November 13, 2023
November 13, 2023

Breaking the Code: Kittl's Recipe for Tech Success

Chido Therisa Nyandoro

In the fast-paced realm of tech, it's not just about code - it's about the buzz, the unity, and the engineering culture that propels us forward! Imagine a place where attitudes and behaviours sync up, driving projects to excellence.

💡 But here's the kicker: it's not all about the code! It's about creating a collective mindset, a shared passion that keeps developers engaged, happy, and inspired. It's the secret sauce for ultimate productivity and top-tier quality!

Our Senior Talent Partner, Chido Nyandoro, had a chat with Philipp Rukin, CTO at Kittl, to uncover their great engineering culture!

What is Kittl?

Kittl isn't just another design platform; we're here to revolutionise the way creators work. Since day one, our mission has been crystal clear: make designing easy and intuitive and provide a real competitor to cumbersome professional-grade tools. Kittl has already attracted over 1 million users and facilitated the creation of more than 10 million designs.

What is your role at Kittl? Any fun facts?

I'm Phil, CTO here at Kittl.

A fun fact would be that in the early days of my career when I was very young and inexperienced, I had a hotkey to deploy to production.

How is the Kittl Engineering team set up currently?

Currently, we have a fairly fullstacky engineering team of 21 in total, including 3 QAs and me. We recently reorged into 5 squads with each squad working on different parts of the product.

We onboarded 8 engineers in the past 6 weeks (which is a lot for us) and we continue to grow. We are also doubling down on our data capabilities and AI, and are getting serious about Product Growth. Currently, we’re still looking for senior PMs and UX/UI Designers, and of course, more engineers.

What is the process for deciding what work gets prioritised?

For the majority of our tasks, we use the impact/effort approach, where tasks with high impact and low effort typically take precedence, while high-effort, low-impact tasks may never see the light of day. We also have something called the "stewardship program."

The name may be a bit silly, but it stuck with us. We have 4 stewards who rotate every 3 months and can dedicate 20% of their time (1 day a week) to work on anything that they think might improve productivity, developer experience, codebase health, and more.

What is a typical day like? Which methodology do you follow?

We use a slightly modified Kanban methodology. We believe in agile but not in scrum, as it tends to focus too much on processes and overlook the essential elements: the people you work with and the product you build together. Regarding the typical day, most engineers can spend the majority of their day focused on work without distractions.

We have just 2 mandatory meetings per week for engineers, "devs weekly" on Monday, and a product meeting on Friday. Any other meetings are set up on a per-need basis. It's important to note that our first company value is "Thoughtful Communication”.

Who is the final decision maker about what the team should be working on?

At Kittl, our process for determining what our team should be working on is a collaborative effort driven by clear evaluation and consensus. Our Product Managers (PMs) play a pivotal role in this process by collecting a spectrum of ideas and meticulously assessing their potential impact on the company. Working in tandem with the engineering team, we then estimate the effort required for each task.

Through this collaborative evaluation, the priorities for our team's work crystallize, ensuring that decisions are well-informed and aligned with our shared goals and objectives. This collaborative approach not only fosters a strong sense of teamwork but also enables us to make informed, data-driven decisions that drive the company forward.

How often do you deploy to production, and what per cent of deployments need hotfixes or are rolled back?

The frequency of deployments varies based on services and current tasks. Usually, we deploy 1-2 times a week. On average, we require a hotfix/rollback every month. We don't take pride in this but treat every case as a learning opportunity to avoid repeating our mistakes in the future.

What's your approach to testing?

We encompass a range of testing, from unit to integration to end-to-end testing. We actively work on increasing test coverage, and whenever a bug surfaces, we add a test to ensure no regression occurs. Additionally, all tasks go through our QA team, which ensures they meet specifications and cover all edge cases.

Can you describe how ownership of projects and tasks is typically distributed within the engineering team?

Ownership of projects and tasks within our engineering team at Kittl is characterised by a dynamic and collaborative approach. A prime example of this is our stewardship program, designed to distribute ownership effectively. The unique aspect of this program is that it isn't a fixed, permanent role; instead, it rotates every three months. This rotation fosters a culture of shared knowledge and diverse problem-solving, as different team members take on the stewardship role and offer fresh perspectives. This approach ensures that no single individual becomes siloed in ownership, promoting a collaborative and adaptable team environment that thrives on diverse insights and innovative solutions.

How much support do devs get here? Do you have code reviews?

Kittl’s approach to supporting developers is rooted in collaboration and rigorous quality control. They strongly encourage their developers to work together when tackling challenges. This collaborative spirit extends to the code review process, where every code change undergoes a comprehensive review by at least one other team member. This practice ensures that the codebase remains of high quality and aligns with their shared standards, while also fostering knowledge sharing and constructive feedback among Kittl’s team members. This is a key element of their commitment to continuous improvement and maintaining the highest level of code integrity.

What was a recent win for you or your team?

At Kittl, it's a challenge to pinpoint a single recent win since our team is continually achieving new milestones. We're in a perpetual cycle of creating cutting-edge features that once seemed like distant dreams. Notable achievements include the introduction of novel AI image generation models, the image vectorization feature, and a mockup feature that enhances our product's capabilities.

On a more personal note, one source of pride for me, as the CTO, is Kittl’s ability to attract and welcome new, exceptional talents to our team, reinforcing our commitment to growth and excellence.

What challenges is your team facing?

We constantly deal with a multitude of challenges, from scaling and optimising our product for the next millions of users to a plain lack of capacity to implement every idea that we have.

How can developers succeed in your teams? What kind of attitude/work ethic can help them succeed in your teams?

First and foremost, never say that something is impossible. We've proven time and time again that everything is possible, albeit with time and effort. After finding a solution, don't settle; there's usually a better one. Don't accept "good enough"; search for "the best." As I mentioned earlier, we value thoughtful communication and feedback, both positive and negative, as they are essential for us to learn from our mistakes and grow personally, professionally, and as a company.

Excited about Kittl's dynamic culture? Discover the open roles and join them in shaping the future of tech and design. Explore opportunities now!

Thank you!

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Your inhouse recruiter on demand

Have an urgent hiring need, but lack the time to find and train recruiters? Let ACELR8 be your recruiting power!

Looking to hire

Hire your executive through our community

Taking the black magic out of executive search.

Looking to hire