It was a big move. A huge opportunity. The chance to really make a difference. Blake VanLandingham knew he only had one choice. He had to move from New York City to Kansas City, Missouri.
LaborChart is a company in the process of transforming the construction industry. We hired Blake to work on continuously improving our construction workforce management platform. He started as our Director of Engineering in May.
We talked to him about the journey that led him to LaborChart.
What was your first experience with programming?
When I was in fifth grade, I was playing this game called StarCraft. It had a map editor, a visual programming language where I could build in space. I spent a lot of time building maps without knowing what programming was.
I took a programming class in high school and I remembered StarCraft; but the hook for me was my dad needed some software for his company. It was a little script that unzipped files and pulled out information for a spreadsheet. They still use a version of it today.
What led you to a career in software engineering?
In college, I was building websites for people when Hunter Browning [LaborChart CTO], approached me to work on Fannect, a platform designed to connect sports fans. He offered me a position and we worked like crazy: 100 hours a week for four weeks straight. That experience was foundational.
Startups were what I wanted to do. I loved the excitement of it all. The opportunity for personal growth and building something from scratch was immensely satisfying.
You moved from a Kansas City startup to working at Google in New York City. Why did you move?
It was a hard decision, but I wanted to get corporate experience with a big company. If you’re someone that loves personal growth, Google is the ideal place. It’s a giant system devoted to metrics around your progress. I started at the bottom as a software engineer and over three years made my personal goal of becoming a senior engineer.
My time at Google was transformative because I saw how larger software teams run and the complexity of having a bunch of people working on software.The scale of it all was fascinating because I had no idea the amount of tooling and time it takes to continue pushing the ball forward.
After Google, you joined Canary as a senior software engineer? What did you take away from your time there?
My time at Canary taught me how to balance quality and velocity when designing and building products. We focused on building a product that was 80 percent complete before getting it into clients’ hands. It pushed us to ship with the right quality bar to support product iteration and, ultimately, Canary’s high growth.
What drew you to LaborChart?
I knew I would move back to Kansas City having grown up here. And being here is exciting because LaborChart has the opportunity to make a difference in the software development culture in Kansas City. The city could start capturing the technical talent that is leaving for other cities.
My relationship with Hunter is also important. LaborChart is on a trajectory that I’m excited about because I believe in the product and see the market fit.
How have your previous experiences at Google and Canary informed your approach at LaborChart?
Our current process is a mash-up of my time at Canary and Google. LaborChart sits right between the early stages of Canary and the late stages of Google. So, we have a product that we need to keep rock-solid while we are also growing.
We expect a lot of our engineers here. We need people who can make a judgment call each time if something is worth investing in for the long-term. It’s critical for us to have an entire team with that mindset. LaborChart is your product and we’re building a product that’s going to last a long time.
What's the culture like at LaborChart?
LaborChart is this incredible mix of highly social and low ego. Founder Ben Schultz has this amazing way of setting the daily cadence by being informative and giving people the space to grow. He knows this business so well; but he’s also open to new feedback. We have a product roadmap; but we’re building the path together.
What's your focus right now as the Head of Engineering for LaborChart?
Our goal is consistency. We’re building trust that we get things done on time and that our work matches the customers’ needs.
A big part of the growth strategy at LaborChart is investing in people. I’m super conscious of that on the engineering team. I want individuals who want to grow because I know we can always get better.
LaborChart is looking for people that push themselves to achieve big goals. Check out openings and learn more about our culture on our Careers page.