Why I Joined Tonic: A Software Engineer's Perspective

May 18, 2021

When I first started working at Tonic, I wasn’t looking for a job. I had known about the company since its founding, but it wasn’t until talking to Andrew (Tonic’s CTO) over breakfast in late 2019 that I decided to contribute some of my time to a company of just six people (two-thirds of whom were founders!). Today I want to share why, shortly afterwards, I decided to join full-time, and how I’ve found it to be an excellent environment for doing great work ever since.

The Problem

Like countless other developers at some point during their career, I’ve had to create fake data for use in QA and testing. Having used Faker and other tools before, I just assumed that this was the best we could do, and there would always be pain around sub-par and difficult-to-use synthetic data—or even just keeping a fake schema up to date.

Tonic’s founders weren’t ready to accept that. They believed that by going deep on this problem you could not only save a ton of time and headache, but also make data that was significantly more useful for all kinds of teams working with data on a regular basis. Upon using the product they had built, I realized not only how useful it would be as a service, but also how many interesting challenges it contained within its development.

The Challenges

In order to provide excellent synthetic data, there are many engineering challenges to overcome. 

Supporting a variety of different data sources requires understanding database metadata and how different databases fundamentally work at a much deeper level than you would need to at most other organizations. Creating highly flexible, dynamic configurations while maintaining a straightforward, empowering user experience presents a complicated design and front-end engineering challenge. 

from Tonic's Multi-database Subsetting webinar, presented by Johnny

And closest to my heart, features like subsetting and synthesizing data from scratch utilize interesting techniques and data structures, from graph theory to generative adversarial networks (GANs). I’ve been deeply involved in building out Tonic’s multi-database subsetter. The importance and impact of that work has been validated not only by the customers who use it, like eBay and Flexport, but also by our recent recognition as one of Fast Company’s 2021 Most Innovative Companies, which we received specifically in relation to our subsetting capabilities.

Combine these projects with an engineering team that has continued to grow steadily since its humble beginnings, and I’ve consistently found myself energized by the work that Tonic is accomplishing.

The Company

As I tell almost everyone on the hunt for a new work opportunity, the most important things to confirm for yourself at a company are the people and the purpose. Without both of these, you’re bound to find yourself back on the hunt sooner than you’d like.

In the case of Tonic, it’s clear that the product is providing immense value to its list of customers—a list that is growing rapidly every day. Of course, there are still challenges along the road ahead, but it’s exciting as an engineer to see the immediate impact of your work with new and existing users, and to receive the great feedback (and praise!) they provide.

Equally as important as its product and purpose, Tonic has also succeeded in building a great team. There have been a lot of new faces since I joined the company—we’re now at 30 strong. And everyone here puts their best into their work, cares about collaboration and learning, and finds the space to share some laughs with all of us. This was even with much of the team joining during the global challenges of 2020.

All in all, Tonic is a great place to work, and a fantastic place to have an impact building and growing the company and product into its next stages. If you’re interested in chatting more about my experience, feel free to drop me a message on LinkedIn.

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