Meet Back-end Engineers in E-commerce Engineering — Daniel, Toyo & Toby
The E-commerce Engineering organization is responsible for Coupang App, Coupang Eats, Rocket Fresh, as well as emerging businesses for customers. We create a reliable and convenient shopping experience through our highly productive engineering team.
As the organization is getting larger, each engineer brings their own interesting experiences and have different career stories. Some join the company as new grads and become tech leaders, while we also have engineers worked at big tech companies, even CTOs at start-ups in the U.S. and then take on new challenges at Coupang. Today, we met Daniel, Toyo, and Toby to hear about their journey at Coupang.
Thank you for your time. Please introduce yourself.
Daniel: Hi I am Daniel. I joined Coupang this year as a Director of Engineering for Order & WOW systems. Previously I was a Sr. Manager with a large e-commerce company in the U.S. leading teams working on optimizing fulfillment operations for 60 million packages a day. Before that, I spent four years in Big Tech, leading multiple engineering teams building the location-based services platform for a leading cloud provider. I was also CTO of two startups, one of them sold to Amazon in 2017.
Toby: I am Toby, a Staff Back-end Engineer for the Order Platform team. As a member of the Order team, which is the backbone of a commerce sector, I’m in charge of architecting and developing for business and the platform.
I have been with Coupang for eight years since I joined the company as a new grad through seasonal fresh graduate hiring in 2015. I started out in the Subscribe and Save team where I experienced a vertical business domain, moved to the 3P team that supports various seller businesses, then to the Product Engineering organization at the frontline of customer experience, and to the Q-commerce team of Global Business where I experienced various domains. And now I’m with Order.
Toyo: Hello. I’m a Staff Back-end Engineer working in the Product Onboarding team. I am responsible for developing the retail product registration process. This quarter, I’ve been leading the Member, Order, Auth Session domains in a project to improve the availability of Coupang’s Core CSP services, which was not a product onboarding project. I also joined Coupang as a new grad.
I'm sure all three of you are building good careers, but I'm especially curious about Daniel's role as Director of the Order team.
Daniel: I manage the development of software and operations for the Order systems, a tier 1 system and critical for the company, as we are the bridge between the customer and fulfillment. Here I am responsible for hiring and developing the team, ensuring operational excellence, and building new features to enhance the user experience at Coupang.
Daniel, you worked at big tech companies in the U.S. Now you have moved Korea and joined Coupang. What part of your team appealed to you and made you decide to join?
Daniel: I decided to join Coupang because I wanted to have high impact and be closer to Engineering, rather than too high level. The commitment to the customer experience and steps taken by the leadership to improve the company’s systems were also fundamental for me to make a decision to join. Also, I was previously very deep downstream from the customer, but with Order I am very close to all the action, which is very exciting and challenging.
Toby and Toyo, you both started your careers at Coupang as new grads. Please tell us more about this experience.
Toby: In my junior year of college, I had an opportunity to work as an intern in the U.S.
That’s when I first experienced the e-commerce industry. For a year, I found the industry interesting as I experienced a fast-growing domain that had many touchpoints with customers. After returning to Korea, my friend from college joined Coupang through seasonal recruiting and recommended Coupang as a place where new engineers can learn much more. I applied to Coupang since it is interesting and also has great career potential. Fortunately, I got hired as I had already experienced most of the test problems during my internship, which was lucky.
Toyo: I joined Coupang as a new grad, especially through Coupang’s seasonal fresh graduate hiring in 2014 and worked in the Product Review team to develop review and inquiry related services, and in the Platform team in charge of resource provisioning to manage configurations and set up test zones. I also worked in the Order team to develop Coupang’s order and cancellation processes for over six years, which enabled me to grow with the company from a junior engineer into a tech lead role of the team. I’ve recently moved to the Product Onboarding team, and I’m looking forward to building a new career.
As I worked in my previous team for more than six years, I could gain in-depth domain knowledge of the team and continue to improve myself by solving various technical challenges. However, I wanted to transfer to a different team to take on new challenges and learn new skills as there are many other good teams at Coupang with different businesses and technology stacks.
Coupang offers internal transfer opportunities, and our managers are very encouraging and supportive of engineers’ growth, so there are opportunities to explore new careers.
I often see my coworkers switch teams and this internal transfer system would enable you to acquire a variety of technical and business experiences as an engineer. Thereby helping you to develop your career in the direction you want and that is why I could stay Coupang for such a long time.
Then Daniel, you have experience in other tech companies. What sets Coupang and your team apart from other tech companies in terms of engineering excellence?
Daniel: Coupang is definitely faster than other companies, which makes the life of an SDE in the team very exciting. Engineers need to be in sync with the latest technologies and how to apply them at Coupang to improve the customer experience. It is also a place where priorities change to adapt to the business growth, so we place a premium on flexible engineers who can change context frequently and master different areas of the company.
What is special about working at Coupang as Back-end Engineers?
Toyo: The company provides a great deal of growth opportunities for engineers. You can improve your skills and gain experience by implementing various businesses or solving system problems while taking into consideration how to handle large amounts of traffic and data.
Moreover, I think working with people of different nationalities, not just Koreans, is another great advantage. Communication can be a challenge at first, but you can get used to it day by day and learn and grow by working with people who possess diverse experience and outstanding talent.
Daniel: The special thing about Coupang for SDEs is that everyone is very hands-on. Engineers and the leadership never lose touch with the software development process, which is exciting as there’s always new learnings to be had. Additionally, engineers can make high impact in the business working urgently on projects that directly affect the customer experience, without too much bureaucracy, endless discussions, or impractical roadmaps.
Toby: I would like to introduce the advantage working as an Individual Contributor and growth. There were perspectives and architectures that were suitable for Coupang eight years ago. That has changed entirely over the years with the growth of the company and its business. This pushed me to keep moving forward and grow with a higher bar and broader vision, instead of staying complacent. I was also able to work without getting exhausted in an environment that may seem repetitive for some because the company has encouraged its employees to challenge new domains and expand their knowledge at an organization level.
Currently, Coupang is hiring many Individual Contributors and Software Development Managers. Why do you particularly recommend Coupang to Back-end Engineers?
Toby: Every company has their own problems to solve, but what sets Coupang apart from others the most is its focus on customers when solving problems. We always think about how we can deliver the best solution tailored to each domain, not only for customers who use Coupang App, but also for operators and partner companies. In this process, we meticulously set hypotheses and success metrics for validation purposes. We can clearly see the outcome of the product we had prioritized through feedback. As such, we can always gain learnings from both successes and failures and it is why I recommend Coupang for you to apply.
What kind of talent are you looking for? Do you have any advice for prospective new joiners?
Daniel: We are looking for senior back-end engineers with experience in distributed systems, not necessarily in e-commerce, but systems that have high availability requirements, challenging data processing requirements, and are resilient to failure. The advice is to study patterns for highly available systems, avoidance of data loss, async communication between services, and use of data warehousing for historical data.
Toyo: I think problem-solving skills are the most important quality. If you can dive deep into understanding the problem and identifying its cause, and then come up with a fundamental solution, rather than simply trying to alleviate the immediate situation, you will be able to contribute substantially to the strengthening of Coupang’s system while creating your own growth. I think it would be wise to practice this process regularly because we actually work this way at Coupang as well.
Toby: Some may hesitate to apply wondering - If there anything more I can contribute at Coupang? The company has already gone public so you may wonder - what if there is no more challenge or opportunity to achieve. However, I think Coupang seems to be going through a transition period to make another leap. It has to handle more traffic, have services in new countries and support more businesses. Thus, I believe Coupang is a good environment where you can continue to challenge and grow. If you apply, that will open a new door. There is no need to hesitate and you can just knock on the door any time to start a conversation. Hear our stories then you’ll be able to tell if Coupang could make your heart pound once again.