Wilco eases your way through your software engineering career – Meczyki.Net

Israeli startup Wilco describes itself as “an immersive upskilling platform for software developers,” and went out of stealth this week with its first public version, and a Stash with $7 million in fresh seed funding. -Box. It’s weird enough that this is the kind of thing that I totally love.

The problem the company is trying to solve is the staggering array of options available to a software developer after years. It turns out that being able to write software is only a small part of the job. Beyond that, you need to develop a broad set of mils that aren’t just writing code, but are just as important. These may include strategies for debugging complex systems, team communication, and how to respond to high pressure crisis situations. The theory is that these skills are hard to acquire without real-world experience, and they can be difficult. Why shouldn’t airline pilots do the same thing before getting the steering wheel on a plane? (Can you tell I’m not a pilot) That’s right, Wilco developed a kind of simulator.

On Wilco’s platform, developers join a built tech company, and are put through their paces in a game-like experience designed to accelerate their professional development. At their “new workplace,” engineers embark on discoveries that challenge them to navigate complex life-like scenarios using real tools and technologies.

A discovery begins with a developer being notified via a workplace messaging app about a mysterious issue with the company’s application. Developers should analyze the data to identify affected users, recreate the problem on their device, find the problematic code, and push their fixes to the company’s code repository on Github. When needed, guidance from virtual colleagues is provided via messaging apps, simulating a modern remote work environment.

Wilco’s various discoveries help you along your developer journey

Farhan Thawar, VP Engineering at Shopify and an Angel Investor at the company, said, “One of the key challenges I have faced throughout my career as an engineering leader has been to nurture talent and ensure the continued growth of each team member. Finding ways to do it.” , via one of Wilco’s press contacts. “What got me so excited when I tried the Wilco platform – the realistic environment brought me back to my early days as a dev team contributor and the engineering scenarios precisely addressed those abstract skills that are so hard to teach.”

I interviewed the company’s CEO On Freund to learn more.

TC: Why are you excited about this company?

OF: When we were just starting out, my co-founder Elon said that if Wilco had already existed, he would have joined the company instead of starting a new one. We really feel the same way – we didn’t get into this to be the founders; We are in it because we believe in what we do. We see that developers have a passion for our problem space. Almost everyone we talk to gets it right away – they’ve all experienced how hard it is for them and their teams to develop new skills. The use-cases we see are entirely positive for the individual – helping them to develop themselves professionally in an innovative way – but helping Wilco develop opportunities for professional development more accessible and equitable has a broader social impact. There is benefit too.

What is currently broken about training for software engineers?

OF: The best way for developers to improve their skills today is at work, but it’s both slow and inefficient. To practice a skill you have to wait for a particular situation to arise. It’s not often that you need to completely redesign a legacy app component or set up a new pipeline because your product has an unexpected rise in popularity. You’ll have to wait for the production crisis to naturally arise (I don’t recommend making your own 🙂 ) to learn how to handle it. Even when a crisis strikes, chances are the person who will handle it is someone who has seen it a thousand times.

It’s only the first problem though – when you get the chance to “practice”, you’re not really in the practice environment, and you have to live with the fear of breaking something. Software mistakes can easily be costly.

Last but not least, practicing only on the job poses the problem of equal opportunity. Two developers starting out at the same time, but landing on different teams can have very different results, depending on the people they work with, the mentors they have, the types of assignments they get, and the cost of their employer. Mistakes can be based on willingness to tolerate. so that they can be trained. When it comes to people from under-represented groups, it is less common for them to join the kind of teams that enable them to quickly close the experience gap and reach their full potential.

In your opinion, why is now the right time for Wilco?

OF: The creation of Wilco would have made sense even a decade ago, but it is more relevant than ever after COVID-19 forced the world into a remote work environment. We do “real” work remotely, so why not simulate a remote workplace to master and learn the skills?

How was the fundraising experience?

OF: There’s a cliché that investors always want to see traction, and the right amount of traction is a little more than what you have. So we immediately began introducing Wilco to every engineer and engineering manager we could talk to. Being able to show both bottom-up and top-down interest made fundraising a lot easier.

Another thing that worked well for us is a very targeted approach — we knew who the right investors were for Wilco, and that made the pitch so much more effective. While this may not be the best time to raise the round, I believe that choosing carefully the investors you are pitching can go a long way.

Are you happy with your investors? Why?

OF: Very much! And no, I’m not saying this because I feel obligated to. Each of our investors not only understands Wilco’s potential and believes in our mission but has given us strategic guidance throughout our journey. I believe that we have selected partners who are right not only for this phase of our journey but also for years to come. With what is happening in the industry these days, I am more confident than ever in my choice of investors.

What are you personally most excited to work with Wilco?

OF: Alone, Shem and I have known each other for many years, and what we are building together comes from addressing a need that we have experienced directly in previous roles. While each of us tackled this from a slightly different angle, we all wished we had some way for our developers to continually practice their skills.

Additionally, I’m honestly very excited about the team we’ve brought in and the culture we’ve all built together. One of our goals is to create a fun and supportive workplace, and we are really invested in doing that.

What are you hoping to achieve in the next 18 or so months?

OF: The most important thing we want to achieve is to provide validation for the continued impact Wilco has had on an engineer’s professional development. By inviting hundreds of developers to try out the platform ahead of launch, we got strong validation of Wilco’s ability to deliver instant value. Now we want to see if in a year and a half, we can accelerate the development of developers and help them continually acquire and practice new skills. In practice, we have a lot of things to do — including expanding our catalog and adding search creation tools — and have a commercial version to think about. We also want to bring in additional business partners to co-produce discoveries with us. We think Wilco is a great way for developer-facing companies to provide their developer communities with hands-on experience with their products.

If Wilco achieves every goal, dream and milestone, how will the world be different 5 years from now?

OF: We want engineers to be able to develop themselves professionally by using Wilco throughout their careers. how will it look like? Here are a few examples:

By learning to code, a recent graduate or self-taught engineer will have the opportunity to acquire skills even before they get their first job, which will improve their chances of advancing to technical interviews and join a team that can which reflects their potential rather than opportunities. has been given before.

Engineering teams will not have to wait until a crisis strikes or new challenges are assigned by the roadmap. They will be able to continuously develop skills, practice for real-life scenarios and expose themselves to the latest technologies.

Experienced engineers will have less desire to pursue a job they really enjoy because it doesn’t expose them to new challenges. It’s a very common scenario: You love the company, love the team, but professionally it’s no longer the right place for you because you’ve stopped growing and growing. With Wilco, you won’t find yourself torn between those two competing motivations.

We talk a lot about unlocking the potential of engineers. I know this probably sounds like marketing-speak, but think about it: this is really something that needs to be unlocked. People are not born with the knowledge of how the development life cycle is run, or how to find bugs in production, and the theoretical knowledge that you pick up in a course or class is just half of the equation – there is – The job muscle requires them to be trained by exposure to scenario after scenario. Professional flight simulators do this for pilots, making air travel safer for everyone. What impact will Wilco have if our “flight simulator for engineers” works on a large scale? I can’t wait to find out!

You mentioned that you are forming partnerships with ‘real’ companies for Quests. What are these search partnerships?

OF: In addition to building its own quests, Wilco will offer quests built in collaboration with other companies, such as New Relic, JFrog, and Applitools. These companies are already investing heavily in developer advocacy, but blog posts, podcasts, videos and the like can take you so far. With Wilco, they can create content that is attractive to third-party developers and gives them practical practice.

For the individual developer this means that if they want to get better at a skill like observation, they can gain practical experience using real production tools to solve a life-like problem using discoveries developed by top experts in the field. Huh.

Thanks to OnFriend for being willing to interview me over email during a busy week where we had no time to talk on the phone.

Personally, I’m a self-taught software developer, and I can totally see how, if I were to step back into software development, getting a taste of what life is like at the coalface of software development would be fantastic. will be worth more than ; It will be interesting to see how the company develops and develops.

The funding round was led by Hetz Ventures, with participation from Vertex Ventures, Flybridge Capital Partners, Shopify VP Engineering Farhan Thawar and others.

I managed to convince the Wilco team to share their pitch deck with me, so be on the lookout for a pitch deck teardown to see what the company did to grow their round over the next few weeks!