I recently left Square (aka Block) after a couple of great years there. I joined in April, 2020, about a month into the COVID-19 lockdown. In my time there I helped launch the Bookings API and contributed to other internal initiatives that have not yet publicly launched. This post covers three major lessons that I learned in my time at the company.
1. The “Jobs to Be Done” Framework
One conceptual framework that Square leans upon heavily is idea of the “Jobs to Be Done” (JTBD). This is a way of trying to identify the key problem(s) that your cusotmer is trying to solve. The goal of the product or service that you build is to get “hired” by your customer to solve their problem.
Product managers, designers, and engineers all speak the same customer-centric language. Boiling down a months-long effort to one or two key JTBD is a clarifying exercise. If you want to learn more about this framework, check out Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen.
2. Messaging Consistency
Another lesson I will take away from my time at Square is the value of consistent messaging. Square leadership were very good at distilling years-long efforts into key phrases that helped when making decisions. For example, if a team was deciding between delivering a milestone in a quick, scrappy way or a way that accrued toward a long-term platform, there were leadership messages that made it easy to reach a decision.
Personally I find it hard to repeat myself over and over again. It can feel like you’ve already said “we’re going this direction” a hundred times. But if there’s someone in the meeting who needs to hear it (regardless of whether they’ve heard it before) then it needs to be said. This is a skill I hope to improve on in the coming years.
3. Everyone Really Is That Nice
The final thing I will always remember about my time at Square is how nice everyone was. I was struck by this during the interview process, but wondered if it was genuine. Once I joined the company I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was not artificial at all. Having such a supportive team — especially as the world dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic — was really great.
To a person, everyone at Square cares about the folks on their team. It is a very collegial, respectful environment. I will always appreciate the people I worked with and everything that I learned from them.