My First 100 Days as Bloom’s CTO

Author: Mike Esler

Every blog needs to start somewhere, and as I cross the 100-day mark with Bloom Credit, a recap of those first 100 days – a traditional milestone for leaders in new roles – seems as good a place as any.

Hi, I’m Mike, Bloom Credit’s new CTO. I joined the team in April and am excited to share a bit about what we’ve covered in my first 100 days and where we’re headed.

So, how did we get here?

Like most startups, Bloom’s founding team spent its initial years focused on finding our product market fit: a technology platform that modernizes the tools used by developers and other innovators to work with credit data and expand access to affordable credit. With that established, Bloom Credit’s new CEO asked me to be his technical partner in scaling the business.

I’m very grateful to have joined an Engineering organization full of talented individuals who were well positioned and eager to shift into a higher gear. However, it was very important that anything I introduced honored the culture and complemented what was already working. After taking stock of where we were and aligning on where we wanted to go, I knew the first updates needed to be restructuring our teams and best practices for working together.

Bloom runs lean and supplements with a near-shore engineering team. Interaction was limited and both teams picked up project work when and where they could across the breadth of the Bloom platform, resulting in expensive context-switching that drained productivity. Reorganizing into multiple feature teams composed of both Bloom and near-shore engineers and adopting Large Scale Scrum (LeSS – stay tuned for a future deep dive on the selection and implementation processes) seemed like the logical play. We also created a platform team responsible for infrastructure and the developer toolchain. I was cautiously optimistic and managed expectations – primarily my own – that it could take as long as 2 quarters to know if this was the right move.

It took less than two sprints to see the ROI of our new structure and process: the engineering team delivered some significant new capabilities for our customers, including an MLA Status (Military Lending Act) endpoint, support for Equifax’s Preapproval-of-One workflow, and a refactored Consumer service which will ultimately replace the similar capabilities embedded within both our Data Access and Furnishment APIs. The Platform team also kicked off an evaluation of API gateway solutions and is on track to roll out a solution (synonym) later this quarter that will provide Bloom with additional client access and security controls over our APIs.

We also established an effort to improve our testing capabilities by adopting the Karate test automation framework and Mockoon mock API platform. The team invested in fully implementing DataDog APM tracing for all of our services to improve observability, and adopted env0 to manage and automate our terraform SDLC and then leveraged this to create a new pre-production staging environment.

The most exciting piece of work completed in the first 100 days, however, is the design for version 2 of our Data Access API. Inspired by our definition of what a best-in-class developer experience looks like (again, the subject of a future post), the v2 API will provide a GraphQL interface for reading credit attributes, greatly simplifying the work required by Bloom’s clients to access the data they need, and reducing the number of API calls a typical client needs to make. Both of which will enable our clients to build more powerful and more performant / responsive applications for consumers.

Ultimately, 100 days really isn’t that long; seven sprints can go by very quickly. I had the most anxiety about the impact that reorganizing the teams and adopting LeSS would have, but looking back, four sprints after the change velocity is up and engineers no longer feel a loss of productivity from context switching. Looking ahead, we’ll start to tackle the other initiatives laid out in the 2022 technology plan – including an internal developer portal, and a single pane of glass for observability – while continuing to deliver against the product roadmap.

Stay tuned for more posts, covering both the Bloom Credit platform and the inner workings of the engineering organization. Cheers!

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