In a competitive labor market, CarGurus is managing an impressive feat: It’s drawing technical workers away from other employers.
The Cambridge, Mass.-based company lured Katie Langerman away from an area startup last year, for example, even though she wasn’t looking for a new job. But Langerman was so impressed by CarGurus’ employees and its work environment that she decided to make the leap and join the firm as a user interface (UI) engineer.
“There was something in the culture that was unique. I got the sense that people were warm and open to new engineers,” Langerman says. “It just felt like a very mature but fun and friendly environment, and that was something I had been looking for.”
CarGurus, a 13-year-old automotive research and shopping website, is making its first appearance on Computerworld’s Best Places to Work in IT list this year (it’s the No. 5 small company), in part because it combines robust employer-sponsored benefits with an engaging culture where engineers are releasing code every day.
Alex Bonassera joined CarGurus as a senior manager with the platform reliability engineering team in late 2018 after being impressed from the start of his interview with the company.
“The people, the energy they had, the challenges that everyone was trying to solve, the fact that they had all the tools in place to be productive — I was blown away,” Bonassera says.
Workers have good reason to be impressed. In addition to competitive salaries, CarGurus offers grant money to each full-time engineer so that they can donate to the approved open-source project they’re most excited about. The company also allows workers two sabbaticals (one after five years and the other after 10). And it offers 16 paid weeks of parental leave and then 15 “gradual return to work” days for primary caregivers.
CarGurus also offers tuition reimbursement and pays for conferences and other training opportunities. It has a free catered lunch for its workers every day, offers free parking and transportation for its engineering staff, and allows for flexible schedules. Its physical workspace features a modern, open design with natural lighting, standing desks and a game room (which sees regular use).
CarGurus, a publicly traded company, also makes every employee a stakeholder, with new hires getting restricted stock units as part of their total compensation package (units are fully vested in four years). The company grants stock as part of some promotions and retention benefits, too.
CTO Kyle Lomeli says such benefits work together to create an empowering yet supportive workplace where engineers can innovate, take ownership and help shape the company’s future.
“The engineer’s role isn’t limited to executing on specific tasks or code, because we have an environment that operates like a startup,” says Lomeli, who himself started with the company as an engineer and worked his way up to the CTO role during his 11-year tenure. “They’re working with product teams to figure out how to execute on problems. There’s a lot of collaboration.
“Engineers don’t complete a task and move on to the next thing,” he adds. “That gives them a sense of being able to influence the direction of the company and a sense of ownership. It creates a sense of shared purpose. They have many opportunities to see the fruits of the labor turned into a product that’s going to be seen by millions of people.”
Sam Schatz, who as a talent acquisition manager works specifically with the company’s technical candidates, says most of CarGurus’ engineers are part of its full-stack product development team. The company also has an IT team to support its internal systems.
Schatz says CarGurus is able to successfully compete for talent in the Boston area against big tech companies and startups because it offers a strong total compensation package as well as an engaging environment where its engineers are always helping each other learn and grow.
“The perks and benefits are very competitive here — that’s a huge selling point,” Schatz says, but he adds that what really gets candidates excited to work there is having “really complex and exciting problems to solve. So even as we grow our numbers, we’re the right size for people to make a big impact in a short amount of time.”
Langerman says that’s a big part of what brought her onboard.
“Coming in, I saw there was room for opportunities,” she says, noting that she’s able to learn new skills from her colleagues through collaboration and programs like peer mentoring. “I saw that I’d have a chance to grow and learn. It makes it an exciting place to work, and that rolls into why I choose to stay here.”
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