sprout social's james basco

As a member of Sprout Social’s talent team, I hear one question all the time: “What’s the best part of working at Sprout?”

My colleagues say they can tell when someone has asked this question over the phone, because they hear me offer the same enthusiastic response: “It’s the people!”

Behind the scenes at Sprout, there’s a dedicated team working hard to make our software better, our customers happier and our days more fulfilling. We wanted you to get to know our community better, which is why we are launching this new series, entitled Meet Team Sprout.

First up is a member of our engineering team. A skilled developer and mentor, James Basco leads the web team that worked on our recent Compose window redesign and LinkedIn targeting integration. He has spoken at Chicago Code Camp and elsewhere about developing software along with a career. From his technical skills to his emphasis on personal growth, James exemplifies the kind of manager who moves Team Sprout forward.

Name: James Basco
Department: Engineering
Started at Sprout: May 2014

Explain what a Web Team Manager does.

I work on the front end of the website with the publishing team. As a Web Team Manager, I’m there to provide a little more leadership and one-on-one feedback to some of the other front-end developers.

What are you working on right now?

We actually just finished up a full redesign of the Compose window, complete with an updated profile picker and a new workflow for targeting messages. The highlight of the new targeting workflow is the addition of LinkedIn targeting, which gives users the ability to focus their audience to several categories, such as industry and job function. I’m very proud of our work on this and other features that help customers reach the right audiences.

How would you describe your approach to leadership?

I try to bring a lot of soft skills like empathy to my work. Whether you’re dealing with other developers, talking to people in other parts of the organization or analyzing a solution, empathy helps you communicate with people in ways they understand. It’s also important to have confidence and to be willing to speak up and say what needs to be said.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Keeping up with the other developers, because they are ridiculously smart. They’re so good! I’m stronger in soft skills, and some of these guys are leaps and bounds ahead of me in programming.

And the most rewarding?

Being able to produce something that I couldn’t have made by myself. I find it incredibly rewarding to be part of a team and produce something of the highest quality, something that we can all be really proud of.

How have you grown throughout your career?

Becoming more humble is the biggest factor that has really changed my career. There’s a stereotype that engineers can be kind of full of themselves, and over time, I’ve learned to trust other people, to ask for help and to never be arrogant or take too much individual pride in my work.

I see trusting other people as going hand in hand with humility, and the level of trust at Sprout is unbelievable. I have absolute faith in all the people I work with here. When you don’t have faith in everybody you work with, it erodes the foundation of what you can do together. Here, I know I can trust everyone to help me and to give good feedback. That’s made a huge impact.

What advice would you give someone who wants to join Team Sprout?

The most important thing for being successful, at least on my team, is enthusiasm and passion. That’s what we all have in common—we’re really passionate about the work that we’re doing and the work that everyone else is doing at Sprout. I’ve been interviewing candidates, and that’s the clear delineator. The people who stand out are the ones who come in and are excited and want to talk about their work. You spend half the interview talking about their side projects. That level of dedication to engineering, in and outside of the office, is what separates a Sprout employee from someone who’s not a good fit.

So what do you like to do outside of work?

I play a lot of video games, ride my motorcycle, walk my giant bulldog and hang out with friends. “Borderlands” is my favorite game.

Have you read any good books recently?

“The Martian” by Andy Weir. It’s set about 20 years from now and is about what happens after we send our third manned mission to Mars. There’s an accident, and the team’s engineer is left behind. It’s about how he survives on Mars.

If you were stranded on Mars, what Chicago food would you be craving most?

I love Xoco. Or maybe Kuma’s Corner, the original. The High on Fire burger is my favorite. Or the mac and cheese.

Back on planet earth, what are two places you need to see?

Probably Germany and Austria. Those are at the top of my list—some place with lots of beer and sausage.

Finally, what’s something people might not know about you?

I was a certified barbecue judge for five years.