Employer Spotlight - SweetIQ

SweetIQ is one of the top tech companies in Montreal that have shown incredible growth over the past few years. We met with one of the directors to learn more about the company culture, their engineering department, and why they choose to hire DecodeMTL alumni.

Q: Can you talk about SweetIQ and what you do?

A: SweetIQ specializes in local search marketing. That’s the management of brick and mortar location information across the internet. We ensure that if a brand has 50 or more locations, all of the location details are listed accurately and across as many directories as possible. The way we do that is with a complex marketing automation system that does 20 to 30 million crawls a day on the internet, gathers all the information, dumps it into a massive database, and pull out proper listings. Then we manage those listings going forward and we continue to gather and analyze google’s data on those listings.

Our entire stack is in JavaScript and essentially, all the developers that work here are full-stack JS developers that work on both the front-end and the back-end layers.

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Q: Why did you choose full-stack developers instead of specialized teams?

A: When we started we had both a front-end and a back-end team, but it came with a few challenges. In some cases, there was a lack of context and back-end people would build apis that didn’t fit the actual business case we were trying to solve. We also encountered timing issues between the two teams. In the end, we realized that a lot of front-end developers wanted to do more back-end and vice-versa, so everything seemed to point towards building a team of full-stack developers and we chose owners of each layer to manage and review the code.

That’s one of the reasons why we like DecodeMTL so much, because you promote this as well. Your students learn both front-end and back-end material to graduate as full-stack developers.

Q: How many employees does SweetIQ have?

A: The company is about 120 and the Dev team is about 33. Everyone except a few sales people work out of the Montreal office. The entire Dev team is here in Montreal. In the next year, we’re expecting to add another 60-70 members to the company.

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Q: Can you talk about your company culture?

A: I would say we still have a lot of the benefits of being a startup while having a lot of the benefits of being a big company. Whereas we still allow people to work from home, flexible work hours, we are very flexible in the technologies we use, we have very little bureaucracy, and we have a very flat structure - all very much in line with the culture that we had when we were a startup. In fact there are a lot of people that work here that believe we are a startup, even though we’ve gone through an acquisition and have seen so much growth.

We still have that culture of a startup, but now we have the backing of a really large company. We have benefits like solid hardware, benefits in the office such as health insurance, free food, a crazy coffee machine that makes 20-25 kinds of coffee. We even have an office dog, Pseudo, who’s totally adorable.

We also have all the standard party stuff such as summer barbecues, Christmas parties, 5a7s all the time. We even did a Hackathon a couple months ago.

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Q: What differentiate SweetIQ from other tech companies?

A: What I think differentiate us from the other ones is the fact that we are always about using new technologies, prototyping and attempting new things. JavaScript as a community is exploding right now. The fact that our entire stack is Javascript based means that we work with a lot of open source technologies as well. We have team members that built things for the company and we’ve released them to the open source community. Also, our stack is built mainly in microservices which makes them very easy and flexible to update. Therefore, we can use the new frameworks if they are better suited for what we need. This allows our employee to look out for whatever’s new out there. If what they find is the right tool for the right job, we prototype it and put it in production very quickly if it proves itself. That’s really what attracts the most people to work with us since all the stuff mentioned before is pretty much a status quo in the tech industry.

Another interesting aspect of our development team is that we’ve been using JavaScript for a very long time and we started using Node.js almost when it started, so we have employees in the company that are as experienced as you can be with these technologies. They’ve been using Node.js since its existence. It makes them incredible resources of knowledge and coaching for other team members.

Q: Do you have a development or mentorship program for junior developers?

A: We structure the teams whereas there’s always a balance between the seniority of the team members from junior to senior - for every junior there’s at least one senior, for every intermediate, there’s another intermediate or senior. It gives everyone the opportunity to grow and when they get to a certain point it’s their turn to train new employees. SweetIQ is growing quickly and new teams are branching out which provides tons of opportunities to grow within the company.

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Q: How do you select new web developers?

A: I mainly focus on hiring the individual. We try to hire really good people. If they are great, then we find somewhere to put them. At that level, if someone we hire wants to do more UI stuff, then we will try to place that person in a position he or she’s passionate about. We’ve had a lot of movement across our teams, that’s another one of the benefits of having an all JavaScript group. We also have a really strong axe on training and coaching. We even took people from the sales department that started as junior developers and are now intermediates.

Q: What is the hiring process at SweetIQ?

A: If I meet you and within the first interview I think you’re fantastic, you have a good personality, you’re passionate and ambitious, I could make you an offer 10 minutes later. If we have a lot of positions open and a lot of lined-up interviews, we’ll take the time to meet multiple people. Usually, we do a first round of interviews and if you are ready for the second round, we’ll do a technical test. If that goes well, we might hire you right away or invite you for a second interview. However, like I mentioned before, there’s no set rules mentioning you have to go through X steps before you get hired. If we really like you, you could get an offer on the spot.

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Q: How important is hiring for cultural fit?

A: It’s a really big part of it. Because we have a microservice structure, you need to be good at working with other people. There’s nobody here that can work for 3 months on a project isolated. All of the projects require other people’s projects.

Ambition and passion also are two key factors for us. A junior would get a job over a senior if he shows that desire to learn and get things done whereas the senior couldn’t care less if he gets the job or not. There’s a good chance that the junior developer will be more productive than the other candidate.

SweetIQ Offices in Montreal - Area and more

A: We’re located downtown directly connected to the metro and the train. You don’t even have to step outside to get to the office. No one can tell what this building is. It’s super beautiful, but you don’t expect offices to be in here. When we moved in, everything was orange and curved. We had to take down walls - it was awful.

Does each employee have an assigned desk? We keep two to three empty desks in every row so people can move around if they need to. This way, the product owners and designers can sit with the developers.

Where do people go if they want to focus or have a team meeting? We have private pods that you can book to get work done by yourself without being interrupted. We also have meeting rooms and conference rooms for cross-departemental discussions.

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Best place to go nearby for lunch: Queue de Cheval (I like fancy food). There’s also a St-Hubert directly in the building.