Communication and Collaboration
The twin engines of Singularity Systems' success
The technology department is split into teams depending on their projects. Chief Technology Officer, Tianhao Wu, oversees these teams by reviewing their progress every day. He also discusses task schedules and difficulties, brainstorms ideas, and sets the deadlines/standards for each team’s projects. “We have very clear project delivery targets, like: what’s the time frame, what’s the performance we need to achieve, what’s the data, what’s the schema?” said Wu.
To reach these delivery targets, the technology teams use a SPRINT development cycle. Each cycle is two weeks long and consists of planning, developing, testing and reviewing new features. This model allows teams to be flexible in what they prioritize working on while staying on track towards a long-term end point.
Past these parameters, the technology teams are given room to work and discuss things in any way they need. Since the main office in Princeton has everyone working in the same open space, communication between coworkers is readily accessible. If someone needs help from another person or an update from another team, they can easily seek it out themselves.
Exemplifying the need for both structured schedules and free communication is Head Engineer Xuyang Weng and the two projects he leads: first, development of the SinguTXT engine, and second, ensuring SOC-2 compliance. SinguTXT follows a straightforward SPRINT cycle, as Weng says it has a “clear schedule of what time we need to do what… [such as] in this iteration we’re going to finish these features in this timeframe.”
On the other hand, SOC-2 compliance requires work between the SinguTXT team and SinguIMG team, which is another engine under development. Weng has to coordinate these two teams, plus the CTO and business head. Because of the back-and-forth nature of this project, communication must be frequent and adaptable to everyone’s schedule, something that close teamwork and the open office enables.
There are times when all the teams come together. Every Wednesday, a morning seminar is held for all technology employees. Each seminar has a different person present their progress, setbacks, upcoming goals, and demonstrate their work before taking questions and comments. These meetings bring everyone up to speed regarding where their peers are and give the presenter a chance to hone their communication skills.
Aside from the technology department, there’s also the sales team. They are the ones attending events, meeting with prospects and generating interest. As a result, many travel around the country, talking to people firsthand or presenting at live conventions. They are managed by Chief Revenue Officer Scott Lee, who prefers to let his employees work without constant oversight. Lee “puts them in a position to succeed“ and trusts in their ability to independently secure deals with customers.
Lee does check in with employees every day, but it’s more like a collaboration, where he asks what’s going on and how he can help. The detailed reports come each Monday when the sales team regroups through Zoom to share progress made with prospective buyers and current negotiations.
One member of the sales team is Jim Weldy, the General Manager of the Business Development Group. To Weldy, working remotely requires a conscious effort to stay engaged and build relationships with coworkers, which is why the weekly meetings are so important. They build trust and camaraderie between employees who often do not get to see each other.
A great example of someone staying connected is Alexandra Casale, an intern who works in New York. Because of the distance between her and the office, almost all contact with other employees is virtual. But just because she communicates largely through zoom calls and slack does not mean she faces any obstacles in teamwork. “Although I work remotely, all of my bosses and coworkers have created a very welcoming and collaborative environment,” she said. “This motivates me to work harder, as I enjoy supporting my team and naturally want to put forth more effort. Also, I feel very encouraged to share my ideas which drives me to be innovative.”
Since sales and technology handle two different aspects of the company, they do not have much overlap. However, sales is responsible for relaying customer feedback to the technology team so they know how development should proceed to best fit the needs of their buyers. They also report any difficulties they and the customers experience in order to have those fixed. This is usually done through the Friday informational meetings that involve both sales and technology.
The reason why everyone at Singularity Systems works so well together goes back to the idea of a shared vision. The company’s goal, as stated by Wu, is to be the best at developing AI in our field. To Lee, the company has “an amazing culture that’s really collaborative, where we want to win but we want to win as a team.” His words perfectly sum up the philosophy at our core.