Engineering Great Talent and Teams at CashStar

By John Sterling, Senior Director of Software Engineering

How does an early stage payments company based in Portland, Maine maintain and grow an A-list roster of customers like Starbucks and Best Buy? The answer is speed, innovation and teamwork.

John Sterling, CashStar’s Senior Director of Software Engineering, speaks about Maine Startup and Create Week and the state’s tech-sector. Video courtesy of Knack Factory.

In my opinion, great teams are best nurtured by providing a great environment, and letting them get to work. Google’s Project Aristotle taught us that the best teams are built by allowing the team to learn and grow on its own. CashStar engineering follows this principle and is structured to deal with our fast growth using small, agile teams. We pair engineers directly with product owners and let them work independently to prioritize and execute the most meaningful initiatives for our business. Our engineers stay very close to our customers’ daily interactions to gauge how the platform is responding to the constantly changing environment. This approach lets us move faster, helps our customers innovate and enables us to avoid bureaucratic silos that often slow down other software teams.

CashStar is a fast-moving software company that disrupted the plastic gift card industry and is now a leading the prepaid commerce market. To continue to thrive, our engineering team is guided by a set of core pillars:

  • Operate Cross Functionally: Each team is a self-contained unit capable of doing everything required to deliver high quality software quickly. This reduces the overhead of coordination and empowers individuals to make important decisions.
  • Be Light Weight: We minimize hierarchy and command and control to allow decisions to happen on the ground as necessary. Our leaders spend their time mentoring, inspiring, and removing barriers for individuals, not directing the details of product delivery.
  • Remain Customer Focused: Core to our mission and culture is the idea that we win if the customer wins. Targeting our time and solutions around customers helps us keep focused and makes for easy prioritization and decision-making.
  • Embrace Changing Requirements: The team thrives on problem solving. A change to a requirement doesn’t result in finger-pointing or delays, it is a cherished part of building great software.
  • Deliver Working Software Often: For CashStar that means delivering to production as often as daily and delivering major functionality in two-week increments.
  • Commit and Communicate Daily: The team is in a daily rhythm. This keeps tasks short, communication tight, and allows teams to quickly adjust to changing conditions as a unit.
  • Learn, Always: While our top priority is product delivery, it is critical that our engineers are enhancing their careers and keeping fresh. CashStar enables and encourages exploration and learning. This includes various loosely organized workdays that allow engineers to pick and choose what problems they want to tackle.
  • Maintain Open Access: All teams have the ability to work on code in any repository and to read planning boards of all other teams. To avoid complicated project coordination, teams are focused around product deliverables and have access to whatever information or tool is needed to get the job done.

    CashStar’s engineering team loves building great products and we continue to work hard to maintain high quality, high performance products and to innovate with our partners. If you’re passionate about the pillars our team operates by, consider joining our team and check out our careers page.

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