By James Powers-Black
HubSpot began by helping businesses help themselves. Through a concept called inbound marketing, where the company centers client feedback in their product development, the one-time start-up has grown into a large company dedicated to constant, ongoing learning about what their clients need and how best to listen.
The company’s culture supports learning, from onboarding new employees with scavenger hunts to a tradition where teams take lunch together for informal team-building. Khoury alum Rose DeMaio (BS ’15 CS and Communications), says helping customers effectively — and being successful at HubSpot — requires co-ops and employees to remain open to learning.
“It’s easy to look around and assume everyone else is super confident, but in the long run, successful people are humble and open to learning,” DeMaio says. She started as a co-op and now works full-time as an engineering lead.
Co-ops are immersed into the HubSpot working environment, and the professional, supportive culture continues through co-op into full-time work, says another Khoury alum Talia Swartz (BA CS ‘15). Like DeMaio, she began at HubSpot as a co-op and now works as a technical lead.
As a co-op, Swartz was immediately put to work on “a real team, fixing real bugs.” She’s witnessed a lot of positive change in the few years she’s worked at HubSpot full-time.
“I started when there were 80 engineers, and now there are about 500,” she says. “The company was a late start-up then, and now it’s gone public. It’s been exciting to see the company grow after getting in on the ground floor.”
Hubspot Offers a Learning Environment
Along with the supportive atmosphere, co-ops are also presented with challenging, real-world learning opportunities. Khoury undergrad Lynnsey Martin (BS CS ’21) was on co-op as part of the conversational automation team, which troubleshoots and fixes bugs for live chats, bots, and HubSpot’s integration with Facebook Messenger. It’s complex work, Martin says.
“When creating a bot in a HubSpot product, you have to be able to edit individual actions of the bot: What the bot will say, what information it will collect, and what the response will be based on the user’s answer,” she says. Her team’s work helps HubSpot’s customers create bots that are more responsive to their own customers, using what technology does well to help humans do well.
“I think about what I can do as an engineer to make other people’s daily lives easier,” she says.
When they were students, and now as full-time employees, both DeMaio and Swartz felt the company understood they were people who have lives outside of work.
“As a co-op, I was impressed by how flexible and ‘human’ HubSpot was,” DeMaio explains. “For example, my manager was approachable and understanding if I had to get back to campus for a meeting or shift my hours for a doctor’s appointment.”
Swartz said she appreciates working with fun, motivated, and smart people. “I feel like I can be completely myself,” she says. “And there are tons of snacks!”
For Martin, the synergy of teamwork and openness to learning has helped develop her coding skills. “I started as a computer engineer and switched to computer science later,” she says. “I came in without any front-end experience, and now I’m pretty comfortable working with the software. I’ve learned how to step in and read other people’s code.”
Undergraduate Experiences Prepare Co-ops
The Northeastern experience sets up co-ops and full-time staff for their work at HubSpot. Swartz says that in “Fundies,” which is the Khoury lingo for the Fundamentals of Computer Science I course, she learned how to think about problems like a programmer and how to break the code down.
“In that course, we were taught with a language that no one in the industry uses, so I learned early to think about how to learn new languages and technologies rather than simply clinging to the specifics of the first language I learned,” she says. “Northeastern makes you extremely adaptable. You’re able to go with the flow.”
In their current roles at the company, DeMaio and Swartz are both responsible for recruiting and supervising co-ops. “Co-ops are assigned the same things a regular engineer would do,” DeMaio explains. “We might start with smaller projects to help them gain confidence, but then we get them involved in larger projects. It’s exciting to see how capable Northeastern students are!”
When Martin started her co-op, she felt ready to write code, and she was eager to write a lot of it. But quickly, she realized it’s not always good to be a prolific coder — instead, it’s more important to write with quality.
“You don’t want to break things that make your tech lead get paged at four in the morning about an issue that you put out,” she explains with a chuckle. “Northeastern from the beginning helps you understand how and why that’s important. That was crucial before coming on as a co-op.”
Martin will return to the company for another co-op in July 2020, but this time in the Dublin office. She’s excited to experience a global co-op, learn about different aspects of the product mobile teams, and explore machine learning with new people in a new place. Martin says, “I’m getting the best of both worlds by continuing to work at HubSpot while also getting to experience a global co-op.”