Written by Charlie Curtis and Scott Nyberg.
In our “Engineering Energizers” Q&A series, we examine the life experiences and career paths that have shaped Salesforce engineering leaders. Meet Charlie Curtis, a lead member of the technical staff for Marketing Cloud’s production engineering team. Charlie and his Atlanta-based team develop cutting-edge automation software that helps users simplify their customer marketing processes by reducing manual labor, scaling their efforts, and saving money.
What is your team’s mission?
My team develops Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (MCAE) — supporting the scale element of the product. We develop new features for this software, which helps Salesforce customers significantly simplify and scale how they market to their customers, using the power of automation to eliminate hands-on, time-consuming, expensive manual labor.
For example, if a company has an unprioritized list of 10 million customer leads, marketers must segment that list to drive an effective marketing campaign. Using our feature, they can select criteria-based attributes to define a subset of their list and leverage Engagement Studio — marketing automation software that creates customized customer experiences — to fully qualify the leads, providing actionable insights for the customer’s sales team.
My team and I are continually fine-tuning the software to ensure it delivers an accurate representation of customer prospects. Consequently, prospect data is reliably updated in a timely manner — enabling customer leads to be accurately represented in support of targeted marketing efforts.
In addition to enhancing MCAE, my team and I also provide maintenance and support via an on-call rotation, whereby if the service reports a disruption, an on-call team member will respond and remediate to ensure our service remains up and running for our customers.
Lastly, it is not uncommon for our customers to test the limits of our automation product, meaning that they may require our software to ingest and process millions of marketing leads in real time. Our team takes joy in scaling our system and increasing performance to meet our customer’s needs.
Charlie shares what keeps him at Salesforce.
How would you describe the energy in the conference room when your team gathers to brainstorm new release ideas and discuss solutions to problems?
Sometimes it is great — everyone on the team might be really excited about the technologies that we are developing or are thrilled about a new system design architecture we are innovating. In other situations, patience may be required to get a lot of smart engineers on the same page as they all may have different approaches and visions for solving a complex problem.
There is a phrase we adhere to, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This means that everyone has a voice on our team and nobody discounts each other’s opinions. So, when someone speaks, you can tell that they are heard, which is really cool. Ultimately, our disagreements help shape the best solution possible.
Additionally, people who have the highest title in the room do not make all the decisions. They not only seek opinions from others, but they also value them. No matter what anyone’s title is, they can always contribute. It is awesome.
Charlie collaborates with a teammate to solve a recent technical challenge.
You have worked at Salesforce for eight years. How has your career evolved here since joining?
One thing that really makes me happy is growing as a person. Part of me growing as a person means growing in my career. I began my engineering journey here as an Associate Member of the Technical Staff. Since then, I have been promoted a few times and I am always striving to climb the next rung on the ladder in my quest to create high-quality, scalable, and maintainable software that helps our customers take their marketing to new heights.
Currently, I’m a Lead Member of the Technical Staff and previously won the Salesforce President’s Award, an honor that recognizes the top 1% of engineers making influential and impactful contributions at the company. I won the award by leading my team’s effort to solve one of the most difficult technical challenges we had ever encountered.
What technical challenge did you solve?
We recently migrated from our legacy message broker to another queuing solution with a managed software rooted in AWS. The migration required us to rewrite a mission-critical piece of our software that would cause neither a disruption in service nor bugs. Restructuring the underlying code in such a large system was a major undertaking but our team managed to do so without any customer disruption. On top of that, the migration resulted in increased availability and 66% reduction in cost-to-serve.
The migration to the new message queueing system helps the team scale by supporting hundreds of millions of operations each day.
Additionally, the migration helped our automation team to scale our efforts by pivoting away from hands-on management of the message broker to employing a managed service. This gave us more time to develop new features that help our customers succeed.
Charlie explores an engineering challenge that keeps him up at night.
What is your favorite sport to play or watch? Do any things overlap between that sport and your work or team at Salesforce?
Esports is my favorite sport to watch and play. Nearly every game that I watch is team-based, where players must communicate in a fast-paced environment. While most players feel the need to individually excel, the best players put the team first — ensuring the team wins as a unit. My team here at Salesforce feels the same way.
With esports, players practice daily for hours and it is really motivating to see their dedication. In fact, it inspires me to better myself — I want to be a better engineer and a better person than I was yesterday.