From Wall Street to Silicon Alley: Why I Joined Tapad

Pål Høye, SVP of Engineering at Tapad; Tapad's NYC headquarters

Last year I started a new chapter of my career. I left Goldman Sachs, a globally renowned investment bank with an annual technology budget of several billion dollars, to join Tapad, a startup that had just been acquired and that’s reputation was largely confined to the adtech and marketing technology industries.

So, why did I pick Tapad? It comes to five main features: technology stack, engineering challenges, business domain, culture and lean organization, and the team.

Technology stack

Working on an interesting, forward-focused technology stack has been an important consideration for me throughout my career. In the early days, I turned down jobs working on Cobol and mainframe in favor of Java, even though the Cobol job was significantly higher paid.

As a company founded in 2010, Tapad has a modern state-of-the-art technology stack with no code older than 7 years and most is written in the past 2-3 years. Scala is at the foundation of the stack, picked as the primary programming language from the start by co-founder and CTO Dag Liodden. Unlike many companies using Scala, Tapad did not convert to Scala, we used it from day one. It has proven to be a great choice for solving the technical challenges in the ad-tech space in order to process petabytes of data and real-time systems where every millisecond counts. Tapad is committed to Scala and new joiners are enrolled in our in-house Scala School to get up to speed.

Other key technologies used to handle Big Data at speed are Hadoop, Scalding, Spark, Kafka, AeroSpike, Vertica, Cassandra, Avro, to name a few. The technical infrastructure at Tapad is also best-in-class. Ryan Tennant, VP Tech Ops, and his team have put in place a robust and resilient infrastructure based on Docker, Marathon, Mesos and Zookeeper in production, testing and development.

Engineer Marvin Ma and Director of Process and Execution, Dan Alcade, present at a Tapad all-hands

Engineering challenges

I mentioned Big Data and real-time. The current data cluster holds over 30 PB and grows with 1-2 PB a month. Overall, our systems process over 2 million QPS.

The engineering challenges to handle these data amounts and performance requirements are motivating in itself. The teams are constantly working to build out business features while leveraging the latest techniques to handle the load. Additionally, our Data Science teams work on complex models and algorithms to extract insights from the data, build the best device graph on the market and effectively run programmatic marketing campaigns. The UI/UX team works on the Angular 2 stack building interfaces for end-users to manage sophisticated campaigns and visual dashboards for comprehensible views of large data amounts.

Business domain

Marketing technology and ad-tech is a new industry and still in its formative stage. There is an incredible amount of opportunity in the horizon if you can be the leader and stake out the direction for the industry. Nobody knows how the industry will look five years from now, even a two year horizon has a lot of insecurities. The opportunity to form an industry doesn’t come by every day. Tapad has done it in the past by pioneering cross-device and is well positioned to continue to be the leader in the future. For example, Telenor acquired Tapad because of its leadership in adtech and potential to drive more innovation for the company. Tapad is also on the forefront of programmatic TV, which opens the door for many possibilities in this field.

Lean Culture and Organization

At Tapad every person matters, has an impact, and is involved and accountable for their team’s successes and failures. This means that there is no deadweight. You won't be able to be here if you don't contribute and our team takes this seriously, resulting in a focused and motivated group of engineers.

Similarly, people care deeply -- about each other, their team, their projects, and about the company as a whole. It's actually pretty unique and different from many other places and you have to be here to see and experience it! For example, we are consistently motivating and challenging each other to become better, and promote each other’s work through events like Hackathons, Sprint demos, Tech Talks, etc.

We are also a very lean organization, meaning that we can act quickly -- both on our successes and our failures. It is an encouraging environment where we don’t look down on mistakes, but rather our engineers take those moments as opportunities to quickly correct themselves, learn from it, and make themselves better. Not being afraid to fail allow us to to dare to try new things which is the key to our success. We also make a point to avoid unnecessary red tape, enabling our engineers to quickly execute as well as improve what’s existing, meaning very rarely do things get held up.

Toby Matejovsky, Director of Engineering, and Dag Liodden, CTO and co-founder, at Tapad HQ

The Team

As an engineer, there is nothing more appealing than the opportunity to work with other engineers who are exceptionally bright and can challenge you to be better. This really stood out to me when I was considering Tapad. On a whole, the company is home to a strong set of talent. We have experienced folks from top technology companies who also chose to come to Tapad to be a part of our growing team. In addition, the Executive team complements each other well and shares key values such as putting people first and doing things “right” along with setting ambitious goals. Dag Liodden, CTO and co-founder, was responsible for choosing Tapad’s original technology stack and has led the team to build it into what it is today.

We are also committed to growing our engineering team beyond New York City. For example, one of our well-respected engineers -- Jeff Olchovy -- recently moved to Oslo to help build our new office in that region, where the team will work collaboratively with New York to build new and exciting products.

Tapad’s philosophy is to assemble small, strong and focused teams since we believe a great engineer can be 10x more productive than an average engineer. This is why we invest in our engineers through opportunities such as our Scala School, meet-ups, etc. --  so any engineer can be well-versed in the language and will be well-prepared for both their career at Tapad and whatever comes next for them.