Our Swipe With series highlights members of the Tinder team. We are always looking for top talent and inventive problem solvers. Check out our openings here!
William Lu: Senior Engineering Manager, Post-Match Experience
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Fighter jet pilot, F18 specifically. Maybe I played too many video games...
How did you get into tech?
I’ve loved computers since I was a child. In elementary school I started programming in Basic to make my own games. It was fun to build something my friends and I could play with. I joined Lockheed Martin after college as an embedded software engineer hoping to work on fighter jets, but unfortunately never got that chance. I was able to work on software for ships, missiles and satellites. Around the time when iPhones came out, I became curious about mobile technology for two reasons: because you can instantly experience and share what you’ve built, and it has the potential to reach a massive audience. Additionally, the development cycle for government projects is very long and only a few people ever get to use what you've built. The two industries have a very different approach. Mobile development is about fast iterations and satellite engineering is about precision. A phone in my pocket is just a little bit more accessible than a satellite in orbit. Mobile software engineering provides the opportunity to build something quickly for the masses, including my friends and family, so I’m very pleased with my decision to switch.
Why did you come to Tinder?
After leaving Lockheed I found myself at Yahoo working on mobile apps. One feature that stood out for me was building “Smack Talk” into the Yahoo Fantasy Sports app. Being able to trash talk someone you’ve beaten is a huge part of why people play fantasy sports, and this feature made it easier to do so right in the app. After that I was in charge of building a modern, cross-platform group chat SDK to allow multiple products to build a community around their users. I had a vision of how different users who are interested in the same topic would be able to find and chat with each other. Tinder has a unique use case where you’re chatting with someone you’ve never met, hoping to get to know one another and maybe even going out on a date. But this process is difficult. Finding a topic of conversation in this context is much more difficult than if you’re both reading an article about the Golden State Warriors. I joined Tinder in hopes of making that process much easier and more fun. Being able to change people’s lives is great motivation to do what I’m doing. I’m excited to be working on some of those features now and can’t wait to share them with the world.
What is your role at Tinder?
I am in charge of engineering for the post-match user experience. This includes the way your matches are displayed, the way you communicate with your matches, and developing new ways to better connect with potential matches. Our team is actively working on new ways to improve how people communicate by leveraging AI, including machine learning, natural language processing, and image recognition.
Can you describe a few of the Tinder features you are working on?
Our team is currently working on some exciting new features to make communicating with matches easier and more fun. We are hard at work trying to bring you some major changes in the coming months. We are also looking into ways to leverage machine learning, image recognition, and natural language processing to help users find better matches, have better conversations, and make getting together easier. Our team is a big believer in prototyping ideas. It helps us learn what works and what doesn’t quickly, and allows us to iterate on ideas rapidly. I am super excited for what’s in store for the future of Tinder.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
Being able to help people connect and build relationships! I always think back to a day when a few of us were walking down the street in San Francisco and a lady saw our backpacks with the Tinder logo. She told us she met her fiancé on the app and that she liked the ability to set a maximum distance for recommendations to be walkable because, well, she lives in San Francisco. That was a great feeling—knowing you are helping to change people's lives. Since that time I've met more people who've met their significant others or new friends through Tinder, and the feeling never gets old.
What is your favorite Tinder feature and why?
The swipe is obviously iconic and also my favorite feature. The ease of liking or passing is such a great invention and user experience that it’s become a common new verb: Swipe Right. Jonathan Badeen, one of our Co-Founders invented the swipe and I think he’s a genius.
What are 3 things someone who is considering working at Tinder should know?
You will be doing something that changes people's lives. Whether the user will find their future spouse, someone to hang out with in a new city, or someone in a foreign country to help practice their English with, it's something people will take with them long after they are done with our app.
Even though Tinder is a very well-known brand, we are a relatively small company with lots of room to grow. That means there's tremendous opportunity to make a huge impact. Those joining the company now will be able to impact the entire app rather than just optimizing a small section of more mature products.
We are doing a lot of work in the field of artificial intelligence to see how we can employ new technology to make the user experience better. This is an exciting time to be at Tinder!
What is one fun fact about you?
About 10 years ago, I was having dinner with my girlfriend at the time and a friend of hers. Somehow the conversation topic became complaints about how bras never fit right, especially from chain retailers like Victoria's Secret. They were both fashion designers so naturally the conversation steered toward us talking about how to design a better bra. By the end of dinner, we decided to start a company to make custom-fitted bras. During that process I learned a lot about how to manufacture a bra and terms I never thought I'd know—like boning, gore, hook and eye, etc. I can now say I know more about a bra than most women. One takeaway from an expert: don't buy "sister sizes"... they will never fit right. Unfortunately, the company didn’t work out, but I ended up marrying the girl, so it’s a successful exit for me!