It’s not easy to take the entire process of in-person car shopping and transform it into a pleasurable, digital-first consumer experience.
But the engineering team at CarGurus Inc. has done just that. And how do they solve those big problems?
“Usually with three or four of us crammed together in front of a screen, everyone contributing ideas, asking questions, listening intently, testing theories — all the while cracking jokes,” said UI/UX Engineer Peter Cepeda.
We talked with Peter and two other CarGurus engineers to learn more about the culture that empowers them to make the car buying a breeze.
EMPLOYEES: 780 (680 local)
WHAT THEY DO: CarGurus is the largest car buying site in the country and aims to simplify the car buying process through the use of cutting-edge matching algorithms.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Cambridge, with offices in Detroit, London and Dublin.
RECOVER AND REJUVENATE: CarGurus wants all their employees coming to work refreshed and full of ideas. They offer generous time off, 16 weeks of paid parental leave, and sabbaticals after five and ten years with the company.
CULTURE ABOUND: We talked to three CarGurus team members about how the company culture helps them enjoy their work while their careers grow as fast as the CarGurus user base.
Charles Talbot, Senior UI/UX Engineer
Charles is responsible for designing and implementing interfaces for CarGurus’ customers that are easy to use, compelling and robust.
BEYOND WORK: Charles flexes the right side of his brain in his free time by teaching ceramics. He loves working with students in a collaborative fashion and is always encouraging them to find creative answers to their problems.
Tell us about a project or challenge you’re working on that excites you.
I work on developing new ways for dealers to reach shoppers on our site. Knowing our customers has a huge impact on the outcome of any project, and we are strongly committed to knowing ours. This is especially true for greenfield projects, where design and engineering efforts come together to make something new. We meet with our customers regularly to keep our goals aligned with reality, and we are fast to market with new features, making them available for demos and testing in the wild as soon as possible.
What opportunities are there to work on different products, features or tech stacks at CarGurus?
The field at CarGurus is wide open. If you can make it work and it improves our technology, you can do it.
Recently, I’ve been learning more about search engine optimization and search engine marketing technologies while also contributing to new display advertisements. I find all that technology interesting, and I am given the time and space at CarGurus to increase my knowledge about it.
If you can make it work and it improves our technology, you can do it.”
How does your team collaborate together on projects?
While I’m working, someone will often wheel their chair over with laptop in hand, looking for advice on a design — “What do you think about this layout for the header?” — or to gain some insight into a user — “How much traffic does this page get, and at what time of day?” Each team member has a slightly different skillset, and we try to take advantage of one another’s strengths.
Katie Langerman, UI Engineer
Katie’s team relies on her to write quality CSS and to oversee consistency between code and design.
BEYOND WORK: Katie likes to get into a meditative state every morning, but she’s not sitting in the lotus position ― she decompresses and gains creative energy by getting a solid workout in at the gym.
What exciting project are you currently working on?
I’m working on “reskinning” our mobile site with React and CSS. What excites me most about this project is that we are using the new design and implementation to develop a self-documenting style guide.
Building a style guide alongside a rebrand allows us to kill two birds with one stone. We aren’t building components for an ideal style guide that no one will ever use — we’re building exactly what we are using and doing so in real time. It’s much easier to account for edge cases when the components or styles you’re building are coming from very real requirements.
How has CarGurus empowered you to pursue your passions in both development and design?
My managers at CarGurus have celebrated my multifaceted skill set and allowed me to explore both areas. They encourage me to grow without having to pigeonhole myself as an engineer or as a designer.
When opportunities come up for UI focused work, or if people need a set of eyes on designs, I always make sure to participate and provide value. I’m lucky to work somewhere that encourages that level of collaboration.
My managers at CarGurus have celebrated my multifaceted skill set and allowed me to explore both areas. They encourage me to grow without having to pigeonhole myself as an engineer or as a designer.”
What has your experience been like receiving mentorship at CarGurus?
I have received mentorship from several engineers during the rebranding process. Not having much experience with React, I needed a good amount of peer programming to get up and running. I’ve had one-on-one help writing new components —and discussing what makes a good component — and access to help whenever I hit a wall.
Our team values knowing when to ask for help and giving back to others whenever possible. Some days I get home from work and think about how lucky I am to be able to learn from such talented engineers. These are valuable skills for me personally and, in turn, makes our team more successful as a whole.
Peter Cepeda, UI/UX Engineer
Peter works on the consumer team is exploring new ways to make car shopping easier for consumers. He adjusts the user experience for the CarGurus app to make buying and selling a car as intuitive as possible.
BEYOND WORK: Peter really takes advantage of the free time ― he draws anime-style illustrations on his iPad during his morning commute and spends his nights developing apps and games.
What opportunities are there to work on different products, features or tech stacks?
Almost everyone I work with has changed roles, teams, tech stack and location in the office — some as many as six times since I’ve been here. The company is incredibly open to working with you, finding your perfect role and helping you succeed.
Honestly, even when stressed and trying to meet a deadline, we have fun.”
What's your favorite part or element of your company's culture?
I really enjoy all the small interactions I have with everyone as well as the bigger events, such as going ax throwing as a team or renting out an entire theatre to watch a cool sci-fi film. I’m also still bummed that I missed Snoop Dogg at our holiday party. Honestly, even when stressed and trying to meet a deadline, we have fun.
How does your team collaborate in order to solve big problems?
Usually with three or four of us crammed together in front of a screen, everyone contributing ideas, asking questions, listening intently, testing theories — all the while cracking jokes. I have a really tight team. I personally encourage experimentation and exploration and try to cultivate a safe, productive, nurturing and all-inclusive environment. We try to empower each other. That just leads to a stronger, highly capable team.