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An Engineering Boomerang: Why I Left Appian, and What Brought Me Back

Mattheadshot3 Matt Kornfield

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Matt Kornfield started as an Associate Consultant with Appian in 2015 and today is a Technical Mentor leading our Software Engineering team. But in between, Matt left Appian for another job before making his way back to where it all started.

He’s not the only one who has left Appian, and after experiencing another workplace, decided to return. Why? Our Appian Engineering team is filled with curious, supportive problem-solvers, who always have your back. 

We sat down with Matt and allowed him to  share his story about why he left and what it is about our Engineering team that brought him back. 

Q: What made you decide to leave Appian? 

A: After being at Appian for about four years, I was ready for a change. I started working at Appian after graduating with a degree in Physics. I learned so much about software engineering and computer science from working at Appian with very talented, smart engineers. I started as a Consultant, then worked as a Product Engineer and was promoted to Software Engineer II. 

I think four years is a common turning point in your career. It’s a time where you reset and think about your growth, and if it makes sense to stay at your current company. I’d only ever worked full-time at Appian and once I got to that point, I wanted to see if I could succeed outside of Appian.

I wanted to try out new technologies, and at that time felt like some of the processes and tech at Appian were slowing us down. I was looking for a brand new challenge and a new tech stack to learn.

It was a hard decision, but in 2018 I decided to make the leap and leave Appian.  

Q: How did your new company compare to your experience at Appian?  

A: I moved to a multi-national company growing its Engineering teams. Within six months, I was bored and burnt out. Although I got to use tech and tools that were new to me, I found there wasn’t an innovative culture where people were open to new ways of doing things. 

When I see a process or system that could be improved to be more efficient, I’m the kind of person who wants to take on the challenge to change it. There were some difficult team dynamics, and it felt like experimenting with new ways of working was seen as a chore, rather than encouraged. The side effect of not feeling valued in my work was that I became bored and unmotivated. 

That’s when I realized new technology and tools don't exist as a fixed solution if you’re not motivated and inspired by the people you work with. 

Q: Why did you decide to come back to work at Appian? 

A: The people and the culture. I believe that’s what has the most impact on your work day and what drives people to and from jobs, and that’s what drove me back to Appian — the people. 

I still kept in contact with my old manager at Appian who mentioned they were forming a new Engineering team to focus on improving infrastructure and processes. The team was aiming to solve the issues that were the main reason I’d left Appian, and I was offered a new role to help lead the team. 

This also felt very representative of Appian and our culture — we know there’s always an opportunity to improve. We’re a company of curious people who love a good challenge and solving new and complex problems.

With a growing Engineering department, I was confident that returning to Appian  would provide me with many new growth opportunities, especially in management.

I don’t regret leaving Appian because it gave me perspective on how important the team and culture are to achieving success in your work. 

Q: What makes the Appian Engineering team unique? 

A: The level of generosity and genuine willingness to help others — that’s what makes the Engineering team stand out. 

You notice it when something goes wrong, or there’s an unexpected fire that comes up and everyone pitches in to help. People are excited to share their expertise so that you’re always learning. We’re a data-driven team and always open to trying new ways to do things.

People we hire are both smart and generous with their time and knowledge. 

Q: In your role as Technical Mentor today, what gets you excited about your work? 

A: I’m really enjoying being a manager and leading a team of four direct reports. It’s rewarding being able to help coach my team through technical issues or complicated projects and see the impact and how they grow and work through challenges. 

Recently I asked my team: if I could wave a magic wand and change one thing about your work right now what would it be? There’s a lot of things I can’t fix, but one team member talked about flexibility to travel and work remotely to be closer to family long term, so we’re exploring whether that’s an option now. 

In one-on-one meetings with my team members, we take time to step away from our day to day tasks and talk about career growth. I ask about what they want to learn, and what areas of Engineering or beyond they’re interested in.  

I want to help people grow in their careers, and there are so many opportunities within Appian to work on different projects, teams, and even transition to different departments. It’s common at Appian for people to change to a new department as their interests change too. 

From my experience, I know Appian is the best place for me right now but I also know that’s not the case for everyone depending where they want to go in their career, and that’s okay. I want them to know they’re supported by their team, and have a manager and mentor cheering them on.

It feels fulfilling when you’re challenged and always learning at work, and that’s the kind of environment I hope to create for my team. 

Q: What can people expect when they join the Appian Engineering team?

Be prepared to learn a lot! You’ll jump into the deep end on things you know very little about but you’ll always be surrounded by people willing to help. 

We’re very open about what to expect in your Engineering team interview, and encourage candidates to dig into our Tech Corner blog to learn more about projects we’re working on. 

See our open Engineering team career opportunities here

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Written by

Matt Kornfield

Matt is an Technical Mentor of Software Development at Appian.