My co-founder Travis Meyer and I were both one year into our careers when it hit us that we would spend the next 40 years using tools such as Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook to map out our time. That felt unacceptable. We wanted to build a productivity tool that’s more thoughtful and intentional so we can live a life that’s more thoughtful and intentional. That’s when we started working on Sunsama.Ashutosh Priyadarshy, Co-Founder, Sunsama
Ashutosh Priyadarshy, founder of Sunsama, and I first met in 2017. At that time, he was building a meeting documentation tool. He soon saw significant churn and realized that users didn’t love the product, so Sunsama pivoted.
Today, Sunsama is a Y Combinator-backed, invite-only daily task manager for busy professionals. Ashutosh says that in conversations with thousands of users, Sunsama found that people know what’s on their calendar, but also want to know how to think about their workday—how to answer the key question “what am I going to do today?”
Sunsama gives users the ability to combine all tasks, meetings, to-dos, and JIRA tickets in a prioritized calendar, enabling professionals to be more mindful of how they spend their time.
In this issue of #BuiltWithMongoDB, Ashutosh and I discuss his journey building Sunsama (including the pivots and successful fundraising) and how his team uses MongoDB to operate more efficiently.
Siya Raj Purohit: How big is Sunsama now?
Ashutosh Priyadarshy: We’re a team of five serving 2,000 active users. We graduated from YC in March 2019 and have since raised $2.4 million in seed money, were featured in TechCrunch and Cheddar, and were voted “Hot Product of the Month” on ProductHunt (read: Sunsama: If Trello & Google Calendar Had a Baby)”).
We’re growing 10 to 15% per month but generally limiting growth via invitations to ensure optimal user experience.
SRP: Why is Sunsama #BuiltWithMongoDB?
AP: We first decided to use MongoDB because a framework we wanted to use (Meteor) was tightly coupled with MongoDB. Our product doesn’t require all of the complexity of other database solutions, and MongoDB felt like a simple way to get started.
Initially, we deployed MongoDB on AWS ourselves. But we’re a tiny team of five people, and it was time-consuming to manage DevOps. Upgrading to MongoDB Atlas was an easy decision because we would rather spend slightly more money and have zero headaches so we can spend all of our time building for customers instead of building for internal tooling and DevOps. As a young team, you just can’t afford to dedicate resources to second-order issues, so outsourcing to MongoDB Atlas made complete sense.
Two or three years ago, we noticed that the MongoDB Atlas ecosystem was maturing beyond other tools out there: MongoDB added search, monitoring, and security features that were easy to set up. The timing was great: we were going through an audit with Google for getting our team integration approved, and Google looked at the entire surface area of the security app. Being able to plug and play—setting up the right type of encryption by just pressing a button—was really nice. We grew into MongoDB’s suite of products, and once we committed, we didn’t want to leave.
SRP: What MongoDB services do you use?
AP: We previously managed our own MongoDB deployment on Amazon EC2, and it was so much overhead. Our customers just wanted the product to work; they didn’t care about how our MongoDB instance was deployed. Thanks to MongoDB Atlas, we can focus on building things customers care about instead of maintaining our database.
MongoDB is also moving in a direction we’re excited about that will provide direct value to our customers, especially with MongoDB 4.2 and the ability to run Elasticsearch queries directly in MongoDB. This means we can further simplify our stack and remove expensive Elasticsearch deployments that we’ve got in AWS and use the simple and clean alternatives MongoDB provides.
Looking to build something cool? Get started with the MongoDB for Startups program.
Engineering for Engineers: How MongoDB’s Culture Enables Engineers to Be Their Very Best
As a leading technology company disrupting the fast-growing database market, MongoDB offers a unique opportunity for ambitious engineers. Here, we’re engineers for engineers, breaking down barriers to entry and enabling all developers — from a teen dabbling in app development to a team lead working at a massive enterprise — to have the tools needed to make their big ideas happen. As an engineer on our team, you have the freedom to solve pain points you’ve likely experienced throughout your career. You also have the freedom to test boundaries and innovate. Curious to know more? Our engineers weigh in. Here’s what to expect when you join our team. Beyond the Database Our goal is to solve interesting problems and empower engineers to see their ideas come to life. We may be in the business of databases, but we’re not limited to it. Dan Pasette, Executive Vice President (EVP) of Core Engineering, shares how engineers at MongoDB can touch all aspects of technology. “Data and databases are at the heart of just about every software application. Thus, engineers at MongoDB are exposed to every sort of application, platform, hardware, use case, language, and technology under the sun,” he explains. “We’re not just a database company. We do systems engineering, web apps, library design (in 12 different languages), desktop applications, and distributed cloud applications, to name a few.” The variety of problems we solve and the technologies we use keep things fresh for our engineers, giving them flexibility to innovate beyond databases and without limitations. A Culture of Innovation and Inclusion All engineers, from interns to leadership, have the opportunity to make an impact . With a learning environment in place, you’re encouraged to pursue your ideas, even if they fail. We look for tenacious people who can put their ideas into motion, learn, and iterate. It’s only through this we can find the best ways to support our customers in this ever-changing landscape. Dan talks about how our culture allows engineers to take ownership and grow their careers. “We have developed an incredibly nurturing environment for engineers based on pushing responsibility to individual engineers and providing mentorship and support for engineers at every stage of their career,” he says. “This allows new engineers to grow very quickly and experienced engineers to wield a high degree of independence and agency.” We leave our egos at the door, and everyone comes together to support our core mission. As a member of our team, you’ll work alongside talented people who are eager to share their knowledge and are willing to roll up their sleeves and help. We don’t focus on titles, tenure, or career level. Instead, we believe everyone has something worthwhile to bring to the table and welcome you to voice your thoughts. Maria van Keulen , Product Manager and prior Senior Software Engineer, shares more about how she’s empowered to innovate, both in the products she works with and how she manages her career. “MongoDB provides me with opportunities to undertake projects I’m proud of and passionate about, solve interesting problems, and build exciting technologies,” she says. “I’m grateful for MongoDB and the successes I’m encouraged to pursue here: I have spoken at a conference, mentored interns, and led a nine-month-long project from concept to completion. Also, I recently transitioned into Product Management, after four years as a software engineer.” When leading projects, she continues, “I start by defining a clear and compelling vision to serve as a foundation. As the project progresses, I always strive to find a balance between what is necessary for me to do and what can be delegated, empowering those around me while we work toward our end goal. I have been able to work with and learn from so many bright and talented people with a shared passion and motivation for the company’s success. I look forward to applying these learnings and more while helping to shape MongoDB’s future.” Maria adds that she also is involved in a few groups at MongoDB — “One of which,” she says, “being our Underrepresented Genders in Tech (UGT) group. UGT is a group for people of underrepresented genders in technical roles who provide a network and resources for growing professionally and personally. In addition to being a valuable forum for fostering the growth of our members, UGT enacts positive change to make MongoDB an even more welcoming, collaborative place to work.” Judah Schvimer, Director of Engineering for Server Replication and Security, reflects on his experience working at MongoDB. “From the beginning, one thing I have loved about MongoDB is the amount of impact engineers can make from an early stage in their career,” he says. “MongoDB encourages junior engineers to provide feedback on complicated and impactful designs. The organization encourages the most junior engineers to ask the most senior engineers questions when they’re stuck. When I first started, I sat in the same row as one of the company’s first employees. I was amazed that someone who, to me, had so much more important work to do would take time to help me grow. I now realize that there’s little that’s more important to MongoDB than the growth of its engineers.” Mark Porter, our CTO, shares how our culture helps engineers produce their best work. “In my short time at MongoDB, I’ve been delighted to see one of the most engineer-empowered cultures I’ve witnessed in my career. Our engineering process is just rigorous enough to produce great products, but not bloated at all — and we get rid of unnecessary approvals, meetings, and processes regularly,” he explains. “We encourage every engineer to have flow time where they can do deep work, including ‘no-meeting days’ every week. We hold everybody accountable for teaching others, doing code reviews, and writing great tests, all without additional process or micromanagement to enforce this accountability,” he continues. “In our product planning process, the business teams give context on what they think the market needs and then let the Engineering and Product teams have the freedom to come up with the right solution to meet that need. It’s a great engineering organization, and all MongoDB engineers do their part to keep it that way.” Culture is everything here and contributes to the success of our engineers. We’re all about creating a respectful, energizing, and inclusive workplace where every employee can thrive. Pride in Our Products No matter how big or small your contribution, as an engineer at MongoDB you’re making a real difference for our customers. They’re at the heart of everything we do, and we’re obsessed with helping them be stunningly successful Ronnen Miller, SVP of Technical Services Engineering, touches on our commitment to customers. “We are all very focused on customer requirements and customer success,” he says. “Our attention to practical, ‘real world’ customer experience runs deep, right into the product roadmap itself, but it’s also represented in the decisions we make every day. Our commitment to serving our customers informs how we recruit, train, and organize our worldwide team, and how we develop processes and systems that enable the team to deliver on our commitment. We measure our own success by how well our customers succeed in reaching their goals.” James Wahlin, Database Query Optimization Lead, also talks about how his experience in different roles has allowed him to get a better understanding of our products. This insight helps him consider the best ways to make improvements. “I’ve been at MongoDB for eight years, starting off as a Technical Services Engineer and then moving to a full-time software engineering role on the Server team,” he says. “Working in Technical Services allowed me to help make our customers successful while learning about the strengths and weaknesses of our product. As a Server Engineer, I could then take that knowledge and use it toward improving our database. It’s important to me that any role I am in provides the opportunity to evolve our software and to help me grow as an engineer and leader.” Dan Pasette believes our Engineering team’s strengths come from its focus on quality. “Considering our roots are in building a database, I think our rigorous approach to software engineering, developer productivity, and correctness are top-notch. Our Engineering leadership always puts quality first, which gives our engineers a great sense that their work is valued and that they are encouraged to put extra effort into producing the best they can.” Transform Your Career MongoDB gives its engineers the tools, resources, and support to grow their career in the direction they want to. Judah shares how he makes an impact as an engineer. “MongoDB has offered me opportunities I couldn't possibly imagine getting in my first five years on the job. After one year, I was empowered to mentor interns and then new grads on my team. This broadened my management skills, and after three years of work, I was promoted to help lead the team I had been on since I began at the company. This was an enormous responsibility and privilege for someone so young,” he says. “Doing this job has been an incredible learning opportunity, and the company has also provided structured training to hone my management skills. I’m very grateful to MongoDB for investing in me and both entrusting and supporting me to rise to challenges faster than I could have imagined.” Judah’s story is just one of many exciting experiences our people have had while working here and is something we’re proud to offer our employees. We know that by investing in our people, we go farther. If you want to join an engineering team where you’ll build cutting-edge technologies and undertake interesting projects you’re passionate about, MongoDB may be the place for you. Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe and would love for you to build your career with us!
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