Spending time with Kurtis

Spending time with Kurtis

Hey there! I’m Kurtis Cheng, Valon’s Director of Engineering. I joined the company in late September 2022, and since then I’ve really hit the ground running. In that time, I’ve also been able to find my stride, create routines in my workflow, and overall set the tone for how I like to interact with others. With all these responsibilities, no day is really ever the same. But for me that’s what makes each one a rewarding experience. To help others get a sense of my life as a Valonian, I’ve organized my thoughts starting from the hiring process and leading up to as recently as when I sat down to write this.

First off, the interview experience with Valon was great! At startups, because of how busy everyone is, one can expect things to be a little hectic. But everyone at Valon was organized, thoughtful, and kind. What I took away from those early interactions was that I got to meet the team and leadership. The overall transparency from Andrew (our CEO) was the thing I liked most—I was really able to dig into the business side of things with him. While learning about the organization, I felt like the process was a two way conversation rather than just another skill assessment.

Now that I’m here, I can definitely say that my management style is partially inspired by how empowered I felt during the hiring process. I enjoy uplifting people and watching them find satisfaction in their work and hit their goals. In addition, I take some of my management principles and philosophies from Netflix where I had so many great mentors. I give my team freedom, while trusting them to make the right decisions. At the same time we practice open and honest communication, continuous feedback, and are always holding each other accountable. Being only four months into the role, I’m still learning how the company works and getting the historical context I need to help my team succeed.

My daily schedule consists of checking in on the most critical projects for the organization, syncing with individuals on the team for career coaching, learning about their team goals, and helping them progress within their management careers.

Most days are busy, but what I appreciate about the company work structure is that we’re encouraged to not schedule any meetings before the afternoon. That means I can take the morning to mentally prepare for the day and set up a clear intention for what I want to achieve (even spending a few minutes taking my dog out for a morning walk gives me a chance to meditate on the rest of the day).

Once the afternoon approaches, I like to spend time between meetings thinking about how to optimize our engineering efforts, organize new initiatives I want to implement, and write up documentation to communicate team priorities with the rest of the company.

I’m definitely motivated by intrinsic growth. Looking back at my various roles, I’ve always thrown myself into the biggest and most exciting challenges I can find because that is where I would learn and grow the most. The best places to learn are where you are surrounded by your peers, teachers, and mentors. That’s why I subscribe so strongly to Netflix’s idea of talent density—because I don’t just learn from my leaders. Some of my most memorable lessons have come from peers and direct reports. If we are part of a super talented collective group then we can all share each other’s learnings and ‘aha’ moments for future successes. Valon stood out to me because they hold everyone accountable to a high standard, but openly work together to deliver maximum value for the company.

‍If you’re interested in joining our team here at Valon, check out some of our job opportunities. Or, if you have any questions about my time here, send me an email at kurtis.cheng@valon.com.