What I love about working at Twitter

I’ve never been the one with the fancy words and clever insights. My writing is either hastily-scribbled thoughts to myself, or simple language and simple meaning to convey a message. If you’re looking for the poetic literature on this subject, I recommend my colleague Jeremy’s Medium post, “Why I Love Twitter“.

Twitter is the first company I’ve worked for whose product I use every day. I’ve never had that before, and I never realised how significant that is, before this job. It’s incredibly satisfying to work on a website you depend on yourself. It becomes a labour of love.

The Twitter site always appears to be very simple. There’s reliably someone on HackerNews each week claiming they could build it in a day, and before I came here, that could well have been me. Since joining, I’ve learned of the tremendous complexity that underlies essential services, like Twitter, Facebook and Google, to keep them running 24/7. Why is 24/7 just hours and days? It’s not enough. Every second of every year, you expect Twitter to be there when you ask for it.

And at scale! We serve hundreds of millions of users! Our Google Analytics numbers are just ridiculous to browse through. (I’ve wasted hours in those dashboards – hours). I love working at scale. After 16 years building websites, I’ve learned that the most fun work is realtime, scale, and user-focused. The kids say they love Machine Learning and Big Data these days, but they’re honestly missing out. I love the breakneck pace of developing for users, the tension of stability, and the challenges of scale.

When I read the news (BBC), nearly every story mentions Twitter or a Tweet. Everything. Politicians making announcements, or campaigning, or discussing foreign affairs. Celebrities doing whatever it is they do. Every single obituary. It’s the perfect way to get a short soundbite for a story. It’s the source of news on the ground. It’s a direct line to the people who matter. I love that we have this impact.

Nearly everyone, whether they use it or not, has an opinion on Twitter. You should do this, you should do that. Sometimes we agree, and there’s a technical constraint. Sometimes we agree, and we just haven’t got time for that yet. Sometimes we agree and it gets done! I love being on the inside and being able to sway those priorities.

This is, after all, a product I use every day.

For me, one of the perks of the job is little tweaks. I’m not a coder any more, I’m just a manager. But that doesn’t stop me making the *slightest* tweak here, the *slightest* tweak there. Just when I’ve got a free afternoon. Maybe I’ll speed up the page load. Maybe I’ll add another column. It all gets approved by others. There’s nothing underhand. And it’s all small, but I love that power.

When I joined Twitter, I felt incredibly unworthy. I assumed the coders there would be gods, writing these books and building these sites. What I found were humans. Ok, one or two are the exceptional kind, who could rebuild your templating engine in C over the weekend just for kicks, saving the company millions of dollars. But there are also many wonderfully talented normal humans doing great work. And I was proud to join them.

It’s been more than five years since I joined, but the company, the work, the job, the product, the environment, the world. It all keeps changing. A few years ago everyone said we were doomed. Then they said we were amazing. And now they say we’re doomed again. The faces at the top sometimes change. Sometimes often. But the team I work with, the team I build and run. This team is a constant. They’re always doing the best they can to serve our users. To keep the site running, the service alive. To make it better every day.

That is what I love about working at Twitter.