Exciting and energizing. That’s how a software engineer described working on a team that is not only building the next generation of enterprise software but also crafting the processes for how they build it.
“We’ve got new ideas every day, so being in a place where you have those ideas, and they don't just wither in your head, but you get to see them come to fruition is really exciting, really energizing,” said Alex Monroe, Senior Software Engineer at Celonis, during an interview.
I spoke with Monroe and Celonis engineers Michael Rosett and Aaron Girard while I was visiting the Celonis Los Angeles office, located in Silicon Beach.
The three seasoned engineers shared what it's like to be part of an engineering team that's solving the tough engineering challenges that come from building a new class of business software, called Execution Management. They also explained how they’re helping to shape the development processes their team uses and how having a culture “built around feedback” helps them make the right product decisions.
Michael Rosett, Principal Software Engineer at Celonis, has over two decades of experience in software development and degrees from U.C. San Diego and Carnegie Mellon. Alex Monroe is a Senior Software Engineer at Celonis and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University. He’s also an adjunct lecturer at UCLA. Aaron Girard is a Software Engineer at Celonis and a graduate of Emory University.
The following is a transcript of the interview edited for readability.
Bill Detwiler: What's it like being part of a company where you get to not only affect the development of the product, but also of the software development process itself?
Michael Rosett: It's really exciting. I come from working at big companies where a lot of the development processes and way we operate is predefined, or we've been doing it a long time. And so coming to Celonis, there's a lot of green field where we get to be creative, take the best of what we learned at our previous work and bring it to Celonis, and just go with it.
Bill Detwiler: I can imagine that is pretty important. Alex, what about you from your perspective?
Alex Monroe: It's really energizing, because we're engineers. We want to build. We don't want to just be on the rails, so it's not just the product. The processes too.
We want to build. We don't want to just be on the rails, so it's not just the product. The processes too.
We've learned a lot from our experience and we're tinkerers. We don't want to just be like, "Oh, we've done it this way for 10 years. So we're going to keep doing it this way."
We’ve got new ideas every day, so being in a place where you have those ideas and they don't just wither in your head, but you get to see them come to fruition is really exciting, really energizing.
Bill Detwiler: And both with the product, and like you were talking about, with the process.
Alex Monroe: The process itself.
Bill Detwiler: That's equally as important.
Alex Monroe: Yeah, yeah. Hugely. And I think that's also where a lot of companies build up inertia, is the process itself. You can be really innovative on the product side, but once you have the mechanisms to start just churning out work, those stay static a lot of the time.
Bill Detwiler: So, being able to be in on the ground floor and develop that matters? Makes your job maybe a little easier?
Alex Monroe: A little easier and a lot more fun.
Bill Detwiler: So Aaron, what about from your perspective?
Aaron Girard: And just add on to what Alex was saying, there's so much to do. So there are more than enough tasks to go around, and they're super interesting.
You go into the office every day and you get to think about a new problem and how to tackle it. And it's not just a small piece of how to tackle it. You have to think of it from the end user all the way to the database. So it's really cool to be able to have a hand in every single part of that step.
Bill Detwiler: Let's talk a little bit about some of that work that you're doing. And while we're down there at this end of the group, Aaron, I'll start with you. What are some of the really interesting technical challenges that you're working on? What are some of those really unique projects that you're excited about?
Aaron Girard: At its core, what we're building is tools that are extremely useful to end users, and we want them to be exactly that, really useful. And one of the main complexities is to try to distill down insights that are useful to people and just a click away. And we're coming from a really complex space and trying to bring that down to something that's actionable and useful is very hard. And so that's been really interesting.
We're coming from a really complex space and trying to bring that down to something that's actionable and useful...
Bill Detwiler: That's cool. Alex?
Alex Monroe: Well yeah, it's incredibly complex to try to boil down all this institutional knowledge that Celonis has gathered over the years because it's not just domains that are new for us. None of us are accountants, we're not supply chain managers. So not only do we have to get into the nitty gritty of these whole new domains, but do so across industries.
It's one thing to try to gather all this intelligence and deliver it for the food industry. But maybe consumer goods is totally different, and at Celonis we're trying to provide this for everybody. So that's very challenging, we're working on it, it's on the way, but it's a lot of fun to every day...
Bill Detwiler: It makes work interesting, doesn't it?
Alex Monroe: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Never a dull moment, right?
Bill Detwiler: And Michael, I can imagine that's pretty important as a software engineer, as a developer, you want to have those challenges and projects that are exciting to work on.
Michael Rosett: Yeah, absolutely. You want to keep it fresh. You don't want to be doing the same thing every day. And the fact that Celonis can reach every industry around the world and make the companies perform better and streamline, it's a pretty cool space to be in.
Celonis Software Engineers speak with Bill Detwiler in Los Angeles. From left to right, Aaron Girard, Alex Monroe and Michael Rosett.
Bill Detwiler: We were talking about that a little bit earlier, I think, about this generational software that we're trying to create. And it kind of reminds us of how office productivity software took off early on. And then, Alex, you were talking about how cloud software took off early on. And now what we're trying to create with execution management is really in that same vein. It's the next area of generational enterprise software.
So now let's talk a little bit about the team. And how do you all work together as a team and especially here in the LA office, in the engineering hub? Without killing each other, is that what it is?
Aaron Girard: It's come close a few times. No, it's been really awesome. I think we have a super great style of communication and it's super collaborative. Coming off of two years of work from home, it's been really nice to come into the office and see people in person and be able to talk to them.
And especially being in an environment where things are changing and there's a lot of complexity and to be able to work through that really quickly in person has been great. A whiteboard is always there. We can always run over to it, draw out some ideas.
Alex Monroe: Right now, there are only six engineers in the office and we have three whiteboards, so it's pretty...
Michael Rosett: And I helped build two of them.
Alex Monroe: That's kind of where we're at.
Bill Detwiler: That's the right whiteboard to engineer ratio, the two to one…
Alex Monroe: Yeah. We're going to be scaling up, so we’ve got to get building.
Bill Detwiler: So Alex, from your point of view, and to what Aaron was talking about, how do you work together as a team?
Alex Monroe: It's been incredibly fun being in the office mostly because we just communicate so well. The information's always flowing, but I think what facilitates that is the respect that's there. None of us are afraid to be wrong, ever. We're okay with throwing out new ideas, trying out new stuff. And knowing that we're not going to get judged or we're not going to get shot down, and we're just all together. And I've been on teams where that's not the case.
None of us are afraid to be wrong, ever. We're okay with throwing out new ideas, trying out new stuff.
Everybody's trying to check their words and be really polished every day, and it just slows everything down, makes it not fun to come to work, and just blocks communication. And we're very much the opposite of that. We're throwing out all sorts of ideas, and I think everybody's just really comfortable and that's hugely valuable.
Bill Detwiler: It makes a big difference because, Michael I'll pose this one to you, is that, everyone's there to accomplish the same goal, and no one has an ego, like you said. Everyone, they want the best idea to win. When you have competing ideas about how to solve a particular problem, how do you discuss that? How do you bring that out? And because I know people get passionate.
Michael Rosett: It can be hard. And actually, some of us have worked together in the past and so we've kind of gotten used to it and we want to challenge each other. We want to disagree. I think without that disagreement, you're not going to get to that end solution that is going to be the right one. So I think we just encourage that. If we send out design docs and there's no feedback, how do I know if I did the right thing, right? So we're built around feedback and helping each other grow.
At Celonis we’re building a new type of enterprise technology, called execution management. And, we’re recruiting the world’s best engineers to do it. Whether you’re a frontend or backend developer, full stack engineer, data scientist or DevOps specialist – we have technical challenges that need solving.
To learn more about how we’re pioneering advances in AI, machine learning, automation, analytics and data mining, and to see current engineering job openings, visit Celonis Engineering.