February 26, 2021
Daniel LaCoste on the reward of helping others
What is your role?
Developer Support Engineer
Describe what you do in a few sentences.
I help developers build with the Plaid API by answering product questions, troubleshooting their integrations, and escalating issues to our engineering team. It is important for me to maintain a broad understanding of how Plaid works as a product and as a complex system. This knowledge allows me to effectively communicate with both technical and non-technical audiences, internally and externally.
Plaid’s mission is to unlock financial freedom for everyone. What does this mean to you?
Learning about money can often be complicated and daunting. After graduating college, I still knew very little about finance. Since working at Plaid, I have gained a deeper understanding of the financial system because our customers are solving real-world problems for everyday people with our products. Plaid empowers our customers to make finance accessible and approachable for people of all backgrounds.
What do you love most about working at Plaid?
Honestly, the people. Our new-hire coffee chats, board game nights, company offsites, and team events helped me build meaningful relationships throughout the organization. I miss being in the office because it was incredibly energizing to be around the people. I would often leave the office late at night – not because of necessity, but because I wanted to stay and socialize with my coworkers. Meeting virtually is convenient, but I am eagerly awaiting the next time we can all celebrate our hard work together—in person!
What sets Plaid apart from other places you have worked?
Plaid’s connective culture holds a very special place in my heart. The team is always willing to carve out time to help you be successful in your role. I feel comfortable asking anyone at Plaid for help and I consider many Plaids to be close friends of mine.
Describe Plaid in one word.
Talented. When I first joined Plaid, I wanted to get to know everyone. After countless conversations, I learned that many team members had unique talents or interests outside of Plaid. Plaids are farmers, artists, chefs, botanists, bakers, marathoners, chocolatiers, pilots, powerlifters, music producers, scuba divers, gamers, brewmasters, comedians, photographers, authors, cyclists, and world-class pinball players. This is not an exhaustive list, and the list continues to grow :)
Let’s rewind to the beginning.
How did you learn about Plaid?
I learned about Plaid from a weekly LinkedIn newsletter titled “jobs you might be interested in”. I recall frantically looking for jobs after graduation, and I was really upset every time I had to fill out a lengthy job application. When I noticed I could apply to Plaid via API, I was overjoyed at how easy it was to apply….and I got a phone call the next morning!
What made you want to work at Plaid, and how did you make it a reality?
I wanted to work at Plaid because I knew that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. San Francisco? Yes! Exciting start-up? Yes! Expert team? Yes! Mission I believe in? Yes! Our careers page used to have public biographies for each person at Plaid. Reading about the incredible people at Plaid inspired me to prepare for my interview as much as possible because I wanted to be part of the team.
Anything memorable from your interview?
My interview was cordial! I remember being interviewed by William Hockey, Plaid’s cofounder. During the interview he invited me to grab a snack from the kitchen and we spent some time walking around the office. He was very interested in getting to know my story: we chatted about where I grew up, my college experience, and my personal interests. The conversation was natural and made me feel comfortable. I remember, a bit awkwardly, when William was leaving the room and I said, "Thanks, Tyler." I equate this to nerves, but I definitely said someone else's name. He didn't seem to have noticed….or at least didn’t give off the impression he noticed, haha. Thanks for still hiring me, William!
Okay, let’s talk technical support. How did you choose that career and why?
I love technology, but at my core I care about connecting with and helping others. My role is focused exactly on that. Helping other people work through problems to find a solution is very rewarding. I am constantly learning, so I have empathy and humility for those who are trying something new for the first time. There is nothing quite like being a beginner and feeling lost. In support, I help people find their path. I also credit my family! I come from a line of teachers, so it’s probably in my blood to help others.
Where did your love of technology come from?
Like many 90s kids, I fell in love with the Internet and video games. While my teenage friends were playing outside, I preferred spending my summer getting lost in video games. I was passionate about video games because it was a thrilling escape from my small town in Canada. Video games taught me how to solve puzzles, communicate, and tap into my creativity. As I grew older, I wanted to understand the technology that was powering my favorite games, so I studied computer science to learn more. As an adult, gaming keeps me connected with friends and family back home, and it helps break the ice with new friends. I have lots of great memories playing games late into the night at the Plaid office!
You are considered a “culture ambassador” at Plaid. What does that mean to you and how Plaid culture has evolved over time?
That is such a kind compliment! I grew up in a small, rural town in the Canadian foothills where I knew everyone in my town. However, I didn’t know anyone when I moved to San Francisco. At first I felt like an outsider, but I soon learned that everyone at Plaid was so incredibly kind and welcoming. I really cared about getting to know people beyond their role. I think this helped me build meaningful connections throughout the office.
In my second month, I was asked to help organize a curling “chess on ice” offsite. That’s when I felt a part of something bigger than myself. Experiences like that taught me how the culture of your company seriously impacts your work. Plaid became my home away from home. I feel fortunate that my experience is just as positive now as it was back then.
When I first joined Plaid, there were 6 people on my team and now there are 56! Even though Plaid has expanded to six offices over the world, and working remotely has accentuated the distance, the Plaid culture still feels familiar and contiguous. As we keep growing, I want to continue sharing my excitement and joy about Plaid’s culture, because it is what makes Plaid special.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
I have two pieces of advice. The first is to take more photos. Specifically, photos of your everyday life and not just the “special moments”. Life can change suddenly, and I believe it’s important to document life as much as possible. The second is to keep learning. My teammate taught me this because he is constantly growing and learning more about Plaid. When I joined Plaid, he helped me navigate throughout the organization and coached me on how to think holistically when solving challenging problems. I admire this peer because he positively shaped my experience at Plaid and impacted my life both personally and professionally.
In life we will stumble and fall short, but these setbacks do not define us. Approaching these moments with a growth mindset allows us to remember that even though we are not there yet, we are well on our way.