How to Engineer Culture

Amplitude Co-Founder and Chief Architect Jeffrey Wang offers two ways to invest in company culture through empathy and cross-team relationships.

Inside Amplitude
October 7, 2019
Image of Jeffrey Wang
Jeffrey Wang
Co-founder & Chief Architect
How to Engineer Culture

Company culture is incredibly hard, yet also incredibly important. In the words of Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, “[all other problems] will come and go. But culture is forever.”

I spend a lot of time thinking about our culture at Amplitude. We live by our cultural values (humility, ownership, and growth mindset) and invest in people over everything else. How do we keep our culture and values top of mind as we’re rapidly growing? One thing we’ve found valuable is scaling culture through engineering projects, and I’m going to share two examples.

Creating cross-team empathy

A key part of our culture is building and maintaining strong relationships between different organizations in the company. When engineers have empathy for salespeople, amazing things happen. As with most companies, this was easy in the early days (< 50 people), but we noticed these relationships breaking down as we grew.

In order to strengthen cross-team relationships, we started having regular cross-team lunches on Fridays, where members of different teams would be grouped together and go out for lunch. And to solve this problem without operational overhead, we built a slackbot to coordinate the effort.


Every Thursday, the bot asks you whether you’re available for cross-team lunch the next day. If you respond positively, you’ll get a message the next day with your group.


As an example, this is a lunch group I was in with people from engineering, customer success, sales, recruiting, marketing, and professional services. Not bad! This is incredibly popular with folks at Amplitude–it’s been going strong for three years now. And it has done wonders for strengthening the bonds between teams as well as onboarding new hires.

Knowing the people around you

The next threshold we came up against was Dunbar’s number, at which point people started not knowing each other’s names. Knowing someone’s name builds trust and empathy, which are foundational to working together well. It’s much easier to negatively comment that “an engineer broke the system” rather than “Jeffrey broke the system.”

At our last hackathon, Zach, one of our newer engineers, built a game called “Namenomnom” to help people learn each other’s names at the company. It automatically pulls profiles from Slack to test whether you can match names to faces.


The beauty of Namenomnom is again in its scalability. Because Zach took an engineering mindset to building culture, he was able to help us remember each other’s names without any operational overhead. And he made it super fun!

Culture is everything

At the end of the day, Amplitude is made up of its people. And culture is what makes that group of people work effectively toward a common goal, so it quite literally is everything. We’re fortunate to have found ways to scale that through engineering, but there’s always more work to be done. After all, culture isn’t something you can automate; you have to continue to invest in it. If you know of effective ways to scale culture, we’d love to hear about them!

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

About the Author
Image of Jeffrey Wang
Jeffrey Wang
Co-founder & Chief Architect
Jeffrey owns the infrastructure that enables us to scan billions of events every second. He studied Computer Science at Stanford and brings experience building infrastructure from Palantir and Sumo Logic.
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