Data cloud computing company, Snowflake, made the announcement last year that it would be establishing one of five global engineering hubs here in Toronto.
I checked in with Toronto’s Site Lead & Engineering Director, Qaiser Habib, to see how things were going. With layoffs happening around the world, Snowflake is still in hiring mode and currently has several exciting engineering positions available at its Toronto office.
Qaiser, can you start by describing Snowflake and telling us a bit about what the new office in Toronto is all about?
QH: Founded in 2012, Snowflake has been on a 10-year mission to disrupt the world through the use of data. Over the years, Snowflake has evolved to become the Data Cloud, a global network where Snowflake customers, partners, and data providers can break down data silos and derive value from rapidly growing data sets in secure, governed, and compliant ways.
Through times of astronomic growth, Snowflake has remained rooted as an engineering-first organization. We’ve delivered massive innovations that have foundationally disrupted data analytics in 2014, data collaboration in 2018, and now we’re zeroed in on disrupting application development. The Toronto office is one of five global Snowflake Engineering Hubs, and is home to driving this vision forward through Snowflake’s Native Application Framework. This is a game-changing product that allows developers to build and run their applications natively in the Snowflake Data Cloud, and then monetize these apps to thousands of Snowflake customers on Snowflake Marketplace. The Snowflake Data Cloud is quickly becoming the place for developers to build their data-intensive apps, and it’s great to see Snowflake’s Canadian engineering team supporting this important milestone.
With so many fantastic tech hubs in North America (and around the world) why Toronto? What was it about our city that drew the company here?
QH: Toronto is ranked one of the top three best tech hubs in the world, and I truly believe that Canada is the leading destination for tech workers due to its excellent diversity and a culture that nurtures innovation. Building our office in Toronto not only allows us to tap into the world-class talent pool that calls this region home, but enables us to build strong relationships with the local tech community and some of the top universities in the Ontario region. The Toronto office will also allow us to better serve our growing Canadian customer base and partner ecosystem, extending the power of the Data Cloud and breaking down organizational silos to drive increased value across the market and various industries.
We were at Snowflake’s announcement during Collision last June – how have things been going since then in terms of building out the team? Any big goals for 2023?
QH: Last year at Collision, the team announced Snowflake’s native application vision and the work we’re doing with the Native Application Framework. Since then, we’ve continued to double down on providing our customers and developers with the tools and capabilities needed to eliminate complexity and drive increased productivity with data. This includes announcing the general availability of Snowpark for Python, Snowflake’s integration with Streamlit, and more so developers can bring their data and machine learning models to life as secure, interactive applications — all within Snowflake. Snowflake’s always been a disciplined and responsible company, and 2023 is no different as we continue on this application journey. In doing so, we’re continuing to hire more engineers throughout the year to contribute to Snowflake’s mission. While some companies may be slowing hiring, Snowflake is full steam ahead as we work to build one of the best engineering teams in Canada.
When continuing to build out the team here in Toronto, what sort of positions will you be hiring for? Is there a type of candidate that you really look for in terms of past skills and experiences?
QH: One area we’re really prioritizing hiring in is our engineering practice. When the team meets with potential candidates, we’re really looking for diverse, experienced people who share a rooted passion for disrupting the world through data — in addition to deep expertise in distributed systems and databases. Ideal candidates have hands-on experience building and running large scale cloud-based backend applications, and a hunger for the potential that comes with working at a hyper growth company like Snowflake.
Qaiser, you have had some impressive engineering leadership roles with companies like DoorDash & Amazon; what was it about Snowflake that drew you in?
QH: In my opinion, Snowflake is truly a once in a generation company that not only has an extremely powerful product that customers love, but also a deep engineering culture. Our co-founders, Benoit Dageville and Thiery Cruanes, still code to this day, partnering with engineering and product teams to drive our mission forward.
I also believe that at Snowflake, we hire the most exceptional people in the industry — all of whom are highly empathetic and care about their customers and teammates. For me, this, coupled with the fact that we’re a financially healthy organization with a strong vision and perspective, made the decision a no-brainer.
As you look to add talent to the engineering office, why is now an exciting time to join the team?
QH: The Snowflake Toronto engineering hub is still in its early stage. We have ambitious plans to grow, and engineers joining us today will work on deeply technical, cutting-edge challenges that help shape the vision of the company. In addition, they’ll get the opportunity to become part of the founding team of this site, having a say in how we shape the future, the culture, and Snowflake’s Native Apps Framework.
Can you talk a bit about the company culture at Snowflake; what can potential employees look forward to?
QH: The Snowflake team has asked some teammates to weigh in on their experiences at Snowflake, and what’s ahead:
“You will be part of a company that values you, encourages a collaborative environment, and promotes a culture of embracing each other’s differences.” – Swarna K.
“Great benefits, with work-life balance. An environment fostering inclusion, value, and appreciation with team building activities, company events, and development opportunities.” – Harvinder J.
“Snowflake’s culture is deeply rooted in ‘putting our customers first,’ the first of Snowflake’s core values. This requires deep empathy, which forms the baseline DNA for how Snowflake employees interact with one another, how our leaders make decisions, and the type of talent we hire. Future Snowflakes can expect a deeply technical culture where we do what makes the most logical sense — there is no room for bureaucracy, all of our senior leaders are always accessible and eager for our input. In addition, Snowflake enables its employees to focus on what we as engineers enjoy the most, solving hard problems for our customers.”
Are you able to talk about any interesting projects that an employee might look forward to working on?
QH: Currently, the team in Toronto is focused on building the Naive Application Framework — it is truly a game changer for the Snowflake community as we evolve into a cloud application platform. Much like iOS or Android apps for mobile devices, Snowflake native apps will empower developers to bring compute to their data in the same platform, build complex apps with powerful user interfaces and processing functionalities very easily, and monetize that in the process. We are unlocking a world where huge startups will be built as native apps on our platform. Now, building such a framework requires solving highly complex engineering problems, which to an engineer is always pretty interesting and exciting.
I know the Snowflake brand is an exciting one for all levels, will there be an opportunity for university co-op students or fresh graduates to apply?
QH: Snowflake offers co-op placements and internships, not only in our Toronto office, but throughout the various markets we are in. This gives Snowflake the opportunity to connect with local, talented candidates to potentially bring on board, and help build our team.
How can interested applicants get in touch?
QH: Snowflake’s engineering journey in Toronto is just beginning. Check out our careers page to find out if you might be a good fit for our growing team!
Ellen Mitchell is the Senior Advisor, Talent Partnerships at Toronto Global. Reach out if you are looking to build or scale a team in the Toronto Region.