My name is Scott Balentine, and I’m a Software Development Engineer at Yammer. But I wasn’t always an engineer. In fact, just three short years ago, I had never written or even read a single line of code. My journey from knowing nothing about programming to being a productive part of the engineering team is something that I feel couldn’t have been accomplished without the unique culture of mentorship at Yammer.
My story begins fresh out of college. I was in Memphis, 22 years old, and the fresh recipient of a Biological Science degree. I went to school with plans of becoming a veterinarian, but was taking some time off after graduating to decide what I really wanted to do with my life. I had always been very interested in tinkering with computers and social networking, but never really did much more beyond scratching the surface.
Through a series of extremely fortunate events, I met David Sacks, cofounder of Yammer. We spoke about opportunities to join the company. Yammer was just starting up its Customer Success Management (CSM) team, and he thought I was a good fit for the role. After hearing about the vision of the company and the team, I immediately accepted the offer and started to plan our move to San Francisco. My wife and I were newlyweds, and had just experience our very first plane ride ever, for our honeymoon. Neither of us was very well-travelled, and the vast majority of our family and friends lived within a hundred miles of us. Despite all of this, we took the very scary leap of faith into California to begin my first job at Yammer.
Customer Success Manager (CSM)
The job of a CSM is to make sure our customers get as much value out of the product as possible. This is achieved through working closely with each individual company to see how Yammer can uniquely increase their productivity and communication. While helping customers this way, I was able to see how other companies functioned. Each company had their own strengths and weaknesses, but the most interesting part to me was how vital communication was to the success of the teams I worked with. Companies that used Yammer became more open and transparent. Knowledge was spread more easily than ever before. I knew then that Yammer was something special.
My fellow CSMs (especially Nate Williams and Greg Love) were extremely important to my early growth as a professional. Through watching their excellent example, I quickly became comfortable speaking with people at conferences and discussing company strategy with executives. And at the end of the day, I would still always go back to tinkering away with technology in my free time. I knew I wanted to expand my technical skills, but I was unsure of how to progress. That’s when I reached out to a friend (Ron Blandford) on a more technical team, the Solution Engineers.
Quality Assurance (QA) and Solution Engineer
The Solution Engineer’s responsibility was to help customers with their more technical projects and integrations. Ron and the team lead (Neil McCarthy) decided to start me on the Solution Engineering QA team. This allowed me to help test our integrations while learning about the best way to help customers implement them. After several months of outstanding mentorship from the team, I was able to join the team and began traveling around the country helping customers again (even some of the same ones!), except now as their technical resource.
This team is where I got my first exposure to programming. Many customers wanted to use our API to gain further functionality beyond what our integrations had to offer. As the technical resource for the customer, it was up to me to understand our API documentation enough to help them out. I started building small scripts and applications to enhance my understanding. Yammer has an amazing tradition of epic quarterly Hack Days, which I would participate in to augment the knowledge I was gaining helping customers. Again, colleagues at Yammer were more than eager to help me build up my technical skills, and after participating in a couple of Hack Days, I knew my true passion was programming. Once again Yammer proved to be an excellent place to find mentorship as Alex Annese asked me to join his team, the Application Support Engineers.
Application Support Engineer and Software Development Engineer
The Application Support Engineer’s responsibility was to fix data issues and to make sure these issues were reported to the correct product engineer to improve or fix. We also built internal tools that could provide teams with more insight into data issues and even resolve them without any coding knowledge. My colleague (Ben Freeman) was an incredible mentor for me as I began to understand more and more of what it was going to take to start developing features at Yammer.
After another year, I finally arrived at where I am today: Software Development Engineer. I brought with me all of the knowledge and experience from my various roles, and I feel like it allows me a unique customer perspective as an engineer. Of course, I still have an incredible amount to learn, but I’m extremely grateful that I work at a company which embraces mentorship and career flexibility the way Yammer does. Recently, I completed my first project and shipped my first features to millions of Yammer users. It’s an incredible feeling.
Just to prove that I’m not a unique case at Yammer, everyone I mentioned in this blog post is still here doing amazing work in COMPLETELY different roles from when we met. They’ve expanded into Product Management, Business Development, QA Management, and the list goes on. I’m so proud to be a part of a culture that can provide so much personal growth in such a small amount of time.
What’s next for me? I’m hoping to do what I can to keep the culture of mentorship alive and well by helping others on their journey to whatever career they are pursuing at Yammer. My colleagues at Yammer have given me an incredible gift, and the best thing I can do for Yammer is to continue to share it with others.
If my experience sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, why don’t you come join us?