earlier than he did.

“I didn’t have a clear vision in 10 years that I’d be on the management track,” he said. “If I could have told myself anything earlier, I wish I focused more on where I was happiest. I think I would’ve asked to move into leadership roles a little bit earlier. If I could go back, I’d say just think about what parts you like about your job the most.”

Singer is soon moving “back east” from San Diego to Philly with his partner. The city is only two hours away from New York City, where the couple still has friends, and has a popular food scene, number of unique neighborhoods and parks that make it appealing in its own right.

“At the end of the day, I was choosing between offers at some fully distributed companies and some Philly-based companies, and Crossbeam was a great combination of both worlds,” he said.

Welcome back.

Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Crossbeam
Series: How I Got Here
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