Two keys for successful remote work By Brian Pontarelli

Interview with Brian Pontarelli, Founder and co-CTO of FusionAuth
February 15, 2022
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Brian Pontarelli is a technology entrepreneur currently solving login, registration, filtering, moderation, and user management challenges at FusionAuth. He has extensive knowledge of coding strategies as well as a hands-on understanding of the business needs of growing companies. Before Brian bootstrapped FusionAuth, he studied computer engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. After graduating, he solved complex technology challenges for companies like Orbitz, BEA, US Freightways, XOR, and Texturemedia.

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What do you think is the key to successful remote work?

Good tools and lightheartedness lead to a great remote working culture.  

We’ve pretty much embraced the Slack model. Slack has made it really simple to communicate and provides tools that make it easy to collaborate with teammates. Paying for good software is probably the core of how we succeed. 

Another way is by inviting everyone to everything; if we have a holiday party, we’ll fly everyone out. We try to be as inclusive as possible so we get to actually meet people. A lot of it is really just not being too serious, it’s company culture. We agreed that if we would pick any character to embody our culture/ product it would be Zach Braff from Scrubs – smart, funny, but doesn’t take anything too seriously. That type of mentality helps especially when you’re remote.

What is your life motto?

It’s critical to remember that you have a choice. We can choose to stop working with that vendor or we can choose to not work with that customer. These decisions have implications, but you still have the choice. 

It’s also important to realize is that the other side also has a choice that can impact them. It's one of those things people will beat themselves up about with thoughts like “maybe we didn't present our best”, but there is also the chance that they did but the other side just made a different choice that happened to impact them. So don't beat yourself up! Learn from it, move on, and go win some more business. 

What are the traits of successful engineers?

We tend to look for what I like to call core engineers: people who have rock solid fundamentals, are meticulous about testing, can work through complex code patterns/designs, and will write features that can be easily built on top of.

But we also don’t care if you don’t know how to do some things – what we care about is that you can figure it out. If there’s an issue that you are tasked to fix, can you think critically about the problem and retain it? Critical thinking and retention are both traits we look!


What's the best advice you've ever gotten?

I think one of the things that I still continue to struggle with but am getting better at is the idea that you can only have one top priority. You might have 27,000 things on your to-do list, but only one of those is the toughest and the one you have to do first, even if you don't want to do that one first. Knocking out a to-do list and doing each task when you should is crucial. This applies to every role. You just need to remember that one thing, the top priority, and knockdown your to-do list. It’s hard, but can be taught and is part of the company’s working style.

So sit down and ask yourself “what are my goals and how do I accomplish them?” This process of thinking will help not only with success in business but personal success as well. 

Tell us about the origin story of FusionAuth

When I was working at the Lead Architect at Orbits, a couple of people from the company decided to do a startup. I joined as the first engineer. There wasn’t a lot of filtering libraries available back then, so I wrote a one from scratch. The company eventually went under, but I turned around what started as a small feature into a product. It picked up interest from big game companies that started asking about licenses, so I quit my job to grow it into a business. After running the company for a while, I learned that it was a small business market since not everyone needs a preventative filter. We started brainstorming as a team of three and came up with Fusion. We created a login system for the enterprise sales market. However, a lot of other companies had a similar product, like Microsoft Passport, so after battling to get it to the market we renamed it and started giving it away for free. We eventually made it developer friendly so developers could easily download and install it to run in their app. Then, we relaunched as FusionAnth in late 2018/early 2019 and it took off since the product was a nice middle ground between open source solutions and large corporations. We continued to build on our solution that is free for developers but powerful and easy to use, and now we’re growing 3x to 5x a year.

What kept you going through the failure?

I’m blindly committed to succeeding. I always knew that I wanted to build a company, and I just kept at it. Running a company is challenging - dealing with issues with employees, and strategic ups and downs. What keeps me going is the belief that there’s an opportunity out there that I can solve. 

I also love working on developer tools. I can speak their language and can think from my customers’ perspective because I'm one of them! Dev tools is a really fun market. 

FusionAuth is hiring!

FusionAuth is VC funded, growing insanely fast, and need help to grow the business.

Apply Here!

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