Working at Sift Science: The Sifty Culture Edition
By Emily Chin /
17 Sep 2015
So, you’re interested in interviewing at Sift Science. Yay! We’re so excited to meet all of our awesome candidates, and growing our team is important to our company and our culture. We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions that we get from candidates about the environment at Sift Science, and here are the answers straight from our Sifties.
Q: How did Sift Science start? What’s your founder’s philosophy?
A: by Jason Tan, Founder and CEO
At the beginning of Y Combinator, we brainstormed several business ideas – some enterprise, some consumer. We observed that tech giants like Google and Amazon have armies of engineers dedicated to building world-class systems to protect themselves from bad actors that commit credit card fraud, spam, click fraud, account takeovers. But, most online businesses can barely even recruit one engineer to work on their homepage or checkout page, much less an anti-fraud system. We thought, why not democratize that sophisticated technology?
My personal reason for starting a company is quite selfish. I believe that it’s impossible to separate our work and personal lives. We spend 8, 10, 12 hours at the office with our coworkers. We should surround ourselves with people that challenge us, that we enjoy solving difficult problems with, that we can learn from, that we enjoy seeing every day. Life is short. Starting a company gives me control over who I get to work with 🙂
Q: Can you tell me about Sift Science’s products?
A: by Yoav Schatzberg, Solutions Engineer
Sift Science provides businesses with a powerful tool to fight fraud with incredible accuracy, detecting everything from transactional fraud from stolen credit cards or phishing scams from fake postings. Our product takes in data and examples of good and bad behavior from customers, sifts through it, and then finds the patterns which are associated with fraud. We build a custom predictive fraud model for each customer, and are using our network of customers to help improve score accuracy for every customer, so that every new Sift Science customer benefits automatically.
Q: What excites you the most about being a part of Sift Science?
A: by Jonathan Hsieh, Product Marketing Associate
I’m excited to be a part of Sift Science because we’re actually making a positive impact for online businesses and improving the world for businesses and customers. We want to make it so that any company can easily get started and stop fraud regardless of their business size or budget.
Additionally, we’ve got a great team of extremely smart, fun, motivated, and humble people at Sift Science which honestly makes it a great experience to come into work every morning. All of my Sift co-workers are great people who I enjoy interacting with both in and out of the office, and it’s an amazing journey to be building Sift Science with such an amazing team. Also, how many jobs are there where you can say that you’re actually fighting fraud and stopping crime on a daily basis?
Q: What are some of the challenges of working at Sift and how do you work through those?
A: by Taylor Lentz, Software Engineer
Sift Science is at an exciting stage where we are constantly growing and changing as a company. This means that structure, teams, roles, and responsibilities have a tendency to regularly change. Sometimes it can be difficult to adapt to changing priorities and responsibilities but I have found that maintaining open lines of communication at a team-level, and company-wide help these transition periods go more smoothly. Flexibility and embracing change, even when changes don’t work perfectly the first, second, nth iteration are important tools to succeed in this environment.
Q: I’m worried about joining a start-up and the lack of stability. Is this something that worries you or other Sifties?
A: Erica Schild, Business Associate
That’s a totally valid concern. First of all, startups aren’t the right choice for everyone, and that’s totally fine. Don’t join one if you’re not comfortable with the risks associated with it.
I joined Sift from a much larger company and my job was very stable. I liked my job, but wanted more ownership of my work. Having never worked for a technology startup before, I did my due diligence on Sift and the rewards outweighed the risks. Here’s how I thought it through:
Do I deal well with uncertainty and limited supervision?
You may not know the answer to this question right now, and that’s OK. Just know that at a startup, you will frequently have to figure things out independently. As the startup grows, certain operations may become more structured.
What’s the product?
I was immediately attracted to Sift’s product. I liked how it helped merchants and in some cases, saved merchants’ businesses. I liked how it used technology to make fraud analyst’s lives easier and less manual.
How competitive is the product? How much demand is there for it?
Sift has a lot of competitors. During the interview process, ask Sifties who our competitors are and how we feel about them. Also, ask yourself “would I use the product?” If the answer is no, think carefully about why you’re joining the company.
Additionally, all of the Sifties were very hospitable to me throughout the decision making process. I loved the company culture and knew that while I would be taking a risk, I’d be in a job that challenged me and get to work with a kind and incredibly smart group of people. Over a year later, I’m still loving it. 🙂
Q: I’ve worked at some companies where I just didn’t fit in with the culture. What is Sift’s culture like? What makes it special?
A: by Emily Chin, Brand Manager
Sift’s culture is exceptional. As with anything, though, meeting us and hanging out with us for a few hours is how you’ll determine if you like and feel comfortable with siftiness. My absolute favorite description of the people that populate Sift Science is brilliant but humble. The funny thing is, no one at Sift would ever describe him or herself as brilliant. But every person truly is, and Sift truly values every person that walks through our doors. Whether visiting for one hour or staying for years, the respect and consideration that every person (and dogs are always welcome) gets is really ingrained and inspiring.
Q: What kind of people really thrive at Sift?
A: by Liz Young, Talent Manager
We are collaborative, humble, down to earth, and respectful people in our personal and professional lives. That is the foundation that makes Sift such an amazing place to work. But, to thrive in any start-up environment you need to be comfortable with some level of ambiguity. We combat that ambiguity by communicating directly with each other and giving feedback when needed to each other and the leadership. Given an ambiguous task, we flex our creative problem solving skills and work collaboratively to push projects forward. We are at our best when we act like owners. People who thrive at Sift know that we will make mistakes as a company but we will learn from those mistakes and be better for it.
Q: It’s really important to me to be on a team that is able to support cross collaboration. Does Sift fit this bill?
A: by Tony Chu, Designer
Yes! Sift prides itself on having collaboration built into our process, and instilled in our culture. In terms of process, our team collaborates at every stage of our product and engineering processes. At the beginning of a quarter, pairs of teams would sit together and discuss areas of improvement from their perspective. These brainstorms feed into what we choose to do each quarter. During the quarter the various teams are diligent about keeping each other in the loop. The product team, for example, holds open product/design critiques where anyone on the team can learn about and give feedback about on-going projects.
More important than just having a process is having a culture for collaboration. Around the office at Sift you’ll regularly see conversations spilling out of Slack channels into the office, as folks from different teams work together to address customer issues or product concerns. Sometimes these conversations blossom into hackathon projects. One internal favorite is the demo console, which came out of a hackathon collaboration between the support team and the design team.
Q: I hear startups have crazy hours and employees never get to go home. Is this true? What are your work hours like?
A: by Kanak Biscuitwala, Software Engineer
My work hours aren’t too different from what they were when I worked at a larger company. I have strict hours for when I can be in the office because I need to catch the train every day, and Sift has been extremely accommodating in terms of providing me with enough time each week to not worry about work. Certainly, at Sift, there is always work to do, and when it can’t wait, there are several options for me to be online at home or on the train to handle critical issues. As an engineer, I am part of an on-call rotation for which I have to be available to resolve production issues, but this is currently one week every three months, and our systems have been getting progressively more stable, which leaves the on-call engineer with fewer issues to resolve on average. Other than those moments though, there is no real expectation to stay connected to work outside of the office.
Q: What does your interview process look like? What do you look for in candidates?
A: by Lynda Phan, Recruiter
Our process is pretty standard but can vary slightly depending on the role. Generally, you will start with an introductory call with the Recruiter where you’ll learn more about Sift and the role. If there is a fit, we’ll schedule you for 1-2 phone interviews. For Internships, if we have collected enough data points from the phone interview, we will make a decision from here. For all industry candidates, we’ll schedule a full day of onsite interviews where you’ll meet 4-5 Sifties plus one executive (our CEO or CTO). Lunch is included in your onsite where you will have the chance to interview us and play ‘2 truths & a lie’ – don’t forget, we are really good at sniffing out false data!
We are a lean team and every hire is critical. We move quickly for a start-up and we look for those who have the tenacity to join us on this adventure. Whether you are interviewing for a Sales, Operations or Engineering role, we look for those who are passionate about Sift’s mission and are excited about diving into the interesting problems that we are trying to solve.