Do What Works. Do the Right Thing. Be Kind: Life at Pivotal Labs

Molly Crowther '09

Tell us a bit about Pivotal's mission, work, and technology. 

Pivotal's mission is to transform how the world builds software. Traditionally the world builds software by taking months or years to write a big spec, giving it to developers to take just as long to code it, and then throw the code over the fence to IT operations people to put into production where it will inevitably not perform and be wildly different than what people wanted when they asked for it two years ago. The three divisions in Pivotal are there to shorten the feedback loops - Pivotal Labs consults with customers to help them get to a minimum viable product in 3 months, Cloud Foundry provides the infrastructure to automatically test and put that code into production, and Data provides the market feedback back to the business. It sounds simple! But innovation is hard, feedback is hard.

What is your role at Pivotal? 

I am a technical program manager at Cloud Foundry. We like to think of our role as the care and feeding of feedback loops among the 40 or so engineering teams working around the world on Cloud Foundry. Our customers are businesses that have decades (sometimes over a century!) of experience in their market area but need help translating that understanding into useful, innovative software applications. Pivotal is a huge contributor to Cloud Foundry, but at the end of the day it's an open source product that has a dynamic and fast-growing open source community behind it. I don't really have a typical day, but there are always a few standup meetings to go to in the morning, and a lot of coordination and communication that happens during the day. I really like that as a program manager I get to spend a large portion of my time thinking about new ways for us to work together and communicate so we can scale our agile process as we grow.

Olin Pivots: (me) Molly Crowther '09, Simone Sequeira '08, Colby Sato '14, Molly Trombley-McCann '06



Pivotal Labs has been a strong Corporate Partner to Olin for years, and they are also a Top Ten Olin Employer.  Why do you think it is such a good place for Oliners?

The culture fit between Olin and Pivotal is remarkable, even for the Bay Area. We're technically a big startup even though we have more than 2000 people around the world at the company and Labs has been around for almost thirty years. There are countless opportunities for feedback and to shape how we work together. Engineers especially are expected to take more ownership of their work and process than at any company I've worked for.

If Olin is still like it was when I was there, there are going to be a lot of people telling you to "Do Something". Pivotal takes it two steps further: "Do what works. Do the right thing. Be kind." I sometimes think of Pivotal as a more grownup version of Olin.

What do you do for fun, outside of work?

Anyone I talk to these days learns immediately that I have a long train commute. It's one of the perils of living in the Bay Area. So I spend an inordinate amount of time listening to podcasts. When I'm not on the train, I'm weightlifting or hanging out with my partner and my dog on the couch.


Trip to Crater Lake in Oregon

Any advice you would offer to the First Years who just arrived at Olin?

You have already proven that you're smart and good at school. In terms of your future working life, no matter what field you go into, nothing you learn at Olin is going to be more valuable than learning how to work effectively with other people. Join teams where not everyone is your friend and not everyone looks like you or thinks like you. In the future it's going to be more and more essential to have the skills to build and maintain a diverse team. You're going to be so far ahead of everyone else if you can start building those skills in college.

Posted in: Alumni Speak