Meet the MURALista: Kirby Frugia, VP of Product Engineering
January 7, 2021
MURAL’s VP of Product Engineering Kirby Frugia first got into software engineering because he loves problem solving and making things easier for people — whether that’s a game, a tool, or an experience. He’s always looking for ways to unlock someone’s creativity or ability to do more with what’s in front of them. That’s the same reason he loves building engineering teams and how he’s achieved success and fulfillment throughout his career.
Over the course of his professional journey, Kirby has worked at numerous companies, including Hewlett-Packard, InVision, and New Relic, where he’s built both products and teams. While at HP, he built software for digital printing presses and dipped his toes into management — and he was hooked. “When I started managing teams, I realized how much I liked helping others get things done, since together we can achieve so much more than I could by myself,” he says. From HP, he transitioned to New Relic, where he became familiar with the dynamic, fast growth environment of a startup. “That’s where I really found my niche: growing and helping teams adapt at startups while staying true to who they are as a company, no matter the rate of growth,” Kirby says.
For Kirby, building products and building teams have more in common than you might think: They both involve a firm sense of the company’s values, scaling processes and practices, and lots of communication and listening.
Time for something new: MURAL
When it came time for a career change, Kirby looked at the three things he considers before taking any role: People, product, and impact.
“When it comes to people, you spend a lot of quality time engaging with your team,” he explains. “So I look for friendly, passionate, smart and humble people.”
As for products, Kirby asks himself whether he’s working on a purposeful product. To answer that, he considers the following:
If we do our job right, do we make our users’ days easier?
Do people depend on the work that we do every day?
When evaluating a move to MURAL, Kirby was drawn to our mission of changing how people collaborate in a positive way. “I’d used the product before joining — it was intuitive and made the problem solving process easier for me and my team,” he says.
Finally, there was impact: Kirby joined MURAL because of the impact he — and the company — can have. “MURAL’s is a culture that adapts to change really well, likes to experiment, and is continuously improving,” he explains. “Simply put, you can come here and have an impact — in fact, you’re expected to.”
Scaling at the inflection point
Scaling at the inflection point of a company’s growth is Kirby’s bread and butter — and one of the reasons he knew he could have an impact at MURAL. For him, growth at this stage is all about communication and autonomy. He believes that the perfect mix of the two can lead a team and company to achieve great things.
“Communication is the most important thing to get right when you’re scaling,” Kirby says. When companies are small, everyone is in the same room and knows what the other members of the team are doing. At that stage, it’s easy to connect the dots and understand the value of each individual’s contributions. “That can exist when you get bigger,” Kirby explains, “You just have to be very intentional about communication so people realize they’re still part of the bigger picture, understand how decisions are made, and never wonder why change is happening or feel left out.”
After all, there’s no growth without change — the key to helping teams navigate both is maintaining a dialogue about it. “The biggest thing that makes people appreciate growth instead of feeling anxious about it is just talking to them,” Kirby emphasizes. “It's that simple: tell them what’s happening, why, and help them realize that they’re an important part of it.” Explaining how and why people are having an impact can help everyone feel valued and motivated to contribute their best work.
The second ingredient when scaling teams, according to Kirby, is autonomy. “A big part of success is enabling teams to move autonomously and make decisions without one person driving them,” he says. “Part of the reason you hire different people in different roles is because you want them all to be doing their best work — and you trust them with that responsibility.”
Building teams starts with hiring. “If we're hiring you, it’s because you're going to do awesome things,” Kirby explains, “There’s a lot of trust put in every person on the team, and that extends to new hires.”
A focus on how we work together
As the Product Engineering lead, Kirby’s goal is to deliver great software and provide value to MURAL’s customers. But he’s not just looking at our product — a large part of his work is focusing on how we work as an organization. That includes the way we communicate, hire, operate as managers, and grow people’s careers.
To make sure we’re doing it right, Kirby starts with the people and the work they do: “I continuously ask myself: Are we building an organization where engineers can do their best work and we can consistently deliver awesome stuff to people?” Then, he zeroes in on the process: “What are our best practices and are we making it easier for teams to do their work?” Lastly, he takes into consideration the product we’re building: “Are we working closely with product management to understand what we’re building, why, and what problems we’re solving for our customers?”
By answering these questions, he keeps a finger on the pulse of how we’re working together and can help the team make adjustments where necessary.
The future of Product Engineering at MURAL
Of course, there’s the part Kirby’s excited about: scaling communication, growth, and the teams that make up MURAL engineering. But there’s also the technical challenges, too. “We’re building a collaboration tool with a rendering component that works on the web and allows lots of users to use it simultaneously and collaboratively across the planet — that's a fun technical challenge,” he says. “And we’re doing it at scale: thousands and thousands of users from a company can be using MURAL at once.” He’s excited for the improvements MURAL can achieve when it comes to performance and customer delight.
“The fun of these technical challenges is seeing the benefit of your work in your own day to day,” Kirby explains. “Using MURAL to build MURAL and scale our team is a virtuous cycle that I know will only go up from here."
Interested in joining Kirby and MURAL on our journey? See our open engineering positions here.
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Head of People, Culture & Places
Head of People, Culture & Places @ MURAL | Empowerer of Teams | Facilitator of aha! Moments | Global Explorer | Mom