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!
Alex Ross: Director of Engineering, Growth Team
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was in elementary school I wanted to be a video game developer. At one point in college I was planning on joining the CIA until I learned they only take ex-military for the clandestine (in-the-field) jobs. Maybe one day…
How did you get into tech?
I got deep into tech during my senior year of college at UCLA. My roommate at the time was a design major with a successful flashcards app on the App Store. Together we decided to build a new version for iPhone, iPad and OSX with iCloud sync. We both had jobs and classes to go to, but we worked like crazy 24/7 for six months to get it done. I remember weekends where neither of us would leave the apartment, and come Monday it felt like we were in another world when we had to go to class again. Later that year, I co-founded a company with that same roommate and three others. We spent the next four years growing it into a successful company, and we were all featured in Inc's 30 Under 30 in 2015.
Who has been your biggest mentor?
My boss (Maria Zhang) at Tinder is probably the best and most consistent mentor I've ever had. She's always encouraging me to push my own boundaries and it's super valuable. Also, I received great mentorship early on in my career by members of the CTO Forum, a large private group of LA tech leaders who meet once per month. In particular Tony Karrer, David Subar, and Oded Noy, who all do a lot to support the LA tech community.
Why did you come to Tinder?
I joined Tinder because I wanted to solve interesting engineering challenges at scale, and all of the people I met at Tinder were extremely down-to-earth and eager to do great work. I was also intrigued by the sociological/psychological nature of Tinder as a product, because meeting people (particularly potential partners) is such an innate and interesting thing to build software around.
What is your role at Tinder?
I lead the Growth engineering team. We work on features to improve our acquisition, activation, and re-engagement of users on Tinder. We're also responsible for Tinder's authentication, user identity, anti-spam, and push notification systems.
What is the biggest technical challenge you’re solving right now?
We're in the middle of a large long-term overhaul of our authentication system to make it more modular and fault-tolerant. All of Tinder depends on our authentication system, so we have to be very careful with changes we make.
Can you describe a few of the Tinder features you are working on now and/or you have helped build in the past?
This year one, of our team's biggest projects was to introduce the ability for Tinder users to sign up with a phone number instead of a Facebook account. This is great for international users who don't have Facebook, or even for users who just don't want to connect their Facebook to their Tinder account. We're also working on incorporating machine learning into systems where it makes sense, like anti-spam and re-engagement push notifications.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
My job is pretty great because we have interesting challenges to solve, a great team to solve them with, and minimal red tape to get in the way. I think the most satisfying part is how much I enjoy working with my teammates. I honestly couldn't ask for better people to work with.
What is your favorite Tinder feature and why?
This might sound basic, but I love the fundamental double opt-in. I've tried other platforms that don't have this, and the experience is awful because they waste time. Besides that, I think Boost is a really cool and effective feature.
What are 3 things someone who is considering working at Tinder should know?
- Tinder's at a really sweet spot right now: the user base is huge, the brand is known, and the company is small so there's plenty of opportunity. It's all about timing.
- Because there's so much to be done and things move fast inside of Tinder, it helps to set a goal for the lasting impact you want to have on the company, technology, culture, etc and then work relentlessly toward that goal.
- It's worth getting to know the people at Tinder for who they are. There are a lot of really cool, aware and interesting individuals here.
If you could use 3 adjectives to describe Tinder’s culture, what would they be?
down-to-earth, fun, driven
What is one fun fact about you?
The longest I've lived in a single city/place is four years.