1 Year @ DuckDuckGo

Privacy by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

A bit over a year ago (14 months ago) I joined DuckDuckGo as an Engineering Director on the Mobile – now Native Apps – team.

The biggest thing driving a change was getting back on a positive learning curve. Two big realizations pushed me to start responding to recruiter messages (around a year before I finally made the move; I spoke to 4 places in total) the first being that I was getting too far away from the kind of work I like to do and secondly feeling like I was increasingly learning coping mechanisms rather than skills.

My criteria: net positive in the world, mobile, product development, distributed, director level.

I was willing to bend on these for the “right” opportunity, but in the end I got lucky (or: was pretty deliberate — both?) and checked everything on the list. Beyond that, the big shift was to an all-business-low-drama environment, meaning that my job was cognitively harder but emotionally easier. Of all times, this was a gift during a pandemic, and opened up more space emotionally for the rest of my life.

It’s been fascinating to learn more about the privacy space. I was previously very European in my approach to it, seeing it as human right and not something that I needed to pay too much attention to. I was (and am) extremely particular about some things (largely because of previous experiences of online harassment), but not worried about others. I never click on adverts, so creepy ads following me around the internet was a mild irritant, and judging from the ads I see on Instagram, even Facebook knows nothing about me. Understanding more about the extent of surveillance that enables behavioural advertising has made me glad to have the opportunity to work on giving people alternatives. There are some sneak previews of things we’ve been working on in this WIRED article.

It also makes product development more interesting, many tech companies rely heavily on analytics, tracking everything they can about an individual’s behaviour (quote from someone about a food delivery app, “it was a tracking app, that also happened to have a food delivery integrated”), but ultimately these aren’t needed to make good decisions and build a compelling product. I talked a little bit about our approach to metrics and product decision making in this conversation with Paul Hudson.

All of this to say, it’s been a good year; here’s to the next one. Excited to keep shipping and building out the team!

(yes, we’re hiring)