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A Builder’s Mentality

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

How to drive a culture of builders inside your company

I am a builder. That would be the title of my movie if someone was ever crazy enough to make a film about me.

Jeff Bezos said it the best. “A builder’s mentality helps us approach big, hard-to-solve opportunities with a humble conviction that success can come through iteration: invent, launch, reinvent, relaunch, start over, rinse, repeat, again and again. They know the path to success is anything but straight.”

I have been a builder since childhood. In grade school, I spent many weekends building small applications and games. I enjoyed creating new things out of objects that were already built. My dad and I would stay up late to watch MacGyver because it fueled my interest in building. I loved how MacGyver developed clever solutions using simple things.

I’ve had the opportunity to build some of the largest organizations inside of AWS and Amazon, from leading engineering for Amazon Prime, to being the GM of AWS IoT. Both roles helped me refine my thinking around a builder's mentality.

Let's peel back what the term builder means—you have pride in what you do, you have an understanding of where you want to go, you feel empowered to do it, and you learn from your customers.

Most of what we built at AWS was based on listening to customers. We asked customers what they wanted, we listened carefully, and determined a plan to thoughtfully unlock value to the customer as fast as possible. However, the biggest home runs for the company were often things that customers didn’t know how to ask for. This is where it’s important to invent on behalf of your customers.

I joined Foursquare in June 2021 as the SVP of Engineering. Foursquare is not only a high-growth company with incredibly smart people working on hard problems, but it also has an executive team that strongly believes in a builder's mentality. Here at Foursquare, we focus on customers, invest for the long-term, empower our teams, and think boldly. Interested to know more? Take a look at my Welcome to Foursquare post.

When you're going through such incredible growth, like we are at Foursquare, you quickly understand that engineering needs to own, solve, and focus on what we do well at this moment and also examine where we need to go.

There's nothing more satisfying as a builder to start with an idea, develop it, ship it to customers in a matter of weeks, and then begin iterating.

At Foursquare, I am working on driving decision-making down to my employees. I want to empower our engineers and engineering leadership to grow their builder’s mentality, look for areas of improvement, and suggest iterations without feedback from other departments. I want them to look at the work they're doing and say, where do we need to go? Do we need to get more efficient at this? Do we need to deliver different types of use cases? Once they’ve answered those questions, we’ll continue building.

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