Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

Why This Engineer Left Big Tech for a Startup in the Music Industry

Pablo Jablonski, the VP of Engineering at UnitedMasters
Pablo Jablonski, the VP of Engineering at UnitedMasters.
| Courtesy of Pablo Jablonski

Pablo Jablonski has always had a knack for problem-solving—spending hours doing puzzles as a kid and pouring over lines of code on his computer during his teen years.

“Coding became a vehicle through which I could solve puzzles of the world and create solutions for real-life problems,” he says.

Jablonski became a software engineer and has worked at small startups and large tech companies throughout his career. Today, he’s the VP of Engineering at UnitedMasters, a music technology business that creates software tools for independent recording artists.

Here, Jablonski talks about why the opportunity to join UnitedMasters was too good to pass up, the advantages of working for a small tech company, and the qualities he values most in engineering candidates (Psst: He’s hiring!).

What led to your role at UnitedMasters, and how did you know it would be a good fit?

UnitedMasters offered me a very unique opportunity to build and lead a team of world-class engineers all focused on developing technology to help artists and creators make a living from their art. I have always been a deep lover of music, and I had previously worked on other products that support creators, so I knew that leading the engineering team at UnitedMasters would be a thrilling experience for me.

In addition, during my interviews, it was clear from everyone I spoke to that the people who work here are passionate about what they do, and they are all driven to build something great.

You worked at a big tech company before joining UnitedMasters. What are the benefits of being at a smaller organization, and how has the move helped propel your career forward?

Being at a smaller organization truly gives everyone the opportunity to have an outsized impact on the success of the product and the business. Larger tech companies have specialized teams working on small parts of the product, while a smaller organization gives people the opportunity to have impact wherever is most important. This also gives people the chance to wear many different hats and greatly accelerate their career development, whether it’s learning new skills or understanding what area they want to focus on. Working at a smaller company is a great way to learn a lot of things quickly and see your hard work pay off in meaningful ways.

What are you responsible for as the VP of Engineering? What are your short- and long-term goals in this role?

I am responsible for building the best possible team of engineers to create high-quality products for our users. I am responsible for making sure we have the right people on the team and that those people have what they need to do their job successfully. I understand that the only way to build something great is by doing it as a team, and my main goal is to ensure our engineers are as productive and successful as they can possibly be.

In the short term, we will focus on delivering delightful software to our artists. In the long term, we can help redefine what technology can do to serve creators around the world.

What is your leadership style, and how do you help engineers on your team learn and grow?

I believe all good leadership stems from trust. I need to show my team that they can trust me, and I build it by demonstrating what I can do to help them and then following through on those promises.

Similarly, I trust all the members of my team to do their work and tell me when they need help. By clearly establishing what we expect from each other and reaching out for help when we need it, I can get out of people’s way to let them do great work and support them if necessary. This also gives them the space to try new things, even if they fail, because we know that we are all doing our best. Keeping that two-way trust strong is the most important thing.

What do you look for in engineering candidates? ​​What traits or skills do they need to stand out?

I look for engineers who are inquisitive, who not only know the answer but always wonder if there might be a better one someone else has. I also want to hire engineers who understand that the code they write is only one part of the puzzle, and that every piece of software is written to be used by real people to solve real problems. They should want to understand who the customer is and why they are building that software. These traits tell me if they will be successful in building the correct final products.

Why is now an exciting time to work in tech at UnitedMasters?

Now is a very exciting time to join UnitedMasters because we are well positioned within a fast-growing market: independent music. The number of independent artists has been growing over the past few years, as more and more people realize that you don’t need a major record label to be successful. At UnitedMasters, we have the opportunity to deliver something truly impactful in this space.

How do you practice work-life balance? Are there any related benefits or perks that you take advantage of at UnitedMasters?

Work-life balance is extremely important to me because if I don’t take time to relax and unwind, then I don’t have the energy to give my work all the effort and focus it deserves. I always make sure to spend evenings with my wife and friends. I also make time to get in a few international trips every year to visit new places because a change in scenery does wonders to ground my mind. UnitedMasters’ unlimited PTO policy helps me do this. I know that as long as I deliver on the work that is expected of me, I can take the time for myself to recharge when I need it.

What’s one thing most people would be surprised to find out about you?

I am an avid extreme sports fan and spend a lot of my time on trips either skiing or windsurfing. My parents got me into both of those when I was very young, and I enjoy them to this day.