This is the first post in a new series that will look at the people and culture of WhitePages and what it is like to work here.
Blake Thomson is a 2010 University of Washington Computer Science and Engineering graduate who emerged into the “real” working world this year. Blake joined the WhitePages team this summer as a front-end engineer. Here is his story:
I was drawn to computer science because I like solving puzzles, but I fell in love with the power of software as a medium of expression. More than anything, I love the act of creation: the expressive power to make something appear out of nothing. I think I was a designer in another life!
In fact, for the longest time, I thought I wanted to be a Project Manager. Like most undergrads, I talked to recruiters and engineers from all the big companies: Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, etc. At that time, I felt like getting an offer from a big company was a much better measure of success than from a smaller one, and thought that PM work would avoid my chances of being put in a closet to become a ‘code monkey’.
So when it came time to apply for full time positions, I finally realized that I could leverage my passion for creation and my skills as a developer at a smaller web company where I could have a big impact. I envisioned feeling the pride of saying “I wrote that, I brought that into life” and knew that I really wanted to be a developer. With this new plan, I interviewed for front-end positions at many small-medium sized web companies, like Yelp, Cozi, ESPN, and WhitePages, and got offers from every such position I applied for. I had found my calling.
Why did I choose WhitePages?
Of all the places I received offers from, WhitePages had the best company goals, people, methodologies, and workplace.
As a top website, with consumer-oriented products, WhitePages’ goal for creating effective user experience on a huge scale matched my hunger for impact and passion for creating useful, interactive software.
The people at WhitePages were the most diverse and passionate of all the offices I visited. It was easiest to ask them the most questions. WhitePages has a very flat organization, which gave me the opportunity to see how the business works, and meet most everybody in the company – around 120 people. In fact, the CEO is now the business owner of my team!
Some places choose to use their own tools, frameworks, and technologies to write software. An important part of my decision to work at WhitePages was the commitment to cutting-edge, community-standard technologies like Ruby on Rails, jQuery, and agile development. Coming from the routine of quarter-long school projects in groups of 5-6, I felt right at home in my agile sprint team of 3 engineers (front-end and back-end), tech lead, two designers, and program manager. Small sprint teams and quick iterations of one or two weeks made it seem like I could get the most done at WhitePages. And I do! WhitePages releases new code live at least once a week!
And finally, the environment at the WhitePages office just blew me away. It has the feel of a creative architecture studio, featuring an open layout and no workstations – only laptops. People migrate from place to place to work with coworkers, or to get a snack. It is every bit as bright and playful as one might imagine kindergarten-colored Google to be. When I first started work, I didn’t feel old or accomplished enough to be working downtown, on the 16th floor of a recognizable building in the Seattle skyline.
How I know I made the right decision
As soon as I started at WhitePages in August, I knew I had made the right decision. I joined what is called the core-site team, who, along with other front-end work, is responsible for the look and feel of WhitePages’ most used services: people search, reverse phone search, and reverse address search. Since I started, I’ve participated in several large projects centered on increasing traffic and improving the user experience of our homepage, and people search results. I was personally responsible for implementing a new URL-scheme for our people search result pages:
With Hiya and Coresite projects, I have received my wish to work on something shiny, new, useful, and all-about-user-experience. The value of my contributions has been instantly noticed, both by my peers and managers. I am excited for my future in this rapidly growing company, and take ownership in the projects I work on, because I know that WhitePages really does depend on me!