Feedback from a computer is simple; either code works or doesn’t. Giving a person feedback, on the other hand, is not.
“It’s way more nuanced when you’re talking to a person,” said Matt Anderson, the director of software engineering at Inspire. “And it’s a work in progress. Getting feedback about my skills as a manager helps me put myself in other people’s shoes if you’re getting some hard news or some hard truths.”
Anderson was hired as one of the bicoastal clean energy company’s first full-time engineers six years ago — “a long time in startup years,” he said. About three years ago, he transitioned from strictly coding to a managerial role.
Now, Anderson is responsible for managing teams and mentoring the next generation of Inspire engineers. He’s also in the hiring seat and has brought on 12 team members to date with plans to continue expanding the engineering team.
“Inspire is a great place to start your career,” Anderson said. “It’s really helped my career take a parabolic trajectory. I’ve grown so much. So if you’re interested in growing personally and professionally and working with great people, then Inspire’s the place to be.”
Watching a company and careers grow
Similar to Anderson, Chris Doblovosky has been with Inspire for about six years. But staying at Inspire doesn’t feel stagnant to him.
“I still feel like I’ve been exposed to many different companies because we’ve grown and evolved a lot while I’ve been here, and I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of that trajectory,” Doblovosky said.
Doblovosky was introduced to the company in 2015 for his Drexel University co-op as a Ruby on Rails developer. He has since transitioned into a managerial role and is the team lead for Inspire’s back-end engineering squad.
Doblovosky relied on his mentors at Inspire, like Anderson and CTO Mike Durst, to develop a trust-centric managing style. He avoids micromanaging and clogging engineers’ calendars with meetings. To keep everyone on track, the squad has a 15-minute daily stand-up.
“My approach is to say, ‘I trust you to let me know if anything is off-base and as long as we are still producing, we don’t need to change that,’” Doblovosky said. “If I start to notice anything slipping and there are gaps, we’ll plug those, but I don’t want to preemptively fix gaps that might not be there.”
Tim Moreton takes a similar, meeting-light approach as the team lead of Inspire’s front-end squad. Moreton joined Inspire three years ago and, like Anderson and Doblovosky, was originally a developer. As he grew into a managerial role, Moreton drew on his experiences to ask “What kind of manager would I want as an engineer?”
“With my team, I frequently ask the question, ‘What is working best for you guys?’” Moreton said. “I think it’s important to keep the lines of communication open so that I can learn from what they’re seeing. Maybe there’s something I know that they don’t, maybe there’s something they know that I don’t.”
What it’s like to join the Inspire team
Leah Schlackman knew little about the mechanics of renewable energy when she joined Inspire this year.
“I just knew I was all for it,” Schlackman said.
When hiring, Anderson said candidates commonly don’t have renewable energy backgrounds. However, he does look for individuals ready to work at a mission-driven organization. It’s an “underlying motivation that’s hard to quantify,” he said.
As a fresh Flatiron School graduate, Schlackman was seeking a purposeful company like Inspire for her first full-time tech gig after leaving marketing. She was hired as a software engineer based out of Inspire’s Santa Monica office in May.
Inspire has a robust, week-long onboarding process that introduced her and fellow new hires to clean energy and the specifics of Inspire’s business model. As for getting to know her team members?
“Everyone is willing to make themselves available to help and to do pairing sessions so that I can learn by watching,” Schlackman said. “I just feel like there are resources abound at Inspire, and I’m lucky to have met and work with a number of senior engineers, as well as my manager, Matt.”
Anderson, Doblovosky and Moreton all said the camaraderie at Inspire has encouraged them to stay at the company long-term.
“This is the longest I’ve ever had a single job, and the team here is a really big part of that,” Moreton said.
Moreton and Doblovosky both participated in GivePower Treks — an opportunity for Inspire employees to travel alongside GivePower to install solar-powered solutions in remote villages worldwide that lack electricity. Moreton traveled to Nepal, and Doblovosky to Colombia. Both credit their treks as powerful team-building experiences that fostered relationships still held to this day.
“I’ve always heard the phrase ‘In the trenches,’ but you have an entirely different understanding of it when you actually have to get in trenches together,” Doblovosky said. “It’s something wildly different, but the sentiment carries through the company. We have done something incredibly poignant and difficult together, and we have a bond now. I’m very grateful for that.”
For day-to-day team-building in the Philly and Santa Monica offices, Inspire relies on video calls, lively chat boards, frequent lunch sessions, informal gaming breaks during working hours and out-of-office hangouts.
Bringing new hires into Inspire’s friendly and trusting culture is Anderson’s second-favorite part of the job. The first? Nurturing the engineers’ careers.
“The tech that we built is great. We’ve grown the customer base from 10,000s of users to 100,000s of users, but the people are always what I come back to,” Anderson said. “The people that you work with every day are important, and our team is strong at Inspire.”-30-