Built By Humans

82: CircleCI CEO Jim Rose - putting your humans in the right places

March 3, 2022

Few businesses have grown as unconventionally as CircleCI. CircleCI, a CI/CD platform, experienced numerous product pivots at its beginning, saw key merges with other dev teams, and grew as a small engineering team adopting management and operational roles. On top of that, CircleCI was already a remote environment by the time COVID forced other companies to do the same, and so it went through its own separate set of challenges as the rest of the world shifted. 


CEO Jim Rose joins Scott Britton and Andrei Newman on the Built by Humans Podcast to offer his unique ideas on facing the problems of in-person vs. remote work, building out good software, and seeing the startup world as a journey. Here are some quick takeaways:


  • Transitioning both into and out of a remote working environment can present cultural challenges that weren’t addressed before. Accept that you’ll make mistakes along the way and learn from them as you go - you can’t always please everybody, so it’s important that people trust you to have good intentions for them.
  • Often, the idea you start a business on won’t be the one you end up going with. Especially in the early stages, be open to pivoting focus until you find an idea with good product-market fit.
  • When building out software, keep in mind that many of your problems have already been efficiently solved by other teams. Don’t feel like you have to do everything from scratch - instead, use your needs as opportunities to work with, integrate, and possibly acquire others’ solutions before you resort to building internally.
  • Don’t assume that an employee’s performance issues are their own fault. Instead, view the problem systematically, and keep open communication with them to figure out what role they would work better in. Many times subpar work is simply the result of someone working on the wrong problem.
  • The startup world can be seen as a collection of journeys. While finding early product-market fit and making profit are priorities, having the mindset that it’s all ultimately about the people can be rewarding: without a good team and good friends, even a profitable journey might not feel worth it.


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