Posted on 2016-10-15 Edit on GitHub
A few months ago, I began working for Funding Circle, an online marketplace for small business loans. It's been an interesting experience, but a big culture shock in terms of the company's approach to technology.
Two approaches to technology
My previous employer, Epic, had some ideas about technology that I found hard to swallow. These include:
- Be wary of tech trends
- Use as much in-house technology as possible
- Only get third-party technology when necessary, and only from large, trusted vendors
- Avoid open-source technology
Funding Circle takes a different approach:
- Embrace cutting-edge ideas
- Use open-source technologies
- Get third-party technology from smaller companies (unless it's infrastructure…)
As with most things, there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.
Epic sells software and consulting services to medium and large healthcare organizations. This is a long-term relationship–the time that it takes for an organization to "go live" can be longer than the entire existence of a Bay Area start-up. The relationship will be particularly long-lived given Epic's utter dominance in this sector.
Epic itself has been around since 1979–the same year that VisiCalc was released. The company and its technology have outlived many tech trends, and will no doubt outlive many more. Long after everyone has forgotten what a Docker container is, Epic's Caché-based backend will still be serving the world's largest hospitals.
Funding Circle is competing in a relatively new space: a marketplace for small businesses to get loans online and investors to purchase those loans. The dust has not yet settled in this sector, so "move fast and break things" is a more feasible–perhaps necessary–approach.
The US operation, which was purchased by UK-based Funding Circle a few years ago, has already gone through two tech stacks–first Excel1, then Ruby on Rails. Now we are moving to Clojure2, Kafka, micro-services, etc.–exciting, but perhaps also ephemeral. How long before another tech stack switch? I doubt anyone knows.
Which approach do you prefer?
The approach to technology at a company are dictated by many factors, including the company's longevity, size, and culture.
The approach that a company takes no doubt works for that company, but as a developer, it's worth asking: which approach do you prefer? Would you want to work at an Epic-like company or a Funding Circle-like company?