Unify America

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Director of Software Engineering

  • Software Development
  • Full-time
  • Chicago, IL
  • Remote friendly

2022-08-19 19:38:43 UTC

What is Unify America?

Unify America is a nonpartisan nonprofit on a mission to replace politics with problem solving. We are seeking a Director of Software Engineering who will lead our small but mighty (and growing) tech team in developing web-based applications to connect Americans interested in bridging our political divides, participating directly in finding solutions to our country’s challenges, and saving our democracy.

Saving democracy? Seriously?

Reasonable question. We’ll get to that. The ideal candidate is collaborative, adaptive, and excited to lead the development of exquisite interactive experiences. This person will be responsible for the success of Unify America’s tech team, including its people, processes, products, and technology.  You will manage and mentor the team of 4 developers we have in place, as well as hiring to grow the tech team as needed, and will be responsible for the overall tech vision and execution for the organization.

Let’s get back to the saving democracy part.

Think Americans are hopelessly divided? We are on the way to proving that the vast majority of Americans (over 90%) share many of the same goals for the country. If that sounds crazy, then let us give you an example: we demonize each other over gun control legislation, but gun control isn’t the goal, it’s a tactic. Reducing violence is the goal, and most of us want that. We don’t realize that for most political issues we’re just arguing about tactics or even less productively, political personalities.

Our long term quest is ambitious: bringing together thousands (and someday millions) of Americans to replace politics with problem solving.  In other words, to jettison the idea that we can solve our problems by fighting and show that there is a better approach: to deliberate through many possible solutions with our fellow citizens to achieve a goal nearly everyone shares. We are part of a movement called Deliberative Democracy, which has been gestating for decades, and whose time is coming.

...but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step.

Our first program was “The Unify Challenge”, a broad-ranging survey which Americans, from different backgrounds, take together -- two at a time -- via an interactive video conference. We found a real hunger for this kind of experience on college campuses, so we’ve been doing massive “College Bowls” that engage college students in the Challenge en masse (we have 6,000 students from 40 universities who will do the Bowl this September!) Our goal is to invite millions of Americans to take the Unify Challenge and we’ve spent the last year developing technology to scale up to our vision.  But the Unify Challenge is only the beginning of the tech we need to create.  We have not one, but two platforms to build.

That’s where you come in.

Now we need a talented Director of Software Engineering to manage and grow a tech team that can help us move beyond The Unify Challenge, connecting and training Americans through new types of experiences to help them prepare to be citizen decision-makers and organize efforts for collaborating on problem solving. We’re going to get very large groups of citizens of diverse backgrounds together to craft legislation - that’s democracy.  Our approach is not a tech-only approach.  The tech exists to support and facilitate training and the development of authentic human relationships that become a movement.

One platform is a community building site - the home base for the movement. It will combine elements seen on social media sites, games, and organizational tools.  The second platform is a custom video conferencing solution. After the Unify Challenge, much of what we do happens in small groups where people can build real relationships over time -- training, organizing and deliberating to find solutions.  Our founder - who founded Jackbox Games - has a vision for small group experiences online that is dynamic and delightful.

I’m interested. Tell me about the tech.

Of course you’d want to know that! Our frontend framework is React and on the backend we use Python/Django, Postgres, AWS, and Docker.  If that all sounds good to you, read on for the nitty gritty of the role.

The nitty gritty

Specifically, we’re looking for someone who has:

  • 5+ years experience as a developer with at least 2 years running engineering dev teams

  • Advanced skills in software architecture and web application development, preferably  Django/Python, modern Javascript frameworks, and video applications.

  • Worked in multiple domains with diverse exposure to various languages and a strong focus on user experience, strategic tech decision making and product thinking.

  • Big picture system design experience, and the know-how to render the big picture plan into an execution roadmap that gets the plan accomplished

  • Experience running teams/projects using Agile/Kanban methodologies

  • Previous responsibility for scaling software/platforms to accommodate massive growth (we’re at ~10K users today and plan to be at 1M in 3 years)

  • A true respect for QA (understanding of the testing pyramid or willingness to learn it) and a desire to build a culture of quality throughout the tech team

  • Been steeped in best practices - knowing when to add or remove a best practice as a team and product scales - including things like:

    • CI/CD

    • Frameworks

    • Documentation

  • Ideally, experience in IT, DevOps, systems administration, and security (or at least breadth and depth of knowledge around security best practice) - but if you’re missing experience in any of those areas, that’s okay, as long as you have the self-awareness to see your gaps and hire/contract to fill them.

  • Experience guiding the professional development of team members through thoughtful assignment of projects, 1:1s, code reviews, performance feedback, and career growth planning.

  • A successful history of hiring and retaining excellent tech talent.

  • Experience in a start-up and/or non-profit environment - we’re small and scrappy and you need to love working that way.

And on a personality level, we’re looking for the type of person who:

  • Cares about the teams’ professional and personal growth as well as their well being, and is good at gauging burnout and catching it before it becomes an issue on the team (and mentoring team members through it when it’s not caught early enough).

  • Is friendly, humble, tolerant, nondiscriminatory, and respectful of everyone they come in contact with.

  • Both values and practices continued learning, and understands the importance of promoting continued learning within a development team (and throughout the entire organization).

  • Is an excellent technical decision maker: rational, impartial and not ego-driven. Someone who seeks diverse perspectives from the team, encourages bottom-up innovation, and isn’t threatened when the best ideas come from others.

  • Knows how to model and foster calm (and confidence) when the team is working under pressure or on a tight deadline.

  • Is scrupulously honest: someone who doesn't hide problems, but helps the team work through them and learn from them, building a positive, productive culture. 

  • Doesn't always gravitate toward the easiest short-term solution to problems and works cooperatively with Product to establish priorities and functionality. 

  • Understands the importance of, and is skilled at giving tough feedback kindly and with respect for the person who needs to hear the message.

  • Is accountable, responsive and reliable - someone who does what they say they're going to do, is available for consultation, and timely responds to requests from the team and others throughout the organization.

  • Loves inspiring others and encouraging experimentation, and knows how to balance that with the need to deliver products and features on time.

  • Cares deeply about repairing our democracy.  We have a mountain to climb. It is not going to be easy. You need to be invested in the mission on the hard days.

  • Invites and encourages humor within the team, simply because it makes working together more fun.

This sounds like me. How do I apply?.

Great! Upload your resume or point us to your LinkedIn and write us a cover letter. Give us three reasons why you’d be great for the job. We want to include a variety of ideologies on our team -- so, if you like, tell us about your view of the world -- (Liberal? Conservative? Independent? Something else entirely?). Most importantly, be yourself (yes really).