Mar 6, 2024 · Episode 11

Crafting a career at the intersection of tech and people

Scott Bonneau is the EVP of Product and Operations at Karat, the end-to-end solution for technical hiring. Before Karat, Scott has worked in various engineering and HR roles at Google and Indeed.

Show notes

In today’s episode, Rebecca and Scott discuss Scott’s career at the intersection of technology and people, how leaders can win the trust of a team that they’ve inherited, and how the tech industry has changed over the past 30 years.


(00:00) Introductions
(02:18) Scott’s journey to this role
(07:10) About Karat
(11:05) The role of EVP Product & Operations at Karat
(15:43) How to keep everyone close to the ultimate company goal
(22:15) Navigating low-trust environments
(27:15) What has changed in tech industry during Scott’s career
(30:40) How AI is going to change in the tech industry — especially for junior engineers
(35:35) What is changing with regards to the hire-ability of developers
(38:01) Where you can find Scott play music

Links and mentions


Rebecca: Scott, hi!

Scott: Hi. How are you?

Rebecca: Oh, so good. Once again, I’m beginning a podcast by saying, I don’t know when I last saw you.

Scott: Before 2020, that’s for sure.

Rebecca: Pre-Covid. Yeah. For sure. So both of our lives have had some adventures since then. But I am so very excited to talk to you today just to hear about your role at Karat. Why don’t we start out by just tell tell me who you are?

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. So my name is Scott Bonneau. I lead the product and operations teams at Karat. So my title is Executive Vice President of Product and Operations. What that actually means in practice is I’m responsible for sort of four groups, the sort of traditional product and engineering teams that you would imagine anywhere. But as Karat’s product is an interviewing sort of human-led service, we have two additional teams that are core to our product, which are our content team, which develops the interview content, the scoring rubrics, the competency models, tests, our content for validity, and all those various things.

And there’s a delivery team, which actually manages the team of our interview engineers. These are our network of engineers that are are highly trained on delivering interviews and a good candidate experience and so forth. So those four teams combined deliver what the Karat product and services, and I support those four teams.

Rebecca: I should have mentioned this is Karat with a K. Although there are multiple Karats with a k too I looked at.

Scott: Yeah, no. We are Karat, not the financial services company.

Rebecca: Got it. So tell me, I’ve gotten to be a a bystander to your career a few times over the years, but how’d you end up there? Because it’s not necessarily the most straightforward story. You were working in an HR-y role at Indeed — if I remember — so tell what’s your journey to this moment?

Scott: It’s been an interesting one, if I do say so myself. So my background is in computer science and I consider myself to be a software engineer at my core, although I haven’t been in a role that required me to write production software for quite some time. I think once you’re an engineer, you never go back. And I was one of those lucky kids that knew that’s what I want to do from a really young age.

I’m dating myself: I was in high school in the early 90s, and I remember my high school offered a Pascal programming class that you could take as an elective either your junior or senior year. But I couldn’t take it my junior year, and I was so bummed out that I literally, distinctly remember pretending to be sick the second day of junior year and staying home and reading a book on Pascal. And my dad was a software engineer, and I spent half a day on the phone calling him up asking him syntax questions about Pascal. But so that was me at 14 or 15 years old.

Rebecca: “I’ll show them if they won’t let me in this class! I’ll read a book instead!”

Scott: That was great. Which foreshadowed my college career too when I realized that I could learn more by just staying home and reading the book than going to most of my classes.

So my degree is in computer science and I graduated from school in 1999, which was a really interesting time to come into the industry at the height of the dot com bubble. I moved to Austin, which is where I live to this day when I graduated from school in 99. And I spent the next 19 years of my career in one or other sort of product or technology or engineering roles.

I was an individual engineering contributor for a long time. I found myself at Google in the mid 2000s. I joined Google in the second half 2005. And when I was there, I literally became a manager by accident. I was working in out of the New York office when it was still quite small. There were fewer than 200 engineers in the office when I joined.

But there were only two engineering directors and no engineering managers. So, like, my manager had 96 direct reports – not an exaggeration. I was my manager’s 96th direct report the day that I showed up. About a year later, I got promoted to the level inside of Google at the time where you could also bump onto the management track, and I was literally put into a management role because at that point, my manager had 250 direct reports or something like that.

And then what I found was I could add more unique value in a place like Google as a person who was a competent engineer, but not a top 10 percent, not even a top 50 percent engineer in that place. But relatively unique at being able to help you think about your career and being able to interface with people from other functions.

I worked in AdWords, so I was working with advertiser and publisher folks and things like that. And that little nugget of “where can I add the most unique value?” has been a little guiding light that has brought me on some of these weird spots in in my career. From Google, I fell into a series of increasingly large-scope roles: an accidental VP of Engineering, an accidental CTO, accidentally taking a company through going public… a bunch of “just happening to be in the right places at the right time” kind of things.

But then I wound up at Indeed in 2016 in an engineering role. But then this opportunity came up to move into HR and be like a Rosetta Stone between traditional corporate HR and engineering, which at Indeed had built up quite a few of its own HR practices, everything from the recruiting process to the performance management process to the compensation process. And they were looking for somebody who could multiplex between those two groups, and I was weirdly shaped to be able to go do that.

And then that accidentally led into a role where they also just happened to have a role leading global town attraction that they were searching for and they were like “Why don’t you try to do that?” I was like “Help me understand why that’s not a terrible idea for the company and why everything isn’t gonna blow up if I do that!” And when they convinced me that it wasn’t a terrible idea, I was like, let’s give it a shot. And then I did that for 4 years and really loved it and got to see that side of the world, which is really interesting.

Rebecca: Did you jump straight to Karat from Indeed? I can’t remember…

Scott: Yeah, and I had actually gotten to know Karat through Indeed. I was introduced to them there as Indeed is a customer of Karat’s. I had never imagined that I would spend the rest of my career in TA — that was just sort of like a thing that happened, and I really enjoyed it.

But when it came time to think about what a life post-Indeed might look like, I didn’t wanna just ignore that four years of time and Karat being at the center of engineering, product, HR, recruiting, and creating opportunity for candidates… it really felt like a unique place to be able to blend the first 20 years of my career, and the prior five.

Rebecca: I love talking to people about how their career evolves into opportunities that are more and more right for you based on the experiences that you’ve had up until then. So talk to me: you’re at Karat, how big is it, how long has it been around? Quick rundown of Karat company.

Scott: Depending on where you count from – either the day that Co-founders got together, or the day that the first check was cleared, or the day that the first fundraising happened – like, eightish years plus or minus depending on how you count.

At Karat we’re in the business of helping companies hire with confidence by having a consistent, fair, predictive, and enjoyable interview process. Our mission is to make every interview fair, predictive, and enjoyable. Specifically, we’ll be focused on technical interviews, software engineers, data scientists, QA, those types of roles.

Karat’s initial focus was primarily on what you might describe as a high-bar, high-growth tech companies. Certainly, Indeed falls into that that category, but organizations that are hiring a ton that need to be able to do that in a scalable way, that don’t wanna burn out their engineers, that want a consistent bar, all of those various things — that’s Karat’s bread and butter. And then over the last year and a half or so, we have expanded to include also digital transformation companies, so large-scale enterprises that are that are waking up to the realization that all companies are software companies now. And and that can be financial services companies, insurance companies, health care, and pharma type things.

And it could be organizations that are looking to improve quality. It could be organizations that are looking to shift from primarily a contractor-based tech workforce to primarily full-time employee-based. We have a bunch of customers that are doing global expansion. So they’re moving into India or they’re moving into LATAM, and they need to go open a team and hire 50 or 100 engineers really quickly, and they need to find a way to do that. So we provide solutions that help companies do that quickly with confidence and in a consistent way.

The other thing that very naturally helps with is improving representation in your team. Nothing kills representation more than ad hoc processes that are basically whatever the hiring manager or interviewer’s preference is. When you’ve got data and a consistent process and contents that are proven to test out specific competencies, etc., you can make more consistent, clear decisions over time.

Rebecca: It is so interesting to see the the needs of those high-growth tech-forward companies versus the needs of the more digital transformation companies where they’re starting as they approach, on our side productivity and engineering effectiveness, on your side interviewing and staffing up an organization. Just curious what led the business to head in that direction, and what was your part in that?

Scott: I think it was a combination of things. Certainly, part of it was was organic. There are a non-trivial fraction of folks that work in engineering or software development jobs who work in large scale companies. For example, financial services institutions regularly employ thousands and thousands of engineers. That’s not even including the big systems integrators that have tens of thousands of engineers.

In those cases there is a direct correlation between both the availability and the quality of the people and their bottom line because the people are their product. I think there’s a natural evolution component to it as well, but it is also the case that the nature of software companies is that the software is the product. So when you make cuts, you are going to be making cuts to that part of your workforce no matter what. Whereas, in digital transformation type companies, often they make investments in technology when there are down cycles because they are looking to automate things or make things more efficient and effective.

So it’s definitely true that it does provide some counter-cyclical cover in your overall client base when you have both sort of tech-natives and digital-native companies, and then folks that are going through those transitions.

Rebecca: As for your role, was your role something that is new at Karat? Did it exist and you were coming in and and taking over for someone else? How how did this role come to be?

Scott: It was a new role. There were existing functional leaders across those various groups, and I was brought in to pull all of the those various groups together and then provide direct reporting to the CEO type of approach there. A big part of my role has been product strategy and how do we engage with the market and bringing to bear my own experience — both in the first 20 years of my career being actively involved in a significant amount of hiring in a bunch of different companies, in fact, where you and I met when you joined Bazaarvoice many, many moons ago in the midst of one of many gigantic hiring sprees that I’ve been a part of in my career — but then certainly on the other side of the coin as a TA leader doing extremely high volume hiring. I was at Indeed varyingly for about six years from the middle of 2016 until the end of last year, and that organization grew by a factor of 5x during the time that I was there, getting from 3,000 people to almost 15,000 people around the time that I left. So we were doing a significant amount of hiring.

My role was basically to bring those experiences to the table and help set strategy, and work really closely with the Chief Customer Officer on how we bring products to market as we expand the markets and the sort of total addressable market that we were going after and the like.

Rebecca: What is this job accountable for? Who are you answering to, and what questions are you answering for them?

Scott: Karat is still very much in that really interesting spot that I personally love for companies, which is post-traction, but figuring out what the second product is and how you get that sustained nonlinear growth. One of the things that I like about being in an organization that’s about the size that we are, which is a 150-ish people, is that there are not hard lines where “this is your lane, you stay over here and do this thing.” We all feel collectively responsible for the success of the organization, and we work really hard as an executive team, and it’s very clear that we need all the functions in order to be able to provide.

One of the things that I have seen in my career very consistently that I have tried to bring to every organization that I’ve been a part of for probably the last ten plus years is this idea that the most effective teams that I’ve been a part of were ones where there was not more than two hops between this is what we — collectively as a company or an organization or whatever — are trying to do. This is what my team is doing, and I can see very clearly how what my team is doing ladders up to what the company is trying to do. And then this is what I do, and I see how it impacts my team. If you can keep that two hops, you can keep people really aligned, and that doesn’t create a lot of room for people to carve out fiefdoms and little areas where you start optimizing for stuff that doesn’t really matter.

That gets increasingly difficult to do, obviously, as you get bigger. But at around 150 people, you can still do that very effectively. So to answer your question in a very roundabout way, at the end of the day, I am responsible for delivering the product and service that we have to our customers and making sure that interviews happen and that they’re high quality. But, also, I would say my job is to find ways to say yes to customers, both current and prospective future ones, in ways that expand the set of things that we are gonna be able to do in the future and not just do a bunch of bespoke work.

A good chunk of my world is almost every single day, I’m on the phone with some customer or prospect or other as a part of the go to market conversation or a part of a performance conversation or a part of an implementation conversation. And the list of things that we could do is like this massive thing. My job is to collate the ones that make sense to go do that are gonna give us the biggest bang for the buck and also contain the space that we have to operate within so that we can keep the train moving down the track and not get peeled off into a bunch of different directions.

Rebecca: How do you avoid losing that? Because Swarmia is smaller than Karat, and I’m really enjoying that. My job is strange and quite undefined when you’re that small and you do get to step into all sorts of things. There are strict boundaries, how do you see yourself preserving that at Karat as growth happens? How do you keep that everyone is close to the ultimate company goal?

Scott: It’s a really good question. I wish I had a super replicable easily packaged answer for you. What I would say is it’s two things in my experience. One is constant vigilance – the first and most obvious thing. That doesn’t scale especially well, unfortunately. But at roughly this size, you can definitely do that. The second thing that I would say is you can’t overstate the value of transparency in internal communication. You could roughly describe Karat as an enterprise software company, and what I mean by that is we sell into big organizations.

We sell deals with multiple commas in them. Sales cycles take quite some time to happen. So you have all of the sort of classic trappings of enterprise sales cycle motions, etc., which also means that you have sales organizations that are working really hard to identify and close those deals over a period of time. There’s a lot of incentives in that world to say yes to whatever you need to do to get something over the the line. And that’s not a bad thing, that’s normal and makes a ton of sense.

But you can say yes to so many things that you make yourself unscalable or negatively impact your ability to deliver on your promise. But what I have found is if you work really closely with those sales folks and they feel you’re a part of the team and you’re trying to find ways to say yes to them and find ways to help them close their deals and get their stuff done, then when you have to say no or not right now or whatever, you’ve built that trust to be able to do that. And they don’t they don’t feel you’re a blocker. They don’t feel they need to work around you.

They feel we are all pulling in the same direction, and this is a “I’m not saying yes to this so that we can say yes to this other thing so that we can come back to this in the future” or whatever the situation is. Building that rapport and that trust relationship is a really critical thing in my experience.

Rebecca: That’s really interesting because I can see how where things go wrong is when people are trying — in good faith — to achieve their objectives and their objectives aren’t as well aligned with the business as they should be. Again, nobody’s fault.

Preserving that alignment probably goes a long way to preserving that smaller organization feel where you don’t lose that so soon. Eventually, a Karat of 1,500 is a very different Karat than a Karat of a 150.

Scott: I have been through that experience of growing team. At its peak, my largest team when I was at Indeed pushed up over 800-900 people. It was pretty big, and what I would say is, in my experience, the way that you tend to operate as a scale of the organization is just a linear path from the way that you behaved when you were a smaller organization. If you establish early on the whys and hows of how you work together — i.e. we are gonna communicate openly and transparently, and we are gonna focus on quantifiable goals and metrics — it’s easier to continue that as you scale.

Whereas if you’re less mature or less or more scrappy, it can become really difficult to enforce structure or whatever once you’ve gotten to a certain size. I don’t think there’s a singular great path to go do that. But what I have found is what does tend to work is figuring out a modality that works at a small scale; the relationships that you have between team members and the ways that you communicate. And it sounds sort of hokey, but the things that you value and how you operate. We are gonna embrace healthy conflict is a good one that I really love.

I have I inherited a team in the past that I came into which was about ten leaders that were director plus, who were all functional experts in their particular spaces, but it was an extremely low-trust environment. One of the things that I noticed right away was when we would get in team meetings, i.e. management team meetings or whatever, and an idea would get pitched or a thing would get proposed and nobody would object to it. There might be some conversation or whatever it was. But then people would leave the room and immediately begin actively working against whatever it was that we just talked about. And I was like, “Look, I don’t yet understand how this team works, but we’re not gonna do that.” That’s the thing. We’re not gonna come here and change a bunch of stuff, but we are gonna change this because this doesn’t help anybody. Right? Like, we’ve got to be able to come in here and have healthy conflict and disagreements. So I made everybody in that group read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and then we talked about it. It’s the best and most approachable book that I’ve ever read about the importance of trust in in team building.

But anyway, the reason I bring this up is because what I found is if you can build a structure that works at a relatively small scale and a set of operating principles or whatever it is that work at small scale, it becomes relatively straightforward to grow that and then just subdivide it every time that you have to scale to a certain level. Then just keep operating in that same way when you subdivide, and then you find a way to make sure that the team at the next level up – that’s now probably leading teams of people who are leading people — continue to operate that way. And you can do that for quite some time.

My leadership team in HR at Indeed — at the tail end of my tenure — was largely consisted of people that I had either hired or who had come up into their current roles during my tenure there. And that’s what we had. We had a team that was all senior people that were leading large groups of other people, but that group still operated more or less like we did from the very early time that I took the team on when everybody was in a much smaller role and the world was much smaller. I would like to at least believe that it was still pretty effective.

Rebecca: You you mentioned that by the end, there were mostly people who you had hired. Talking about showing up at a team that you did not hire, and that is you mentioned a low-trust environment, but let’s talk about that again. You’ve shown up to many executive jobs at this point, and I’m sure often what you’ve found was a surprise. Do you have an example of a situation that you’ve had to navigate carefully to get to a good place?

Scott: If we’re being honest, I haven’t been qualified on day one for a job that I’ve had on day one for at least the last 12 or 13 years. I’d like to think I earned those jobs over time, but I was definitely not qualified on day one for really any of them. One of the things that I have leaned into, on some level because I don’t know any better, but on another level because it is, I think, both authentic and it seems to work, is embracing the fact that I am not in a leadership role because I am some uber-man that is gonna come in and solve all the problem. One of the things that I always tell teams when I come join is if you expect me to have all the good ideas, we’re in big trouble. That’s not why I’m here. I’m not gonna be the person that’s gonna come in and tell you what we’re doing and how we’re doing it or whatever.

My job is to put all of you in a position to be successful and to create focus and room for you to work by weeding out distractions before they they hit your plate, by making sure that our stakeholders across the organization — this is whatever else it is — are aligned, etc. Coming into the TA role at Indeed is probably the most extreme example of this because it was a complete surprise to everybody on the team. Most of the people knew me because I had been in an engineering leadership role at Indeed, but nobody was like, “Who would make a great next head of TA? This freaking engineer over here would totally kill it.” Nobody, everyone was — to some extent — “Who the hell is this guy?”

But I just leaned into that. I was like, “Look, I don’t know how to do your job. Not gonna come in here and tell you how to source people. I’m not gonna come in here and tell you how to get interview scheduled. I’m not gonna come in here and tell you how to negotiate a salary with somebody. You’re here to do that because you know how to do that. What I know how to do is help teams function effectively at scale, how to work really cross-functionally as a business, and to work in high-stress situations where what got us here won’t necessarily get us where we’re going. I know how to do that.

What I did was I came in, and it was the story I was describing earlier. I came in and said, “Look, I’m not gonna come in and make any changes. I don’t know how this works. I’m here to learn.” And I spent probably 9 months just traveling the world and meeting people and digging deep on what is employer brand, how does that work, and what is global mobility, how does that work? I had this massive budget; how do we make sure that we are deploying it well and all those various things?

But the one thing that I did change from the beginning was that the way that we communicate is gonna be different. What I would say is the communication style, prior to I joined, was more closed box. It was more like a lot of folks reporting into the prior leader who then was the sole point of contact internally and was also the sole point of contact communicating up. So a little bit more of sort of a command and control style.

My approach is essentially the exact opposite of that: I never wanna be the bottleneck, and I never want anything to be a black box. I started doing some stuff right from the get go. In my first week, I started writing an email to the entire organization every Sunday night with literally just “This is what I did last week. These are the things that I learned. These are the people I spent time with. These are the mistakes that I made.” That started out as just like, literally, 6pm Sunday night. I have a reminder on my phone, and I was just down and bang out an email. Over the course of four years, it became a more structured thing that was some combination of my commentary, and some of it was news and stuff that people needed to get because it was the thing that we knew everybody read. I had a 90 percent or whatever open rate, and it was like “This is a really effective mechanism for doing this.”

But, anyway, what I did there was just set the tenor from the very beginning. I’m not here to replace your job. I’m not gonna change what you do without knowing what the story is. But I am here to help us all accomplish the things that we’re trying to accomplish. So let’s get clear about what success looks like. Let’s be honest with one another about what’s working and what isn’t, and then let’s take it from there. And so after 6-8 months or whatever it was of listening or whatever, that’s when I started to go make specific changes to organization structure, to the way that we measure performance, the goals that we set, and stuff like that. But I think, importantly, I didn’t do that before I had gained a modicum of trust from the people on the team. By the time I was making those changes, I think it’s fair to say that the people that I worked most closely with and that reported to me believed that I understood what their job was and that I trusted them to do their job. And what I was really trying to do is make sure that collectively we all had a good outcome.

Rebecca: I’m imagining that in your role — in a organization that deals a lot with hiring — you’re getting to see a lot of things in the industry over the last maybe couple of years. I’m curious what you’re seeing and how that’s changed in the last decade or so of tech. I feel like a lot has happened.

Scott: A lot has happened. There are a couple of things that jump out to me. One is — and we touched on this earlier — essentially, all companies are technology companies now. I had to reboot my car yesterday. Not a thing that I imagined I have to do a few years back.

All companies are technology companies, so the landscape of opportunities is just much bigger than it ever has been. And while, at some point, that has to hit some type of saturation, I don’t think we’re remotely close to that, so the opportunities are there. That sort of goes hand in hand with thing number 2, which is that when I came into the industry almost 25 years ago now, very predominant path in was through a 4-year degree in computer science from a relatively well known school. That’s clearly not the case anymore.

One of the things that’s been a really consistent theme that I’ve seen throughout my career is that there’s almost like a Moore’s law for shortening the distance between someone’s idea and a thing being in production. When I came into the industry, we were building a service, and literally we had to find someone to buy and rack servers. That was like a CapEx spend and a human and a screwdriver and some networking cable was like on the critical path between us and delivering something. And with cloud and AWS and mobile, now the distance is that much shorter. And that brings us to what’s happened over the course of last year, which is AI, which now has shortened that path even further.

You can go from literally an English language description of a thing that you want to have exist and then some kind of hacked-but-semi-functioning prototype in minutes even if you have no experience as an engineer, which is wild. And there’s probably a whole separate conversation about AI and its impact on it. But anyway the net of it is, the distance keeps shortening between an idea and reality. All companies are software companies, and so all organizations are eventually gonna need some group of people who know how to go off and do this thing. It’s awesome to be a part of that while also realizing that it’s creating a whole bunch of opportunities for other people that might not otherwise have had the opportunity before. One of the most effective career paths for moving from lower income background to higher income one, is through getting involved in technology. It’s awesome to see that it’s not anywhere near as kept-behind by these systems as it has been in the past.

Rebecca: That’s a very positive outlook on the software engineering industry. And it’s totally true. I am one of those people who’s life is very different because getting into tech instead of not doing that. Where I am today was non-obvious when I was getting out of high school.

But is there a flip side that you see where we’re seeing some sort of normalization of the value of a software engineer, where the value of a software engineer – or really the compensation of a software engineer – working in a bank is not going to be dramatically different from the compensation of a software engineer working at FAANG? Is that happening, is that going to happen, is this gonna become a less – it will still be lucrative, but perhaps not a – transformational career choice?

Scott: There are two major factors here, very roughly speaking. So one is I do think that you are gonna see some compression in compensation. And I do think it’s fair to say that the industry, particularly the high-end of the industry, lost its mind for about 18 months from the beginning of 2021 until Q3 of last year, which we are all sort of paying the repercussions of net now. I don’t think that those astronomically high-paying roles are gonna go away because I still think the amount of value that folks that are really good at this can deliver in an organization like Google, Meta, Amazon or whatever that has massive scale behind it, is still massive.

I think those opportunities are gonna be there. But I do think everything I just talked about, too — the more accessible these tools are, the easier it is to bring some of these solutions to reality, the less valuable they intrinsically become. So you’re gonna see some compression there. But I also think that this is a spot where one of the side effects of the way that we all had to adapt to working through the pandemic, it’s gonna have really lasting ramifications. You do not need to live in San Francisco, New York, or Austin to have a job in a strong organization and get paid really well.

People are increasingly leaning on that and opting to not go back to the way things were before, which then leads to questions like if the traditional approach to reducing costs in engineering is to go to lower cost location places. Eventually, you have to grapple with the question about, why does living in India, Mexico, Costa Rica, or Poland mean that you should get X percent less than someone in the US, which is way above my pay grade to solve for that problem. But one thing I will say is I do think — from my experience having been in large-scale high-performing organizations with what we would consider to be top top couple percent talent — the default thinking there often is everybody should just get paid what the people in Seattle or San Francisco get paid, which is not what the reality would be. Instead, everybody would get paid what the people who are living in Des Moines make, not the people in San Francisco make.

I don’t think everybody is quite ready to grapple with that. I’ve been in the industry since just before the dot com bubble. This is really, I would say, the fourth major correction that I’ve seen in my career. The first one was in 2001 with the dot com bubble bursting. The second one was in 2009 when the housing bubble burst.

The next one was sort of less obvious, but in like 2011-2012, when Facebook was growing like crazy and began hiring at an 8-to-1 clip or something like that from Google. The comp structure for everybody in the entire industry went haywire because of that talent battle. That was actually a big change in the way that we had to think about recruiting and compensation and etc. And then, obviously, Covid and post — not that we’re post Covid, but Covid and like the end of three years that followed — are the fourth one.

What I would say is there were prognostications of doom and gloom everywhere and prognostications of where everybody’s just “We can’t afford to spend as much money on software, and we’re gonna all figure out ways to go do it cheaper. We’re gonna move it all offshore, nearshore...”

That’s always a a part of it, but it always comes back because there’s always a reason for it to come back. I think we are starting to see the first seeds of that happening now. There’s a lot of pent-up VC money that has been undeployed for the last several years. The AI boom is beginning to release some of that pressure, but I think we will see more of that as we head into 2024 and beyond.

While there is definitely a lot wrong in the industry, and I think we’ve seen the underbelly of some of that over the course of last year with the size and scope and a lot of those sort of workplace reductions that have been done. I’m still extremely bullish on this space in general. I think if you fast forward three years from now, we’ll be back in another upswing and we’ll have forgotten all about this one.

Rebecca: In that story where — and I don’t know how you level people or what your leveling words are at Karat, but assume — it SE1 is someone is fresh out of college, and then there’s 2, 3, 4 all after that, so Staff Engineer is 4. The person who’s been out of college for a couple of years, what’s their world? What’s changed for them as far as their hireability? Or even the person who’s straight out of college, what’s changing for them as far as their ability to enter into this previously really lucrative employment market?

Scott: I don’t believe that AI is gonna come replace software engineers anytime soon. I do strongly believe that it is going to dramatically change the way that engineering work gets done. And I think if you fast forward a small number of years, maybe not even years from now, a significant fraction of code that gets committed to production work, will have been initially authored by AI.

And what I think that means for entry level roles is that — if I can make an analogy — if, historically, entry-level software engineering jobs were copywriters, people were taking a problem that’s been relatively well scoped and converting a natural language description of that into code, they are gonna have to be much more like editors now. So they are gonna take a natural language description of a problem, feed that into Copilot, ChatGPT, or Bard or something, and get back an initial stab at something. And then they’re gonna have to say, “Alright, now I have to layer in accessibility concerns or performance concerns or security concerns, and I have to make sure that this thing actually does what I told it to do.” And so that work that you would probably typically think of as more sort of tech lead -type work where they’re taking the work of several other people and making sure that it behaves in all these ways is gonna increasingly get pushed down the stack.

I think things like code comprehension, critical thinking skills, being able to dissect code, do really effective code reviews, that sort of QA or security team mindset of how can I find what’s wrong with this… that kind of approach is gonna become really important at lower levels. But I also think the the flip side of this is the tools to help people get good at that are also readily available. Anybody right now can go fire up ChatGPT and go grab a LeetCode problem and feed it to it in practice. And so, again, I don’t think it removes opportunity.

I think — just like every other major technological advancement we’ve seen — it just changes the nature of what is happening with humans on the front lines, and it just uplevels that to whatever the next level is.

Rebecca: Thank you. This is very much on my mind, especially if I think of all my new grads in the past and it’s a whole new world. People listening to this can’t see this, but you have some musical instruments behind you. I am not going to ask you to play them unless you want to go.

Where can we where can we find your music?

Scott: I am in objectively too many bands these days. So I’m based down here in Austin. My primary band is a band called Black Days ATX. You can find us on Facebook and Instagram and other places like that. And we are a 90s Seattle sound tribute. We started as Chris Cornell Soundgarden tribute, but we play all that stuff. I’m in a Fleetwood Mac tribute band called Crystal Visions, which is playing its first show in March, which I’m super excited about. We’ve been working on that for a while. And then I also do some recording and production and stuff on my own. So I actually have a small YouTube channel that I haven’t uploaded anything to in quite a while but have some fun with that.

Rebecca: How do you make time because you’ve been making time for this for a while. I’m always very impressed.

Scott: Not sleeping helps. The Red Bull helps. Don’t, that’s terrible advice. No, I mean, look. I would say I’ve got a wonderful family and support system, and my oldest son actually just got accepted to his first choice college to help me off school next year. My youngest just turned 13. I have 17, 15, and 13 now. I don’t know how or when this happened, but apparently, sometime in the last 17 to 13. Music is like my happy place. It’s the thing that I do to unwind and have fun.

And as much as I enjoy the stuff that we do in the tech space, there is something really amazing about just being in a room with four or five other people and where no one of you can do the thing that you are all collectively doing together and being on stage and making something sound good is just really, really fun. It’s worth it to make time for it. Although it’s a lot of time. It takes a lot of time.

Rebecca: I appreciate that you share that with the world as well. Scott, this has been such a treat to catch up with you and and hear about your experience over the past couple of years. So thank you so much, and have a great rest of your day.

Scott: Thanks. It was great to see you again.

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