Meet the Team: Alex Golec, Engineering Manager

After over a decade in the advertising industry, Alex Golec joins Patreon as an Engineering Manager in our Creator Growth group. He previously spent four years at Reddit, where he led the Ads ML and Optimization teams. And before that, he spent six years at Google as a software engineer. Keep reading to find out how Alex became a Patronaut, his favorite part of his job, and how he puts creators first.

Creator turned Patronaut

During the pandemic, Alex wrote an open source library to help those looking to trade on TDAmeritrade. He created a Patreon account to provide support for his community. “I knew that people were going to want technical help, but before I knew it, I had a full-on investment community on Discord,” Alex says. “I didn’t expect anything and I was amazed that the community I had founded was willing to pay me real money and support my work. It’s been incredibly gratifying and has allowed me to maintain the library and community.”

From there, Alex wanted to learn what it’s like to work at Patreon. The more he spoke to the team, the more he realized he wanted to get involved. “Patreon has tens of thousands of hours of patron-only work that literally does not exist anywhere outside of Patreon,” Alex explains. “Once I learned that, I realized Patreon was much more than a payments processor.”

Creator culture

Alex says the role and team here are different from his previous engineering experiences. “At Patreon, we are trying new things. We have a creator population and a member population that we are still learning about, all while simultaneously building products for them both. And how we operate reflects that. We have a lot of test-and-learn experiments. As someone who enjoys discovery in the scientific process, it’s been a real treat.”

Since creators use Patreon to build and grow their businesses, Alex explains that it’s incredibly important to earn their trust. “We have to treat them with the utmost respect because we provide them with a system that allows them to support themselves and their families.”

When it comes to advertising platforms, it can be difficult to give creators the attention they deserve because you’re dealing with a three-legged stool — your users are one leg, your advertisers are another, and the company is the third. “Users tend to feel the ads experience is a distraction from the content. Creators are often ambivalent about ads because they don’t control what ads are shown or the impact they have on their communities. And as a platform, you want to improve your business outcomes. Balancing these three concerns can be challenging,” Alex says.

Meanwhile at Patreon, Alex says, “our work directly helps creators build successful businesses, and if someone becomes a member, their experience is enabled by our work. As a result, creators can trust Patreon in a way that they might not necessarily be able to trust a big platform,” he says. When you’re on other platforms, and you’re serving an algorithm, your success depends on that algorithm. When you’re on Patreon, you’re directly serving your fans, and your success is a result of the health of your community.”

Looking ahead

As Alex dives deeper into his role, he recognizes that his team has a lot of foundational work to do together. “From building serving stacks for marketing pages, to building experimentation and measurement layers, to building business intelligence layers to understand what’s going on in the broader creator economy, there’s a challenge to make a difference and deliver results.”

Luckily, Alex’s experience as a creator has taught him how to listen to the people around him, and he taps into that skill to make sure his team can leverage their craft, scrappiness, and ability to pivot. “My job is to pay attention to the things that people around me are saying. I take that and transform it into visions for what’s possible, how to inspire and excite people, and of course, how to deliver results.”

One of his favorite parts about his job is the way everyone works together. “There’s a wonderful directness to our collaboration. I’m learning a lot more because I’m exposed to the work of people who I previously only saw distantly at other companies. I get to work directly with teams like Sales, Marketing, Design, and Data Science. The tools and processes we’ve put in place to help one another is the secret sauce that makes us successful.”

Beyond the work

Alex is an experienced musician and a less experienced golfer. He’s been playing guitar since he was a kid, and these days, you might just catch him in Central Park performing jazz with his partner. As for golf, he recently moved to Westchester, home of (what he considers) the best golf courses in New York State.

As a musician, Alex obviously admires lots of other artists. But his favorite Patreon creator doesn’t have anything to do with music at all. It’s a chemistry video creator called Explosions and Fire. “For some reason, chemistry never really grabbed me while I was in school, but watching this almost makes me want to buy some glassware. Almost.”