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From the inside

Meet Scott, Software Engineer

Posted by Scott |

I joined Criteo in September 2017 as a Technical Solutions Software Engineer in New York City. After seven months working for a start-up in SoHo, where I was one of two part-time developers, joining a fully staffed and supported team felt like winning the lottery. I wasn’t always a developer. I graduated from university with a business degree and then spent the next seven years working for an international non-profit. While I was passionate about the organization’s mission, I wasn’t passionate about my day to day work. I knew my interests were in the tech industry, and after extensive research, I enrolled in General Assembly’s software engineering bootcamp. A year later, I found myself at Criteo.

Starting on the Technical Solutions team was an ideal role for a programmer with a non-traditional technology background. The bulk of my work at the beginning consisted of maintaining front-end JavaScript integrations for major retailers in North America and Europe. My first Criteo boss, Pierrick Joliveau, encouraged us to take on additional projects (even outside of the Technical Solutions purview), as time and resources allowed.

This enabled me to work on a React project (which is mostly unheard of within Criteo, as our framework of choice is Angular) for the business escalation team so that they could easily manage their on-call schedules. Getting the chance to work on a web application solidified the idea in my mind that I didn’t want to remain on T.S. forever; I loved the challenge of learning new technologies and it was rewarding building and delivering an application.

During my first performance review, Pierrick asked me where I saw my career going within Criteo. Even though I was only three months in, I knew that answer was R&D. I told him that while I really enjoyed the TS team (particularly the people), I craved the challenge of a full-stack role. He was immediately supportive. We set up a timeline as to when a transition could happen, and he encouraged me to drive the process. This taught me my first valuable lesson within Criteo: as an employee, it is your job toadvocate for your ideal career path. A good manager should support the process and do everything in his or her power to make it happen, but the impetus lies on the employee to push for new opportunities. I soon found that a little push was all it took to get the ball rolling.

In January 2019, a little over a year after I had joined the company, I traveled to the Paris office where I had the chance to meet Nicolas Laveau, the head of the WebApps Engineering team. Over coffee, I asked him about a potential transition to R&D. He gave me two options: apply to join the team outright, following the standard Criteo hiring process, or join the team for a month-long voyager.

The idea of voyager immediately appealed to me. The program had traditionally been open to members of the R&D department to take a hiatus from their current role and “voyage” to a different team. The hosting team gets the benefit of an extra pair of hands, while the person “voyaging” learns new skills which they can then bring back to their current team. And if the voyager goes well, there is the option to permanently transfer.  I hadn’t heard of someone from Technical Solutions voyaging to R&D, but with the strong support from both Pierrick and Nicolas, in June 2019 I was on a plane back to Paris to work with the Audience Experience (AXE) team within the WebApps department.

The month was a whirlwind of code, meet-up events (Criteo can put on a great event), and exploring the city that I wanted to make my new home. The AXE team provided me with my first introduction to working on an Angular application. My specific tasks were to migrate the team’s NGXS state management to use NGXS facade, and to implement creative ways to speed up their Cypress end-to-end tests. As these were both new technologies to me, I devoted myself to learning everything I needed to know to make a valuable contribution. As the month was winding down, I reiterated my strong desire to join R&D to the AXE team lead. He assured me that he would be happy to offer me a position on his team as soon as open headcount and resources permitted.

When I returned to New York, I debriefed with my current team and manager. Given that Q4 was our busiest season, it made the most sense for me to stick out the end of the year on the TS team and make my big move in early 2020.

My husband and I with members of my New York team during farewell drinks.
My husband and I with members of my New York team during farewell drinks.

On January 5th, 2020, my husband and I set off with our cat to the airport, and it felt very surreal to be leaving NYC behind after so many years. In the end, it wasn’t a difficult decision. We both felt ready to close the New York chapter of our lives. While we would miss our friends and family, we were excited for what lay ahead. Our first days in Paris were a blur, settling into our temporary housing and commencing the great administrative adventure of registering with the proper French authorities. Criteo supported us throughout the move, which thankfully took away much of the stress associated with moving abroad.

I settled into my new role in R&D’s Acquisition Channels team, which is responsible for creating Criteo’s plugins for eCommerce Platforms so that smaller businesses have easier access to Criteo’s platform. My teammates and new manager greatly facilitated my transition from TS, being there for me to help get me up to speed on the new code base, and to help me navigate the new rules and policies within R&D. Our work environment is highly collaborative, and I am reminded daily that I work with extremely smart, driven, and talented individuals.  Like me, these people love to learn, love to teach, and love to code. It’s exactly the sort of environment I hoped to join.

Some highly distinguished members of the Paris WebApps Engineering team. This photo was taken many hours (and maybe a few drinks) into Criteo’s January 2020 kickoff event.
Some highly distinguished members of the Paris WebApps Engineering team. This photo was taken many hours (and maybe a few drinks) into Criteo’s January 2020 kickoff event.

Six months after moving to Paris, I’m feeling more comfortable as a fully functioning member of Criteo’s R&D team. The transition hasn’t been without its difficulties. Imposter syndrome (especially as a developer with a non-traditional background) can be very real, but the rewards have been well worth it.And this entire process has served as a reminder to me that it’s never too late to change teams, departments, career tracks, or even entire careers. I feel so fortunate to have found a place like Criteo where career growth and continual learning is not only supported by managers, but also is ingrained in Criteo’s internal systems and policies. As a two and a half year Criteo veteran, I feel like I’ve had an adventure of a lifetime. And at the same time, it feels like my Criteo journey has only just begun.


Software Engineer

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