4 years of small steps

Today is the start of my 5th year at Intercom 🎉. All great journeys begin with small steps; in my case, it started with a catchup over coffee with Eoghan in a freezing cafe on Barrow Street in December 2011, that led to me resigning from Amazon, followed shortly by shipping my first pull request at Intercom.

I look back fondly on that pull request as a reminder of some of the great things about the folks at Intercom.

I was influenced by many positive habits and processes at previous companies like Amazon. One of them was tool-supported code reviews. GitHub enables a great workflow for this using pull requests. My philosophies on building software stem from the simple idea that every change is an opportunity to learn something and to improve what we’ve got. Code reviews do exactly that. They give my colleagues and me the opportunity to learn about the changes we’re making, and to learn about new or better approaches to solving some problem or making some change. They're an amazing tool that help up both improve our codebase and get better as engineers with every single change.

I was pleased, but not at all surprised by Ciaran’s response on the pull request. It was in this moment I knew I was joining people who cared deeply about not just what we ship, but also how we work, and what we value. Ciaran didn’t approve it because he liked pull requests, or was a fan of GitHub, he approved it because he shares a mindset where open, respectful and critical feedback is a good thing, and is embraced by our culture. Pull requests are just the tip of the iceberg, and it reflects our collective growth mindset - we always want to be better.

Back then it was 6 of us, now it’s over 200, each still embodying that same spirit, fighting to make how we work better each day - our engineering values have helped us grow a phenomenal team over the last 4 years. Long may it continue.

Ever since that day, pull requests (now over 50,000 and counting) have formed a core part of how we build software at Intercom. Soon after we went much further, and with continuous integration and our own infrastructure automation and continuous deployment tool, made it that, once we clicked merge, our changes went to production within minutes. That has had profound influence on our ability to build and iterate our product, and on our company culture as a whole.

It's amazing what can be achieved with four years of small steps. What small step are you going to take next?