a16z Podcast

a16z Podcast: Engineering Intent

Sonal Chokshi, Mike Curtis, and Li Fan

Posted August 30, 2017

“Young hungry and scrappy” is how Hamilton described his country, and it’s how many — including the guests on this episode — describe startups… or more precisely, the mindset that engineers in startups need to balance both creativity and efficiency. But what happens as those startups scale, accrue technical debt, standardize their frameworks, and hire even more engineers? How do they deliver on their product while also staying on top of — or better yet, using and also pushing forward — new tech? (Even if that “new” tech is really the old, much-promised-before-but-finally-here, machine and deep learning?) And how do they do it all without getting mired in philosophical debates? Every Hamilton needs a Washington, after all…

VP of Engineering at Airbnb Mike Curtis and head of engineering at Pinterest Li Fan discuss all this and more (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi) in this episode of the a16z Podcast. The hallway-style conversation covers everything from taking an individual vs. company-wide view and the myth/reality of the “10x engineer”, to the subtle nuances of how computers learn people’s styles, intent, aspirations, and outcomes. And how all of this plays out as consumer tech increasingly connects the online to the offline world.