Ed Bridges, Director of Engineering, Mobile
What was your path to engineering?
I took a circuitous path to my first job as a software engineer in 1996. Prior to that I was working primarily as a freelance photographer and a variety of part-time jobs, including as an assistant to a writer on photography, and as a preparator at the Museum of Natural History. My first eye-opening encounter with computers and the web occurred a couple of years prior to that at the Museum.
What exactly does a preparator do?
I was a preparator in the Department of Entomology for about five years, working for the Fly Curator (seriously). In that capacity, I basically stuck pins in fruit flies and lined them up in little boxes with styrofoam bottoms. Though it was low paying, I had many perks with that job, including a darkroom and other support as a photographer, my own office, and a very flexible schedule. One of the best perks, though, was 24-hour access to the museum. Ask me sometime about the cabinet full of mummy heads that I found!
That said, it was a wonderful opportunity to spend time with world-class scientists and to be exposed to a lot of different perspectives around the natural sciences. During my time there, the scientific community (and the museum especially) was undergoing a controversial shift toward relying on genetics in the classification of natural life, rather than morphology. Being able to talk informally over coffee or lunch with these people was truly a unique lifetime experience.
What’s important to you when building out your teams?
Finding people who love to make things and enjoy sharing what they do with the world.
In the past two years, the mobile team has roughly tripled in size. What kind of challenges were there in growing the team so rapidly, and how did you confront them?
The first big challenge I faced was doing one-on-one meetings with up to 10 people every week, in addition to other mounting responsibilities. To manage that, I kept a lot of notes and further delegated other things that I needed to get done. However, I realized that I was not truly serving each person as best I could. Also, I found that I was getting in the way of people growing their own careers, and began finding that I could help them better by understanding more of what their expectations for growth were.
The next biggest challenge was figuring out a way to evolve into multiple teams rather than one monolithic team. Fortunately, we were small enough to involve everyone in the decision, leading to a number of interesting and challenging conversations. The hallmark achievement of this group of people I work with is superb camaraderie, the ability to collaborate, and a deep respect for each other. I’m proud to say that that is what carried the day and ultimately prevailed.
How do you see the role of the mobile team at Squarespace changing over the next couple of years?
Why would someone, if given the opportunity to manage their website wherever they choose, opt to do it sitting at a desk in front of a keyboard? Our mission is to continually make it easier for people to work where it’s most convenient for them.
As more of our customers depend on using mobile devices to build their brand, we’ll be there to support them to do their work wherever they are.
What’s the thing you like most about what you do?
Working with people who deeply care about what they make.
How do you measure success?
I believe that success is an indication for how rewarding and enjoyable the ways you spend your time are. Finding activities that are engrossing, where the time just passes unnoticed, are the most rewarding for me. This was an insight I had early in my career when I would spend very long blocks of time photographing or working in a darkroom. What has stayed with me is searching out the activities that capture my attention in that way.
Becoming more important over the years is spending more time with family and friends rather than only being engrossed in my own interests. Having someone to share those interests with and seeing their enjoyment is far more rewarding.
You have two young daughters. What do they think you do everyday?
Haha! My younger daughter, when asked, confessed that she had no idea and had never given it a thought. My older daughter hit things pretty much spot on, saying that I eat lots of snacks, hang out with fun people, and write Python all day (which she’s currently studying at school). I wish I spent as much time writing Python as I spend with fun people here ... not to mention eating snacks :-)
What is your superpower?
I can wake up in the morning without an alarm. I really don’t know why. Unless it’s a really early time (e.g., 4 or 5 am). I just tell myself I need to be awake at a certain time when I go to bed, and somehow my body understands that and I wake up.
Is there a superpower you try and cultivate in others?
Listening and empathy. But first, I need to be better at that myself.
Can you tell us about your connection to photography?
I love looking at photos—not just my own or my friends’, but I have a deep appreciation for the history of photography and all the great work that has been done before me. My favorite photographers are J.H. Lartigue, Alfred Stieglitz, André Kertész, Graciela Iturbide, and Josef Sudek.
Generally though, I enjoy how photographs lure you into the belief that you’re looking at an object or scene that appears real or documented; yet you know that the photographer had crafted the image to appear the way it did and they’re sharing a very personal way of seeing with you.
My father first taught me how to use a camera and make images; and, later, I worked for five years for a writer on photography and spent a lot of time reading about the history and philosophy of photography. These were very significant formative experiences for me that I still carry with me years later.
These days my favorite camera is the one in the Google Pixel phone, haha. About a year ago, I borrowed the Hasselblad that was in one of our meeting rooms, bought film for it, and took a bunch of pictures of the team. Hasselblads are a real pleasure to hold and work with. It’s real easy to appreciate the workmanship and engineering that went into crafting them.