Eventbrite VP of Engineering Pat Poels Speaks at Hackbright

We invited Pat Poels, Vice President of Engineering at Eventbrite, to Hackbright Academy to speak to the current class. Eventbrite has hired three Hackbright engineering fellows from the previous two graduating classes, and will be returning to the next Hackbright Career Day

Eventbrite VP Engineering Pat Poels explained to Hackbright students the hiring process: “New candidates can see a large cross-section of people on the team and they all have to like you. If you are not a culture fit or you’d be difficult to work with – even if you’re really talented – we don’t hire. That has worked out really well for us.”

“We hire people we want to work with.”

Pat showed fun slides of the company culture and employees at Eventbrite, including the 75-person engineering team he leads. Pat also talked about the hires Eventbrite made from Hackbright Academy – Nicole Zuckerman and Sanby Lee from Hackbright Academy’s fall 2012 class, and Kathryn King from Hackbright Academy’s spring 2013 class. These Hackbright graduates hold humanities degrees and expressed strong interest in computer science before enrolling and graduating from Hackbright Academy as software engineers.

Pat underlined the important of culture fit in an organization, and having a good attitude to learning and working with others. In the interview process, interviewees meet a lot of Eventbrite employees and have to be liked by all of them. Job interviewers are looking for culture fit, competence and willingness to learn.

Pat warned the students: “If there is ever a time in your work career when you feel you are not learning anymore, you’re in the wrong job or occupation. There is so much to keep track of and learn from. I learn from everyone and from changing technologies – I love the fact I get to learn constantly. If you are learning, it will keep your energy up and you won’t get bored.”

At Eventbrite, the stack consists of Python, Django, MySQL for transactional database. Cassandra and Redis are used for special use cases, and Vagrant is the virtual development environment.

“I think junior engineers think outside the box a lot better than senior engineers do.”

He continues: “It’s important you don’t just work with people who are your own peer group. Everyone you are working on is on relatively equal footing and this isn’t to say that I think senior engineers are better or more important – they are not – they have strengths and advantages the junior engineers don’t have, and junior engineers have strengths and advantages the senior engineers don’t have.”

He gave advice to the Hackbright engineering students about searching for the right company and job: “It saps your energy to see your work not show progress. To work on something – when I work on it – I can see benefits and I can see the company move forward and I can see value when helping something move forward in a big way. Everything takes care of itself – your salary goes up over time and your stock goes up and your resume looks good. All that feeds on itself. But first, look at the company [that you are interviewing at] and ask if the company is going in the right direction.”

“It’s not all that uncommon to have a path that doesn’t look like anyone else’s.”

Pat’s engineering career has been a jungle gym, not a ladder: “My path is very different. It’s not all that uncommon to have a path that doesn’t look like anyone else’s.”

He graduated from high school to attend ASU to study EE, where he played football and found through a newspaper advertisement a job at Ticketmaster. Pat dropped out of college to work at Ticketmaster full-time, building their reserved seating ticketing system. Then he pursued playing poker professionally for five years, winning two world series poker tournaments.

When the economy dipped, he decided to go back to work and picked up a birthday phone call that ended in a job referral to a startup in Phoneix, working for a college roommate. From there, Pat worked as CTO of this small startup until almost a year later, when an Eventbrite board member (and Ticketmaster CEO) called him, seeking his consulting services for Eventbrite. From there, he got the job at Eventbrite and “pretty soon I got to have the job I have now,” he concluded.

“Where you start is a moment in time and the future is all up to you.”

Pat explained that having a lot of work experience and connections will get your foot in the door, but “going to Hackbright or going to Stanford… Where you start is a moment in time and the future is all up to you.”

Eventbrite will be returning as a partner company of Hackbright Academy this summer! Join the growing list of Hackbright Academy partner companies on August 20 for Career Day to speed-interview the 24 software engineers graduating from our program this summer.

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