Career Stories

Leaving Big Tech for a Smaller Company Rebooted This Engineering Director’s Career

Alex Buccino, Director of Development Experience at Squarespace
Alex Buccino, Director of Development Experience at Squarespace.
| Courtesy of Squarespace

Growing up, Alex Buccino had aspirations of writing software for a living—but it almost didn’t happen. “By the time I got to college I decided I wanted to do ‘something else.’ I ended up studying English, anthropology, and philosophy,” he says.

He made it all the way to becoming a PhD candidate for anthropology when he dropped out to join a startup that a professor and some fellow grad students founded. “I’ve been in engineering ever since and have never regretted it,” he says.

Since then, Buccino has had an enviable career as a software engineer working in big tech, including 15 years at Google. More recently, he made the move to Squarespace, where he is making an impact as the Director of Development Experience. “There are a lot more opportunities to make big improvements at a smaller company,” he says.

Here, Buccino talks about how he makes the most of Squarespace’s hybrid work policy, the importance of having empathy as a team leader, and why he’s looking for engineering candidates who are eager to learn.

What led to your job at Squarespace and how did you know it would be a good fit?

I was familiar with Squarespace as a brand, and an old coworker of mine whose opinion I really value had been at the company for a few years and recommended it as a great place to work. When I started to talk to other engineers there they all seemed like people I could work with. Everyone was very friendly and cared about doing the right thing, which is important to me.

You worked at Google for 15 years before joining Squarespace. What are the benefits of being at a smaller company, and how has the move helped propel your career forward?

At a smaller company like Squarespace, you get to meet and work with people across a much wider set of products and functions. By the time I left Google, at least 90% of my interactions were with people who reported up to my director. At Squarespace, I’m continuously meeting people from different departments. It’s a very cross-collaborative environment. I’m also able to leverage the experience I’ve gained in my career to much greater effect.

What are you responsible for as the Director of Developer Experience?

I lead a multidisciplinary team of software engineers, QA analysts, software engineers in test (SETs), site reliability engineers (SREs), and technical writers. Our job is to ensure that Squarespace developers have the tools, information, and guidance to build reliable, maintainable, accessible, and functional software that delights our customers.

When hiring tech talent to join your team, what do you look for in candidates? What can they do to set themselves apart?

When looking at candidates, I’m more interested in what they can learn rather than what they currently know. Technology is constantly changing and I need to have confidence that team members can pick up new technologies and assess their appropriateness for the work we need to get done. I’m also trying to assess what new qualities they will bring to the team. What knowledge, skills, and capabilities will we gain as an organization if we hire this particular candidate? These things are top of mind.

What have been the keys to your success as a manager?

The most important thing is to listen and have empathy for everyone on the team. Ultimately, decisions need to be made and eventually everyone will encounter something at work that they don’t agree with: a technical decision, a promotion decision, a policy decision. People need to feel that their positions and opinions are heard and considered, especially when things don’t go the way they had hoped.

How do you maintain work-life balance? Are there any related perks and benefits at Squarespace that you take advantage of that helps you maintain it?

I love Squarespace’s hybrid workplace policy. In my role, I can work from home or the office interchangeably. There are many days when I am more productive working from home, and on those days it’s great to avoid the commute. But having a desk at the office where I can go and meet up with coworkers face-to-face is tremendously valuable to me. I’ve learned that Squarespace employees are incredibly social. The NYC office has an amazing rooftop and I’ve had a great time getting to know my coworkers while spending time up there.

Updated 9/23/2022