“Why Coupang?”: A fireside chat with senior Coupang developers
At Coupang, we believe great ideas can come from anywhere. That’s why “Influence without Authority” is an important leadership principle at Coupang, driving our horizontal culture in which colleagues persuade each other by clearly stating their ideas based on data and insights.
We invited Yoon-jung (Amy) Choi, a developer with 17 years of experience, Tae-hoon (Taylor) Lee, a developer with 14 years of experience, and Hang-rae (Henry) Cho, a developer with two years of experience, to share their insights into what it’s really like to work in tech at Coupang. They join us with very different career backgrounds and life experiences, but together in the Coupang Ads organization, they’re building the future of commerce.
(From left to right) Amy, Taylor, and Henry
Please introduce yourself. What kind of work do you do at Coupang?
Amy: Hello, I’m Amy. I joined Coupang last February. At Coupang, I lead the Coupang Ads platform, particularly the two teams in charge of the content management platform and reporting.
Taylor: Hello, my name is Taylor, and I’ve been working at Coupang for about seven years. It’s already been 14 years since I began working as a developer. I’m currently working as a backend engineer at Coupang.
Henry: Hi, I’m Henry, and I’m a front-end engineer. I joined the company in December 2020 and just passed my two-year anniversary. Coupang is my first company. I develop services related to landing pages for promotional sales events and product detail pages.
How did you all join Coupang?
Amy: When I came into Coupang, my goal was to create a successful business by developing products that truly satisfy customers. I started in development because of the joy of delivering new products to users and have been doing that for 17 years. I can say that Coupang was the company most aligned with that goal.
Taylor: I thought a lot about culture. I asked myself where I could take initiative and work as a developer in a horizontal and free culture, and where I could grow. Coupang was the answer. I also thought there must have been a reason for Coupang’s rocket growth.
Henry When I applied, it was 2020, when Coupang was growing explosively. I was looking for a place where the company and I could grow together, and I decided that was Coupang.
What’s it like now that you’re here? What was the most impressive thing?
Taylor: What was most impressive was that all priorities were aligned with the principle of “Wow the Customer.” Other companies blamed the people when there was a system failure. They spent a lot of time seeking out the person in charge and interrogating them. However, Coupang focuses on quickly finding the cause and supplementing the system, because It’s more important for customers not to face the same problem. Everyone at Coupang knows that software can’t be perfect.
Amy: I think that the scope of opportunities that this company provides is limitless in that it handles huge amounts of traffic. I led the development of Coupang’s iPhone 14 pre-order service this year. At the time, I experienced enduring hundreds of thousands of visitors per minute. All the people involved gathered in the room to watch the progress and respond all night. I think I could have such a special experience as an engineer because I worked at Coupang.
In addition, I was worried about whether I could adapt well to Coupang, which is highly sophisticated in software development, while also raising children. However, my worries proved unnecessary. I’m doing well in my work while raising children. I wasn’t alone, and I found out that there were many other female engineers and leaders in the company.
Henry, after joining the company, did you find anything different from what you expected when you were a student?
Henry: When I first started studying development, I made some demo pages and thought, "I don’t think it’s that hard to make a service." To take Coupang as an example, I thought this because I thought that Coupang only had the Coupang app. But as soon as I joined, I realized that this misunderstanding was possible because I was a junior (laughs). As the service becomes more advanced, there are various microservices, and as the number of users increases, this cannot be maintained with a simple structure. So, I think it’s important to gain experience in companies with advanced technology like Coupang.
Taylor: Constructing a multi-floor building is harder than constructing a one-story house, because it must withstand the load stably. But that’s what happens here. Also, as the scale grows, the speed of business tends to slow down, but I think it’s amazing that Coupang still runs quickly.
How about the developers you work with?
Amy: It’s a virtuous cycle. To my knowledge, Coupang is famous in the industry for its high recruitment standards. Since only those who pass this high standard join, it’s inevitable that you’ll keep learning new things after you join. Although I’ve been doing this for 17 years now, I still have to keep studying and studying. I think working together here, whether you are a junior or senior developer, creates good synergy.
Taylor: There’s something we say among ourselves, which is that there’s no incompetent Coupang developer. They are already great developers, but the thing is that they never stop growing. I think I’m working with incredible developers.
Is it easy to communicate with people doing other jobs or in different teams?
Henry: Yes, the work isn’t divided here like, "I’m development, you’re planning, and you’re design." The important thing is to create a service that’s easy for customers to use. Even if we as developers give opinions on planning or UX/UI, the other teams listen to us. So, when people doing other jobs share their thoughts, we developers also try to incorporate them as much as possible, rather than saying no. I like this atmosphere where we can freely give and receive feedback. At the end of the day, user-friendly services come from this kind of environment.
Amy: When I worked with the business teams, Henry shared a lot of opinions, and many of them were applied to the service. Actually, these are difficult things for junior developers to do at other companies. However, at Coupang, people can give opinions that affect the product regardless of how many years they have been doing the work, and if it is a convincing proposal, it can be reflected in the services.
Do you get to work with overseas developers often?
Taylor: We do. We also have a development team in the U.S. and China. In particular, I heard that the U.S. advertising market is No. 1 in the world in terms of size and technology. So, American developers in the field of advertising technology have a lot of development experience that’s hard to get in Korea. As a Korean developer, working with them and accessing their know-how and technology is helping me grow.
How do you usually work together? I imagine things like the time difference and language would be an issue.
Taylor: I don’t think there’s a big difference from working with a Korean developer except for the time difference. Our work system is flexible, so even the time difference is not a big problem. Usually, in other companies, you have to speak English when you work with people from other countries, but here we don’t. There are English, Korean, and Chinese interpreters and translators in the company, and they provide interpretation support if you request it in advance. The tools for development collaboration are all there—all you have to do is do well in your work.
Finally, do you have anything to share with developers who are considering working at Coupang?
Taylor: From the developer’s point of view, companies can be broadly divided into two groups: those where you must develop only according to the given plan, and those where developers participate together from the planning stage. For me, Coupang’s major strength is that we can make products together from the planning stage. That’s why I’ve been working here for seven years. This style of work is closely related to the in-house development culture, so it’s hard to know until you join the company. So, if you want to take the initiative in creating a product, I’d say that Coupang is a company that allows you to do that.
Henry: From a junior developer’s point of view, I think the most important thing is to find the place where you can grow. After all, developers’ assets are their technical skills. Starting with AWS, Coupang is quickly introducing and applying various platforms such as various CI/CD tools and code review tools, and I don’t think there are many companies other than Coupang where you can do advanced work with many different tools. So, Coupang is a place where you can work from a broader perspective.
Amy: I want to tell senior developers that if they decide to challenge themselves, they can do that at Coupang. It’s not easy for engineers with many years of experience like me to make a move for growth. But when senior developers come to Coupang with their rich experiences, they will see their experiences reflected. Coupang is a company that’s not afraid of trying new things.
I found a new engineering life, my second wind, at Coupang. So, I want to say that Coupang is not only a good company for junior developers as a company where they can grow, but also a company that even senior developers can consider for their growth.
This article is from the Coupang Newsroom and to read more please visit here.