In the middle of 2017, Postlight had more work than we could handle, with much more in the pipeline. We needed to grow. But growth is hard, and intentional, strategic growth — meaning hiring! — is even more challenging.
One of our mottos is “team hires team” and we stick to it. Everyone at Postlight comes in the same way and follows the same process (including old friends). Team members dive deep to vet the candidate, to understand how they think and work, and learn how they’ll succeed on the different kinds of work we’ll do. We do our best to hire whole people, thinking about what they have to offer, and what we have to offer them. The process took time to evolve.
It works, but it’s also slow—and we needed more engineers. Smart, self-directed, risk-taking engineers.
Where We Came From
A bit of background about me: I was born in Lebanon. In the late 1970s, my entire family fled the civil war. We settled in New York City, and I grew up in Brooklyn (mostly). I went to law school, passed the New York Bar, and realized I didn’t love the law as much as I loved the Internet.
When your family flees a civil war—not that I’m recommending it—you see the world in a certain way. Paul has described my personality like this: “It’s as if the software is all-American, but the operating system is a 14th-century Maronite village.” And while I’m very proud to be American, Lebanon is also my home, and I still have family there.
Lebanon is a very troubled nation stuck in a perpetually tense part of the world. As a result, the Lebanese are a smart and resourceful people. It’s a nation of risk-takers. Wherever we go, we hustle. And…we’re everywhere. Look:
Not bad for a country smaller than Connecticut. The country has historically been forward-looking and more tolerant. It takes pride in embracing modern, progressive ideals, blending together the traditions and history of the middle east with the sophistication and modernity of Europe and the West.
Why Not Beirut?
So I kept wondering—if we want growth, why not Beirut? A Postlight satellite office. I know enough about Lebanon, I thought, to do this without compromising the way we hire. Even though our new employees would be on the other side of the Atlantic, they would be as much a part of the team as anyone else.
The US engineering team was concerned about keeping quality high — and so were the Lebanese senior engineers we met. “Don’t just throw the work over the wall to us,” said a senior engineer when we interviewed him. “I’m not coming on board in order to just build things from specs.”
Here’s what I saw, as an American product leader building a Lebanese team: The Lebanese team was hungry. They wanted to prove that they could do great work. They were ready to risk their careers on a weird American platform-development firm. My people like risk and they’re willing to prove themselves. And as a result, six months into this experiment, we can call it a success. Not a qualified success, just a regular success. Our Lebanon team is great, they do good work, their engineering leadership is immensely skilled, and they’re growing, too.
We set out to build something that works a little more like traditional outsourcing. Instead, we simply expanded our engineering team with international talent. We’re getting the best of Lebanon. Sure, it’s cheaper to hire in Lebanon, but talent costs more wherever you find it. When you factor in trips to NYC for the Beirut team, visas, etc, it’s not a significant savings. (We bring all our remotes into the main office twice a year, plus a few extra trips for specific projects.) What matters more is that we’ve built a small, good team that runs fast—a team that hustles, and that ships.
There are many cultures of engineering around the world. But there are always groups of unusual people who are fascinated by craft, who are committed to learning and getting better at what they do. That’s what we’re building in Beirut: A place for problem-solvers who share our values. That’s universal.
It’s also fun to come into the office when the Beirut team is in NYC. They always bring good snacks. And now we have two ways to grow instead of one.