October 17, 2018

Why I joined Apollo

Claire Hough
Community

We’re proud to introduce Claire Hough as our new VP of Engineering. Claire joins Apollo with over 20 years of experience building impactful and inclusive engineering teams at Udemy and Napster. She will be responsible for leading our engineering efforts and ensuring that Apollo continues to help developers build great apps. Please read this post from Claire outlining her vision for Apollo Engineering and help me welcome her to the Apollo community!

— Matt DeBergalis, Founder & VP of R&D


Today, I join the Apollo team with humility, excitement, and resolve.

When Chris Shaw, Apollo’s Head of People Operations, reached out to me several weeks ago on a Sunday morning, I wasn’t expecting the conversation to be much more than an executive recruiter call. He and I had a much deeper discussion for over an hour that centered on Apollo’s culture of kindness and transparency. It ended with me receiving an invite to their team event, where I was able to experience the company’s culture for the first time. I immediately felt included by the team, and it was apparent everyone at Apollo loved their work and the company of their teammates.

As I continued my conversations with Geoff and Matt and the engineering leadership team, I was struck in awe by what the team and the community behind Apollo had accomplished to date and what they are striving to achieve. I was humbled when I was offered the position to lead engineering at Apollo.

The developer tools space is new to me, but I bring enthusiasm and a love of learning to Apollo. One of the most important lessons I learned over the years leading teams at Netscape, Napster, Nextag, and Udemy is to adopt a growth mindset and always be ready to learn new things. Without this approach, I don’t think I would have had the career I’ve had. I still consider myself to be a “work-in-progress” continually trying to figure out how best to serve my teams.

As an engineering leader, I strive to create a great work environment where everyone can do their best work while contributing to the organization’s mission and vision. Living up to this statement can be overwhelming, perhaps even unattainable at times. But, I look at this as part of the learning journey.

I believe creating a great work environment starts with a psychologically safe work environment.

Creating such an atmosphere is not easy. It takes each person on the team investing in building personal relationships and committing to a journey of broadening awareness while always acting with the best intentions. When everyone feels their unique set of identities, experiences, ideas, and talents are embraced and valued by the team, they are more likely to speak up, engage with teammates, and take risks to achieve greater things.

Psychological safety is also essential in building and serving more diverse and inclusive communities around us. Having meaningful conversations, expanding our understanding of all groups especially those from underserved communities, and practicing allyship whenever possible are small actions we can take to promote diversity and inclusion in our community.

In addition to a psychologically safe work environment, engineers do their best work when they have the full context of the problems they are trying to solve. I consider Product, Design, and Engineering to be one team working toward creating the best possible products and services for their users. One of the attractions of joining Apollo is that we have access to direct feedback from our customers and the GraphQL community, who are also a part of our extended team.

Developers’ ability to do their best work also is directly linked to the quality of the code base, development processes, and development tools. I believe in thoughtful, purposeful, and prompt actions when it comes to development.

Consequently, if the code base is outdated and unmanageable, it should be rewritten or refactored back to health. If parts of the development process add no value, we get rid of them. If more consistency and predictability in the process are needed, build them in. If a set of tools allows us to produce higher quality work faster, they should be adopted. I am not trying to make all these actions sound easy; rather, I’m pointing out that these are things we can control. Continuing to evaluate the code base, architecture, development processes, and tools and making prudent investments in these areas are crucial to the success of a fast-growing organization.

As software engineers in the industry where our skills are in demand, we all have choices on how we invest our time and energy. We all want to feel good about what we do, and it starts with choosing a right company whose mission speaks to us personally. When you care about the company’s mission, you are motivated to go the extra mile and feel enriched every day.

Early in my conversations with Geoff, CEO of Apollo, he spoke passionately about positively enabling developers to build great apps by lowering the barrier for them to succeed. This mission resonated deeply with me. As a person who cares a lot about developer happiness, working with the Apollo team and the community is a compelling and exciting opportunity.

When I left Udemy in July 2018, I had hoped my next endeavor would include the following attributes:

  1. A mission-driven company serving others
  2. A team embracing diversity, inclusion and belonging
  3. A place where I can continue to learn and grow while contributing to the growth of the team

I found all of them at Apollo. Even though I have much to learn to get up to speed, I come on board eager, committed, and dedicated to helping software developers build awesome applications using GraphQL.


I hope you’ll also join us at the 3rd annual GraphQL Summit on Nov 7–8 in San Francisco. With over 800 attendees expected, it’s the largest GraphQL developer event in the world. Super early bird tickets are selling fast, so register today to reserve your spot!

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Claire Hough

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