Why Pure

Choosing Pure Over Tech Giants

Four engineers explain the substantial payoffs from making the change.


“You learn so much when you see how your product is being used,” she explains. “In my prior role, the customers were really far away. The level of engagement we have with Pure customers is amazing.”


Introduction

After interning at Google and spending the first four years of her career at Microsoft, joining Pure Storage was a big change for Svitlana Tumanova. As a software engineer, she was initially interested in the chance to help launch FlashBlade™—but quickly realized the product wasn’t the only thing that set Pure apart.

Working directly with customers has been part of Pure’s culture from the beginning, explains Software Architect Neil Vachharajani, who joined from Google when Pure was still in stealth mode. “At first, we thought no one would volunteer to handle escalations,” he recalls. “But so many people signed up, we had to create a formal rotation.”

Firsthand user knowledge is especially powerful because of Pure’s mission. “Customers are paying for what we actually build,” he says. Neil also appreciates that Pure’s product truly improves people’s lives, rather than contributing to the “distraction economy.”

 

Room to move

VP and Chief Architect Rob Lee, who joined Pure after 11 years at Oracle, says mobility also sets Pure apart. “I’ve never seen a company embrace individual career paths the way we do,” he says.  

“In four years, this is my seventh project team,” says Svitlana. “I’ve gone from backend C++ engineer to working with open-source systems and back again. Lots of companies say you can move around, but here, it actually happens.”

Neil initially worked on the FlashArray product and has since explored containerization, scale-out databases, hyper-converged infrastructure, and high-performance storage. He says Pure rejects a common idea that other companies use to limit mobility: people being too valuable to move.

“Your manager’s role isn’t to say whether you can move; it’s to help you figure out when,” he says.

 

People matter

Pure’s embrace of mobility also means everyone on the team works with—and learns from—a diverse set of colleagues. For Software Engineer Costa Sapuntzakis, that diversity provides access to experts he might not get on a larger team.

“Most of the engineers who built Pure are still here,” he says. “When we have questions, we can go to their desks and ask.” Pure also organizes a lecture series where senior engineers often present, to help others learn more about the tech. 

Those interactions are particularly important for early-career engineers. “When you’re just starting to figure out what types of problems you want to solve, it’s so important to be exposed to the right influences,” Neil says. “At Pure, you’re working with high-caliber folks no matter what team you’re on.”

 

Learning opportunities

The product itself also helps young engineers grow. “At Oracle, we were supporting a fairly mature product that had been out for five years. Here, we have multiple products at different stages of the life cycle,” Rob explains. “You can build experience with each stage relatively quickly, which helps ground you as an engineer.”

“We build a lot of things ourselves, so it’s a great environment if you want to learn systems programming,” Costa says. “At the same time, you don’t have to figure out every bug yourself. There’s a lot of support—people helping with infrastructure and processes to speed things up, so we can focus on developing new features.”

To avoid replicating effort, for example, a five-person team developed an analytic system that could alert engineers to duplicate testing failures. “If I ran into something—and didn’t realize  Svitlana was already working on it—I might waste a lot of time trying to re-diagnose,” Rob explains. “Projects that make developers’ lives easier often fall by the wayside at other companies.”

Costa is also overhauling onboarding to help new hires ramp up more quickly. “After a week or two, they’re ready to do their first commit.”

 

Making an impact

“Many features we ship start with an engineer who feels strongly about something,” Rob says. “We have a set of open-source tools that came from an intern project, and now those tools help drive a large portion of our FlashBlade™ business.”

And while much of Pure’s systems-level engineering has its roots in the founding of the company, “There are no sacred cows,” Rob says. “We have to reevaluate our thinking—responsibly but constantly. That’s how we improve.”

 

 

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