Inside Karat


From Founding to Funding: The CTO Journey of an Interview Engineer

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Jason Wodicka

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At Karat, our enduring commitment to our purpose to unlock opportunity is the driving force behind everything we do. A vital part of that purpose is the invaluable contribution of our Interview Engineers, who conduct technical interviews with software engineers worldwide. They not only enhance outcomes for our clients and candidates. They also create pathways for their own personal growth, development, and prosperity.

Ed Clayton epitomizes this journey. He is not only one of Karat’s Interview Engineers; he’s also the co-founder of Devyce, a next-generation business phone provider, and an incredible example of the high-caliber talent that we partner with at Karat. The reason: He is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of a company that secured seed round funding from Y Combinator earlier this year.

We’re thrilled to share Ed’s story as part of a new and ongoing series: “The People Behind the Product” at Karat.

A technologist’s remarkable journey

Like many, I initially joined Karat’s Interview Engineer Community several years ago. Ed, an already experienced and helpful member of that community, left a lasting impression on me. He generously reviewed my interviews and provided valuable guidance to help me improve them. Ed did all of this willingly, and it’s a reflection of his dedication to reshaping tech’s landscape.

His impressive career in tech spans two decades and covers multiple continents. Prior to co-founding Devyce and assuming the role of CTO, Ed built a successful career as a software engineer. Armed with a master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge, he contributed his skills to several companies in the United Kingdom and Vietnam, including G-Research, Softwire, and Nashtech.

The Karat connection

After working full-time in several software engineering roles, Ed transitioned to freelance work. In 2017, during a brief hiatus, he discovered Karat and decided to apply to become an Interview Engineer.

Since joining Karat, his partnership has yielded several significant benefits. Ed says that working with Karat has given him the freedom and flexibility that are essential for building a thriving start-up.

“I get to live where I want and work four days a week,” he enthusiastically shared. “Without this flexibility, I might have been compelled to return to London and accept a full-time job.”

Sharing his start-up journey

In addition to the flexibility, working with Karat has also profoundly influenced Ed’s role as a hiring leader. Having experienced firsthand the considerable effort required to find the highest-quality candidates possible, he has developed unique insights into the challenges of coding assessments.

Based on his wealth of experience, Ed offers insightful advice to software engineers currently interviewing for new roles.

“Take it seriously, but enjoy it,” he said. “Know your questions so you can focus on establishing a great rapport with the candidate. Listen to them and respond — don’t just say the same thing to everyone. Adjust your style to match theirs. If they talk a lot, mirror them and acknowledge what they’re saying.”

Navigating the road ahead

As a CTO and co-founder, Ed’s perspective on finding talent in the start-up landscape is noteworthy. During the start-up phase, he emphasized the importance of focusing heavily on sourcing to find the right hires. While his company now has additional prestige due to its association with Y Combinator, he still finds it challenging to hire solid software engineering talent.

“We end up having to worry about false negatives, rejecting someone who would be great, as well as false positives,” he explained. “If we hire someone and within a three-month period, we find out that they’re not going to work out, we could have a six-month delay before we find someone else. We can’t afford either.”

Ed has discovered that applying what he’s learned from his time as an Interview Engineer at Karat helps solve this hiring challenge. It helps him optimize the time and resources that he does have so he can transform his hiring practices.

“The main thing I’ve taken away is that those really tricking coding challenges don’t work — the ones where you have to spend half the time deriving a great algorithm before ever writing code,” he said. “Karat’s approach seems to strike the right balance. It removes bias from the process as far as possible and tries to give people a good experience so that even if we can’t hire a candidate at the time, we might be able to in the future.”

Ultimately, Ed’s journey from Karat Interview Engineer to Devyce CTO personifies the remarkable opportunity that can be unlocked through commitment and dedication. His insights and experiences provide important lessons for aspiring founders and Interview Engineers alike.

As we continue to feature the outstanding professionals who drive innovation at Karat, we look forward to sharing more stories of success, growth, and transformation.

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