In this blog series, I am going to share how mathematics helped our company to stay focused and honest without drinking our own kool aid. We are honored to work with some of the technology darlings of the world and soon figured out how they stay ahead of the competition – they move forward by constructing an experiment where the outcome can be quantified rather than based on preconceived notions. This enables them to move forward fast compared to the rest of the companies and gain advantage over their competition rather than relying on yesteryear’s technology.

We learnt the power of using Math to make decisions and used that to construct experiments. This helped us clearly quantify our experimental outcomes and helped us boost our experiment velocity.

Math + Need for speed + Human DNA

Consider that speed might just be the most powerful impetus that drives humans. It was extremely important before we even knew what to call it. The progression of modern modes of transport – from horseback-riding to the Ford Model T, to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket – represents revolutionary advances to fulfill our overriding desire: “I want to go faster!” Those advances were possible, because as speed went up, human skills were increasingly augmented by high precision machines, which added the necessary precision to the task of maneuvering, and helped mitigate risks.

Horse: More skill required to drive
Ford Model T: Car engine drives, humans control direction & speed
SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-16 Mission: Fully computer operated

And at the core of high-precision platforms/engines is Mathematics. The other intangible benefit of Mathematics is that it is a universal language with which we can arrive at the truth. I have always loved math for that, and for the rigor it brings to any discussion.

At Zycada, we have been fortunate to work with customers that are some of the leading tech darlings of the world, helping millions of end users across the world enjoy the power of faster Internet everyday. In doing so, I noticed the shared love of math closely ingrained in their corporate cultures, regardless of company size. We also internalized how our customers precisely wield speed (of experimenting) while controlling risk. We found that precision and speed are their North Star, and math helps them get there. Working with their high performing teams, we realized that these companies share a set of common attributes that let them move fast and make them successful:

  1. They contain a critical mass of people that are free to question everything and systematically weigh risks.
  2. Decision-makers understand the importance of experimentation in its literal sense — with hypotheses, controls, measurements, reporting and iteration. More importantly, they push this responsibility down into all levels of their organizations. The teams have a strong technology DNA that encourages experimentation. This trait exists across all their teams, not just engineering.
  3. Teams across all organizations appreciate the benefits of taking risks; they know how to mitigate risks, and how to tip the risk/reward ratio in their favor. They know how to define the objective and measure the outcome of an experiment; this enables them to  empirically conclude whether the experiment was a success or a failure (A/B testing). These teams always find an evidence-based way to de-risk business decisions.
  4. Finally, all relevant teams, including technical and data analytics teams, collaborate closely in these companies to drive the business forward.

Wherever possible, these teams define success crisply, test assumptions systematically, bring forth new hypotheses, and work together to make this a daily routine. Effective collaboration depends on a shared definition of truth (which transcends mere opinions) and success, and on a willingness to act on results.

Our customers have an unshakeable conviction to respect the math across their teams when making key business decisions. At Zycada, we resolved to follow their lead and adopt that mentality into our core company culture. We have experienced ourselves how respecting the math makes huge contributions to “soft” concepts like trust, dignity, and conviction, and why this combination is required to be able to move fast. In my next blog, I will talk about how these values have shaped our engineering and operations approach here at Zycada, so stay tuned.

In the interim, feel free to check out our new website at https://www.zycada.com or leave me comments on my blog.