Not every good engineer makes a good startup engineer. Some of the most promising candidates that I’ve interviewed in the past six years across three startups (Ooyala, Quora, and now Quip) would bring 5+ years of experience from a top engineering company like Google, only to do poorly during our interview processes. Usually, the candidate wasn’t a bad engineer; in fact, he might have even excelled at his current job. We just thought he wouldn’t make a particularly good startup engineer.
Having spent many years interviewing candidates and training and mentoring other engineers, I’ve found that certain qualities do make engineers more likely to succeed within startup environments. Ultimately, these qualities stem from a few key aspects of how working at a startup differs from working at a more established company.