Pinterest’s senior VP of engineering, Jeremy King, tells us about the platform’s ambitious plans – which include doubling its engineering team in Dublin this year.
“There isn’t really another platform like Pinterest. Lots of people like to compare us to social media. We’re really not social media. It’s a place that is inherently personal.”
That is how Jeremy King, Pinterest’s senior vice-president of engineering, described the image sharing and discovery app to SiliconRepublic.com during his visit to Dublin earlier this month.
A resident of San Francisco, California, King leads the technical team and strategy responsible for maintaining and improving Pinterest’s platform for more than 400m monthly global users.
“I usually describe it externally to folks as – you take this beautiful app that has an amazing experience for you to visually discover the world,” he explained from Pinterest’s Dublin office, which serves as its European HQ and currently employs more than 300 people.
“And it’s powered by this incredibly amazing machine learning engine we’ve built, with billions of items that are networked together to essentially help recommend what can inspire you in your life.”
‘Engineers want to work on hard problems. We have extremely hard problems’
– JEREMY KING
Prior to joining Pinterest, King worked at Walmart as its chief technology officer. He took on his current role in 2019.
A passionate user of the app himself, he was attracted by Pinterest’s mission to “create a platform that will inspire everyone to create the life they love”. He also wanted to work on a team with “some of the best talent in the world” including computer vision, graph database and machine learning experts.
Pinterest is used by a highly diverse demographic globally, from teachers curating their lesson plans to gardening experts who talk about local traditions, King explained. “It is incredible how millions of people use the platform for so many different things.”
Used largely by women in its early years, Pinterest now counts men, Gen Z and people outside the US among its fastest-growing demographics.
“There are a million places you can go if you already know what you want. But if you don’t know exactly what you want, like what style of dining table you’d like to buy next, then Pinterest is a great place to introduce small, new brands, like black-owned or sustainable businesses.”
PinFlex – the future of work
Pinterest’s users are not the only group of people the company is providing choice for. Ever since the pandemic changed the way people work, Pinterest has been betting on a future of work that offers a great deal of flexibility.
Known as PinFlex, Pinterest’s new philosophy involves recognising the value of distributed work and giving employees the choice to work from anywhere in the country they prefer. The policy was officially announced in April this year.
“What everyone wants is the best of both worlds. They don’t want to be completely remote and the don’t want to be completely in the office – they want complete flexibility,” King explained.
For work in which physical collaboration is essential, such as for small engineering teams like the one based in Dublin, employees can decide for themselves how to go about things and typically meet once or twice a month.
Betting on Ireland
While Pinterest established its base in Dublin back in 2016, the office has only had an engineering team here for the past two years.
Now Pinterest’s engineering team of around 25 people is getting ready for speedy growth. King explained that the company plans to double the engineering team in Ireland to nearly 50 by the end of this year.
When asked about the rationale behind the plans, King said it was due to the fact that Dublin has a very strong and diverse pool of tech talent that can make scaling easy.
“I was at dinner with the team last night and there was a Romanian, an Egyptian, a German, two Indians and about five folks from Ireland. This is the kind of team that we need to build a platform that inspires the whole world.”
Specifically, Pinterest is looking to expand its data warehouse, growth, privacy, and trust and safety engineering teams in Ireland. King said the company also plans to move entire teams to Ireland so that they can function autonomously without needing to call back to San Francisco.
“We have about a million more things that we want to do. So the faster we can hire, the better, and we’re really excited.”
Other roles Pinterest is currently hiring for in Dublin cover a variety of functions such as sales, accounting, finance, HR, recruiting and other supporting functions.
Who makes a good ‘pin-ployee’?
King said that anyone with expertise in their respective field and a passion for something beyond their profession is welcome at Pinterest. He gave the example of employees who are passionate about flying planes, doing pottery, or even playing Dungeons and Dragons, of which he is a big fan.
“We’re small enough and large enough that you get complete ownership of the stack, but the things that you ship are going to impact tens of millions of people,” he said.
“The other thing is engineers want to work on hard problems. We have extremely hard problems. Also, when you look at the people you’re working with – they’re very high-calibre, which will help you learn.”
King, who recently got a puppy back home in San Francisco, said his own Pinterest board is now very dog-themed because he has been looking for inspiration for doghouses.
“I’m building a four-by-six-feet mid-century modern doghouse out of recycled wood – so I’m getting a lot of dog pins right now. There’s also a lot of barbecue-related pins because I love that.”
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