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How LinkedIn Saved Its Engineers From Marathon Late-Night Coding Sessions

How LinkedIn Saved Its Engineers From Marathon Late-Night Coding Sessions

Max Nisen | Apr. 29, 2013, 8:11 PM | 3,462 | 12

LinkedIn is a favored company among tech investors. It had a massive IPO, lived up to expectations afterwards, and continues to impress with the amount and variety of its revenue sources. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been some bumps along the way. Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ashlee Vance writes that as the company grew, “when LinkedIn would try to add a bunch of new things at once, the site would crumble into a broken mess, requiring engineers to work long into the night and fix the problems.”

Late nights are a part of Silicon Valley’s culture, they’re a right of passage and a bonding activity, but by the fall of 2011, the infrastructure problems were intolerable. So some of LinkedIn’s top engineers decided to completely stop engineering work on new features and dedicate the whole department to fixing the site’s core infrastructure. They called the effort “Project Inversion.”  It took about two whole months. But they ended up with something that was also much more efficient. Now algorithms do much of the review work humans had to do in the past, and new features can be added directly into the site. All of the company’s code is centralized and everyone can work on it continuously. There are fewer late night cram sessions and there’s more time to develop new and innovative features. Now LinkedIn’s engineers enact a major upgrade of the site up to three times a day. That’s even more than Google, which updates its sites about once a week, and Facebook, which does so about once a day.

It’s a timeless business lesson. Things were working well for LinkedIn. But by halting everything and completely rethinking and rebuilding the way it worked, the company ended up with something that could be a big advantage in the long run.

Success can be a catch-22 for some companies. It’s their ultimate goal, but can breed complacency and inertia. The most successful companies are able to avoid that.

LinkedIn’s top engineers also realized despite the fact that Silicon Valley’s culture glorifies late night coding sessions and all night bug fixes, it’s not actually an efficient way to do things.

When someone has to take heroic efforts, they’re usually making up for an issue somewhere else. It’s better to fix problems early and at the root than to continue to expect the impossible.

LinkedIn engineer Jay Kreps told Bloomberg Businessweek that he misses some of the bonding from those late nights, but certainly doesn’t miss the sleep deprivation.

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About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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