Sairam Suresh’s 25 year career has spanned the tech industry from startups to giants like Microsoft, and most recently, Amazon Web Services. His experience building software at scale has now brought him to Addepar to tackle the fintech space - and specifically, the more than $3 trillion in assets - now on Addepar.
He manages the technical teams behind Addepar’s open ecosystem and extensive partner network that play a critical role in fueling success and growth for our clients. Today, that client base includes over 600 of the world’s leading family offices, registered investment advisors, private banks and large financial institutions across more than 25 countries.
Building engineering teams and tools to manage scale in the trillions of dollars is no easy feat. Sairam shares the key to motivating his teams and developing the best ideas, which he says requires creativity and the freedom to test innovative approaches in problem solving.
What is your career background, and what led you to Addepar?
Early on, I worked at WebTV in Palo Alto, a consumer platform that provided internet access via a simple set-top box and a phone line, which was acquired by Microsoft. I continued to work at small and large companies, focused on innovations that helped people in one way or another. I joined Amazon and went to Vancouver from Los Angeles to work on networking and cloud-based distributed systems at AWS. They were doing a lot of really hard engineering work with incredibly talented people. A former teammate of mine from Amazon joined Addepar, and was the one who introduced me to the company. When I started to think about something new - we made the connection.
Why did you come to Addepar and how does that influence how you hire?
I think any place that is doing things that are really challenging will attract great people. Talented people don’t like being bored. It sounds funny, but I look for a place where I feel like I’m the dumbest person in the room, where it’s going to be difficult for me to get up to speed. It pushes me to keep learning and growing. The great engineers I’ve worked with desire that type of challenge: difficult problems to tackle and noodle at until they figure them out. That’s the type of attitude I look for when hiring.
What is your role at Addepar?
I’m director of partnerships & integrations engineering, which is part of the operating platform organization at Addepar. We’re responsible for the business logic around getting data into and out of the Addepar platform. We support various types of data sources and providers, and they each have unique and bespoke ways for managing data, for the benefit of our mutual clients. Our goal is to make that experience as seamless, error-free and secure as possible. As one could imagine, it’s difficult work to ensure different data formats match between financial transactions and assets and how they’re used in the platform.
How do you approach problem solving on your team at Addepar?
At Addepar, we have a lot of extremely complicated problems to solve on a vast scale, given the enormous amount of data we have to ingest, manipulate and calculate on the platform. The way I approach making hard technical decisions is under the lens of “we need to do what is best for our clients.” We shouldn’t do unnecessary heavy-lifting and put our resources into developing something internally if it won’t aid in giving our clients the best experience. At times, it’s best to find a good tool that’s already out there on the market and then partner with those solutions. That way, we can spend our time, put our resources into the business logic, which actually impacts clients and solves problems that have yet to be solved.
How does Addepar create a culture of innovation?
Addepar creates an environment where engineers are allowed to innovate, without a prescription that says you always have to do things a certain way. When solving a problem, our path forward is generally to let multiple people carve out a little time in their own sprint and create their own proofs of concept, all offering different potential approaches with the same end goal.
We’ll do some analysis and then we’ll say, “This is the solution that makes the most sense for the needs of Addepar’s clients.”
We’ll make a decision, and we’ll move on it. I appreciate our agility - the ability to make decisions quickly and not get mired down in meetings.
What are your big technology challenges as you look ahead?
A big issue as we scale is that we have to accelerate our customer onboarding process, and the mechanisms we’ve been using to date won’t keep up. Machine learning is a huge opportunity to build new mechanisms that enable systematic recognition of inbound data, automatically determine the fit to our internal data models, normalize and ingest. When outliers are detected, only then does the team need to dig in and understand where our system needs tuning. The customer benefit is a greatly improved onboarding process, with a feedback loop so we can understand and address any pain points quickly.
What’s most exciting about the coming year at Addepar?
Building out our Edinburgh office! Europe is a huge market and we’re expanding there. They have a unique set of interesting challenges around financial data and regulatory compliance. That office is also important as we look to create an even more global reach with the platform. We’re at this incredible juncture where we’ve grown super fast and we have to build out our teams to manage that, so this is going to be a priority.