Jesse Thomson, VP of Engineering at Discuss

Discuss Employee Spotlight – Jesse

The “Discuss Employee Spotlight” is a Q&A series dedicated to showcasing all of the amazing talent at Discuss.

For this month’s profile, we talked with Jesse Thomson, VP of Engineering, who joined the Discuss team in April 2023 and is based out of Salt Lake City, Utah.

  1. Tell our readers a little bit about your role at Discuss.
    As the VP of Engineering at Discuss, my job is to ensure the operational and logistical success of our Engineering organization. There’s a lot that goes into that. Everything from making sure we have the right processes in place, to driving technical excellence in implementations and tooling, to helping members of our team grow and develop in their careers. I could probably add ten more things to that list, but at the end of the day, my job is to ensure delivery of business-aligned results by making sure our team is productive and happy.
  2. Which of Discuss’ core values are you most inspired by?
    (Empathize, Collaborate, Obsess, Out Innovate, Excel)
    Excel. If there’s one thing I know about engineers, it’s that they want to do great work. Oftentimes, they don’t even care if people know about it. There just tends to be this intrinsic drive to create amazing things.

    Years ago, I was part of an initiative to measure the Developer Experience across an Engineering organization of over 1000 engineers. Our goal was to understand what factors had the biggest impact on developer satisfaction. We received a lot of different feedback, but across the board the most consistent and highest-rated answer we got was this: on a given day, if someone felt like they were productive, regardless of any other factors, they felt like it was a good day.

    So to me, the goal is clear. The idea that I can help remove obstacles and open avenues that allow people to do their best work is highly motivating for me.
  3. Tell us about your team and the mindset (and approach) you’re instilling.
    Engineering decisions can’t be made in a vacuum. As with any optimization problem, you have to understand what you are actually optimizing for.

    It can be easy for engineering teams to fall into the trap of being fairly removed from the context of the broader business. For me, this just can’t happen. It’s critical that everyone in our organization understands where we are going and why. This is the foundation. Once your team has the proper business context, you can start to build a culture of high-expectations and high-autonomy. These are critical components for effectively scaling teams, which is very different from just growing a team.
  4. What project or initiative are you most proud of at Discuss?
    The development of our generative AI technology at Discuss has been nothing short of extraordinary. I’m really proud of the work our team has done to push our technology forward and be pioneers in the market research space.

    There are a lot of tech companies out there right now who are trying to throw AI at whatever they can and see what sticks. As a result, we’re seeing a lot of “solutions in search of a problem”. On the other hand, AI and market research are a match made in heaven, with countless new possibilities to accelerate and transform the industry. The way market research is conducted and scaled will dramatically change in the coming years, and I believe Discuss is in an incredibly strong position to capitalize on that. That’s exciting.
  5. What is something unique about you (a fun fact) that few people know about?
    I grew up in a very small town in Montana, about 10 minutes from the Canadian border. Our family would do 140-mile round trips to buy groceries from Walmart. It seemed normal at the time, but I’ve got a lot of crazy stories from my childhood.

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