The Code Dreams Are Made of: Ideals, Innovation, Inclusion

Technology garlands colorful lights in glass jar with dreams, sparks, on old wooden table, retro toned

Developers are idealistic by nature. We want to create elegant solutions that make a real difference in the world. That passion makes it possible for us to solve big problems, and inspires us to continually push the boundaries of possibility and do tomorrow what we couldn’t today.

It’s why we do what we do.

A sense of purpose has measurable outcomes for today’s companies—like outperforming the competition in stock price by a factor of twelve. And, according to Ernst & Young survey respondents:

  • 72 percent report that a purpose-driven company gives employees a sense of fulfillment
  • 88 percent say it helps create value for customers
  • 73 percent say it inspires positive change and innovation
  • 64 percent say it drives innovation, enabling them to disrupt/respond to disruption

But you knew that. It’s just common sense—when what you do matters, you do it better and feel better doing it.

So, what does it look like to work at a purpose-driven organization? At Intuit, our mission is to power prosperity around the world for 50M+ consumer, small business and self-employed customers with TurboTax, QuickBooks, Mint and Turbo. Here are a few of the ways we empower the idealism of developers and turn them loose to explore, expand, and realize their full potential.

Empowering developers to make their dreams a reality

Software development has always been about building on each other’s work to create something bigger than ourselves. We succeed together as a community—both within Intuit and beyond. We invite developers around the world into our community through our QuickBooks Online API, which allows them to make their new or existing app part of our ecosystem for over 4M small businesses worldwide. For Intuit developers—and our partners—there’s nothing better than helping businesses to realize their dreams while following their own.

And, nothing says idealism like open source. We actively encourage our developers to contribute code to projects that advance the entire development community. For example:

  • Argo, a set of open source projects which help enterprises get the most from Kubernetes, already in use by Google, Black Rock, and other notable companies
  • Karate, a test automation framework that simplifies testing for web services
  • Cardparts, a reactive, card-based UI framework built on UIKit for iOS developers
  • Truffle Shuffle, an Android data-driven, percentage-based UI Card Gallery Library

Which leads me to another very important part of coding dreams, and that’s diversity and inclusion, which has been and is imperative to our success at Intuit. Truffle Shuffle happens to be the first Intuit open source project launched by a female engineer. That’s especially notable given that only 6 percent of GitHub contributors are women. We’re committed to doing something about that—and to advancing the role of women throughout the tech community. Our Tech Women at Intuit program works to expand opportunity by supporting groups including Girls Who CodeAnitaB.org (producer of the annual Grace Hopper Celebration in which Intuit participates), and National Center for Women and Information Tech (NCWIT). In 2019, we open sourced three of the first female-led open source projects. During Hacktoberfest 2019, 23 percent of Intuit contributions came from female engineers from around the world. While that’s still not nearly enough, but it’s better than the industry’s dismal track record.

Solving hard problems that matter to customers

At the end of the day, it’s the work at hand that counts the most. According to the 2019 Developer Skills Report, and affirmed by other reports as well, what developers want most is the opportunity to solve interesting and complex problems, and the ability to learn and grow.

To that end, believe in and practice the principles of beautiful code. According to the 2019 Developer Skills Report from HackerRank, the number one pet peeve for developers everywhere is badly written documentation and spaghetti code. You didn’t get into this field to deal with mediocrity, and you won’t find it here.

The problems Intuit developers solve aren’t just interesting and complex—they have a meaningful impact on the lives of people everywhere.

  • Take overtime compliance, for example. For small businesses, calculating overtime for employees can be a complex and confusing task. Getting it wrong can lead to a devastating fine. When we found that 59 percent of our customers were making mistakes when paying employees overtime, one of our Principal Engineers, Clarence Huang, took on the challenge. Using artificial intelligence and knowledge engineering, he created a feature to automatically notify our customers when they were out of compliance and provide a clear explanation on the violation. The feature shipped in just six weeks, and our customer compliance rate shot up from 41 percent to 95 percent.
  • Another of our Principal Engineers, Bharath Ramarathinam, helped solve one of the biggest pain points for small businesses: accessing capital. Traditionally, getting a bank loan has been a long and difficult process—in fact, only about a quarter of small businesses succeed, and even then, they face interest rates as high as 30 – 100 percent. Even worse, would-be borrowers are often profiled based on their location and ethnic background, and small businesses owned by women generally pay higher rates for smaller loans requiring more collateral. And if you’ve been in business for less than two years, with less than $250,000 in revenue, you can pretty much forget about it. So after several unsuccessful efforts by Intuit to help small business customers connect more successfully with lenders, in 2016 Bharath formed a team to develop a platform where Intuit would be the lender.

    Bharath’s team created a credit decision model that could accurately predict a company’s ability to pay back a loan. Drawing insight from 1 billion customer records, the model takes into account incoming and outgoing funds both in the past and in the future, including business cash flow, debt, receivables, and payables—a complete data set that’s not available to financial institutions. QuickBooks Capital launched in February 2017. It takes just five minutes to apply, and rates are as low as 17 percent. We’ve made nearly 10,000 loans so far, 65 percent of them to small businesses that were considered “un-lendable” by financial institutions. Most importantly, the fact that customers are paying us back at twice the rate of other lenders has caused a ripple effect. Other lenders are starting to realize the value of participating in this market, further increasing lending opportunities which simply didn’t exist before.

Making our customers’ dreams come true

Seeing our idealism play out in the real world can be a powerful experience. Take QuickBooks Capital customer DeLorean Johnson. She’s the owner of Au Courant Interiors in Greenville South Carolina, and manufactures luxury chandeliers. Like most small business owners, she often had to use personal funds to keep ger business going, and even went so far as to sell her car and extract funds from her 401k just to make ends meet. With QuickBooks Capital, she was able to launch her decorative lighting business into an entire line of products for residential and interior design customers, and now also serves hotels and resorts in a range of hospitality projects. She’s a great example of what’s possible when a small business owner is given a fair chance.

Now, that’s what code dreams are made of.