Grace Baelen-King



August 24, 2021

Author: Stytch Team

Today is a special day, a year ago Stytch became a real team when Grace joined as our first hire! To celebrate, we’re kicking off a new series where we’ll highlight different team members. In this first installment, learn more about Grace and her experience as employee #1 at Stytch!

What’s your role at Stytch?

I’m a software engineer on our backend team.

What do you love most about working at Stytch?

Getting to build the foundation of a product that is very useful.

Which Stytch value resonates most with you and why?

Design for the future, build for the present. That for sure; it’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past year. I think one of the things I said a lot early on and still say is  “if we’re rebuilding this in two years, that’s a success” that means it worked for that long and we’re around to do it. It’s about making sure we’re not technically backing ourselves into any corners. 

Describe your journey into engineering. How did you choose that career?

I took a computer science course because I needed a math credit and I wasn’t allowed to take any other math classes at my college because I didn’t have the proper prerequisites. So I took computer science and I was like, “oh, this is kinda cool” and my dad who is also a software engineer was like, “yeah, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you your entire life”. I later did an internship in HR but it looked like the engineers were having more fun and my boss was like, “you could be a great HR person but you should just go be an engineer”. So here I am! 

What do you remember most from the early days?

There were so many slack channels already when I joined, Reed and Julianna had been having conversations with each other in various channels to start to build slack culture and context. It was very satisfying to get 2 reactions on something because that meant the whole company reacted. A week later more team members joined and I remember a lot of zoom calls with Danny, our platform engineer. Danny and I would spend like 3 hours on a zoom call working on something. We wrote a lot of code really quickly and it was really exciting, like how do we set up a code base, these foundational things and some of them have been thrown away but many are still there today. It’s been fun to see what was not a great decision or was a good decision at the time and didn’t scale vs what things we did that have continued to scale with us.

What have you learned starting as the first hire at a company and growing to ~25 in a year?

Time is wild. I guess it doesn’t feel like it’s been a year. I still find it hard to believe that we’re that many people and really it’s just every step we take it’s like “we’re a real company” and we keep becoming more of a real company with every step. I’ve been surprised by how quickly we felt like a real company. I think that first week when it was me, Reed and Julianna, some things, it was like this is silly. For example, I think we had about the same number of slack channels that we have now. Very quickly it was like oh that’s because we’re a real company and we’re doing things. I was surprised by how quickly that feeling came. But also then other things happen now and I’m like ok now we’re a real company. It’s like being an adult. When are you a real adult? Who really knows? 

What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on at Stytch?

I think the most interesting project I’ve worked on is setting up the foundations of Stytch. Building our first product, email magic links, was really more about building the foundation of our backend codebase and that was by far the most daunting and fun project I’ve ever worked on.

When’s the last time you did something for the first time and what was it? 

I recently played Animal Crossing for the first time, it was very relaxing.

What’s your ideal weekend?

A mix of dinner with friends, hiking in the redwoods, reading a good book in the sunshine, baking something delicious and ending with dinner at my parents house on Sunday evening.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Work hard, get smart, get help. One of my favorite CS teachers used to say that.


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