Life at Citrine, Blog

Team dynamics can be complicated and fluid, but they are incredibly important if we are to meet our company goals. One specific relationship that we have put purposeful effort behind developing is the dynamic between our Product and Engineering teams.

Each team has a different role that requires different skills and usually attracts different personalities. Yet these teams are tasked with working together on a daily basis to create the bread-and-butter of a company like Citrine: our product platform. No pressure …

Product development at Citrine is organized around fully integrated teams that include product, UI engineers, backend engineers, and research engineers (scientists and mathematicians with computational backgrounds).  We work together to understand our customers’ problems and take advantage of our diverse backgrounds to design and implement creative and efficient solutions. 

At Citrine, the entire team has a hand in figuring out what to build and how to build it.

Research Engineering

Max (Hutch) Hutchinson, our Principal Research Engineer, leads a team at Citrine called Data & AI Research Engineering (abbreviated to D.A.R.E). Our D.A.R.E. team is responsible for designing and driving core materials informatics methods and technology from conception to user value. 

Max Hutchinson, Principal Research EngineerHutch elaborates, “I joined Citrine as a Research Engineer immediately after completing my PhD in Physics at the University of Chicago.  I didn’t know how to work with product managers, designers, or even “real” software engineers.  Fortunately, Citrine’s collaborative culture gave me the opportunity to learn quickly.  A few years later, I became the engineering lead for one of those teams, and now I lead another.  As a physicist, I love working not only with fellow scientists and mathematicians, but also UI, backend, and infrastructure engineers, product managers and designers.”

Product

Alexandra Johnson, a Product Manager leading our AI Engine team, provides a good example of how different teams working together create successful projects.

“As a former Tech Lead, and now an AI Product Manager, I am focused on understanding customer needs and prioritizing our efforts, while retaining a deep understanding of the dedication that goes into creating elegant code.”

“Bringing our patented Design Space Visualizations onto the Citrine Platform was a very cool challenge because this technology is completely new to the market and has been shown to be very impactful for customers that have used prototypes.”

Candidate density, design space visualization
Design space visualization showing the likelihood of there being candidate materials with those properties.

“Our Data Science team members, who had written the original academic papers validating the method, showed me their ideas, new concepts and prototypes. I worked with Engineering to translate this into user and product requirements. Our engineers brought their expertise in realizing highly technical requirements to craft a high ROI MVP within just a few weeks. From conceptualization to completion, I was constantly learning from my co-workers, and I’m proud that we delivered an elegant, visualization-driven, solution to a tricky sequential learning problem.” 

Eric Lundberg, Product ManagerEric Lundberg, a Product Manager on our Data team, expands on this. “I feel like I’ve been really lucky with my engineering counterparts at Citrine. From my first day as a Product Manager, we melded minds so we could all be more effective. I would facilitate meetings between key stakeholders and the engineers using online collaboration tools like Mural or Google Docs, and after a quick workshop we would converge on a great solution that satisfied all stakeholder needs while being simple to build. On top of radically accelerating our planning work, this really motivated the engineers to build great features. This evolved to where I could point them at a key stakeholder, frame the problem, and a week later there would be a prototype in a development environment ready for feedback. This allowed me to focus on crystallizing the product direction and finding the next big problem to tackle.”

Like everyone else on our team, each engineer and product contributor understands their role in the collective pie, which gives us a unique opportunity as a small, but mighty team, driving towards a big vision as a cohesive company.


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