Office Hours: I'm the co-founder and CTO of Honeycomb. I was previously an engineering manager at Facebook responsible for 1 million+ mobile apps. I'm Charity Majors.Featured

Hi everyone! I’m Charity Majors, co-founder and CTO of Honeycomb. Honeycomb helps engineers understand their own production systems through observability. Prior to founding Honeycomb, I was a production engineering manager at Facebook, where I was responsible for over one million mobile apps. Before Facebook, I was an infrastructure tech lead at Parse, senior systems engineering at Cloudmark, and systems engineer at shopkick. Ask me anything about technical leadership, systems engineering, the founder journey, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @charity!Elphas – please ask @charity your questions before Friday, January 8th. @charity may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Question to Charity:Dear Charity, how did you experience your VC journey as a founder in a tech space so far? E.g. did you experience that investors react better to you when you represent a specific "brand of yourself"? If yes, which one?
I am extremely blunt and don't hide my feelings well, so I don't really even try. My cofounder Christine Yen is much better at that. This is one of the reasons we swapped roles three years in; I was CEO for three years, now she is CEO.In general I think playing games is silly and you should just be who you are. Don't overthink it.
Hi Charity!Wow, you have accomplished a ton and have already done a lot of the things that I hope to do in my life! Similar to you, I also come from a software engineering background and am interested in entrepreneurship. Specifically, I am really interested in the healthtech/biotech space; I write a healthtech newsletter (, cofounded & served as the CTO of a healthtech startup, and did software engineering at Microsoft, Disney Imagineering, Stanford, etc. A couple of questions for you:1) What was the founding process of Honeycomb like? How did you identify which problem to solve? How did you validate that this problem was faced by many engineers and that there was a willingness to pay? How did you get your first customers?2) What skills did you look for in a cofounder?3) Do you any advice for someone cofounding a company and serving as the CTO?Thanks! :)
I was never really interested in starting a company. I kind of loathe the cult of the founder-worshippers in Silicon Valley. But I had an experience managing massively multitenant systems at Parse/Facebook, and realized I was a far more powerful engineer with the tooling we used and that nothing else like it existed on the market. I didn't really try to validate the market, I just *knew* that observabililty needed to exist. I suppose I also expected to fail, and have been happily surprised to survive five years running.I started Honeycomb with two friends, and had to let one of them go three months in because he just wanted to read wikipedia all day. Advice: look for people who want to do the work and know it will be a lot of hard, grubby tasks for the first couple years. It's not glorious at all.I was the accidental CEO for the first three years, then my cofounder and I switched roles. So I guess advice would be, look for people who don't have ego around roles or titles, and people who are hardworking, stubborn, humble, and always actively growing themselves and their skills.
Hi @charity thanks for doing an office hour! Given your expertise on mobile apps, in your opinion, which monetization model works best for non-gaming apps, (eg. an analytics app or something b2b for small businesses/sole traders)? Freemium, premium/ subscription or something else?
Sorry, I ran the infrastructure side of mobile apps. I can answer any questions you want about scaling or massively multitenant architectures. :)
Oh ok, thank you anyway! I'm still enjoying and getting value from your answers to the other questions as well
Hi Charity!Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! I’d love to hear more about your career path:1. What was your journey from Senior engineer to CTO/founder like? 2. Were there deliberate career decisions you made to help get you there? 3. What are 3 things you know now that you wished you’d known early on in your career?4. A lot of founders seem to come out of FAANG companies. Did having a FAANG company on your resume help propel your career in this direction?
I'll answer the last one first. Yes, having Facebook on my resume is the reason we got funded. It pisses me off. I had never had a pedigree before working at FB, and I never would have gotten funded before FB. It doesn't mean I was a better engineer or a better founder, it's just VC pattern matching, and it pisses me off. It shouldn't be that way.No, no deliberate career decisions leading up to being a founder. I semi loathe the founder industrial complex in silicon valley, and don't think founders should get such outsize rewards / respect compared to early engineers. My career has been much more opportunistic than intentional or planned. I tend to lean into the pain and away from feeling comfortable, I try to work with *great* teams of people, and I have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. That's about as far as it goes, planning-wise.
How do you / your company recruit/attract /retain women engineers? How to become SRE Expert? What a pleasure to get to hear from you on this platform!! Thanks Elpha and thanks Charity. 🙏❤️
By treating women like human beings. We have about 50% women across engineering, design, product, etc, and no team at honeycomb has more than 2/3 of any gender.When you're sourcing candidates, managers should go trawl LinkedIn and personally ask qualified women/minority candidates to apply, to ensure a diverse pipeline.
Thanks so much for offering your time on Elpha. You are such an inspiration and Honeycomb is incredible. As a technical executive / CTO how do you balance the need to stay in the weeds and develop the product with the demands of the business, clients, management, and other areas that aren't core to product growth? I ask as a solutions engineering leader who struggles to maintain that balance.
Hi Charity. Thanks for doing an office hour. Do you have any advice for a new manager who’s going to be managing an unfamiliar tech stack with a team of predominantly male and very senior engineers?
So you're a first-time manager, hired into a new team, on a tech stack you don't know, and a team that doesn't know you? This doesn't sound like you are being set up for success. I have many questions.
This is not a productive or respectful way of responding to an honest question.
Hi Charity! Thank you for sharing your story!Knowing everything you know now, what would be some of the things you would have done different given the chance?
As an engineer, I would have spent more time working on product and design adjacent projects, not just infrastructure/ops.
Hi @charity what an interesting story! What prompted you to start Honeycomb? And now that you are living the joys of entrepreneurship what have been some of your key challenges?
I started honeycomb because I had lived thru the nightmare of trying to understand and debug complex systems without it -- with just the last generation of monitoring tools.Key challenges -- the cofounder relationship is just as intimate and challenging as any marriage. Category creation is hard.
Hi Charity, it's great to see a technical person on here.• How has what you worked on as a CTO evolved as the product grew and scaled?• How long in your career did it feel like you were heading towards burnout / already burnt out to reach where you're at? Do you work reasonable hours now, at this stage?• Did you care much about technical debt at the early stages, or mainly just getting a prototype done as good as possible to get feedback fast?• Do you still get to spend time on engineering — and if you do, is it only the extremely hard problems that get sent your way?• If you don't get to spend time on engineering ... what part of your job would you consider 'fun' now?Would really appreciate any insights on the above. It's rare to find someone technical background, and have been wondering the above questions. What a great chance - thanks for posting on Elpha!
Aahh, one more question, if it's alright! What is the day to day like for a systems engineer?
I have always loved working and been a hard worker. I don't get burned out from "too much" work, but I can get burned out from work if it feels like the work is pointless or misdirected, or no progress is being made.Tech debt wasn't a huge concern early on, although I wlil say I invested time into building a solid infrastructure and CI/CD pipeline, most of which is still in use 5 years later, and that has saved us many an engineer-week of labor.
How did you decide to leave your FB job to start your own company? And how far removed are you from coding these days and do you miss being an IC? Thanks!
I decided to leave Facebook, but I was planning on going to be an eng manager at Slack or Stripe. It took a month or two to decide to start something, as I had never really wanted to be a founder. But frankly I couldn['t imagine engineering without observabilitly tooling, so we had to go and build it.I am quite far removed from building things right now, and I miss it desperately. My next role will be as an engineer.