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Software Engineer - Backend



Software Engineering
Paris, France · Berlin, Germany · London, UK
Posted on Monday, September 18, 2023

Who we are

We are building Helsing: a software company that keeps our democracies from harm. We’re a diverse team of world class, ambitious, and impassioned engineers, deep learning specialists and customer-facing programme managers. We are looking for others to join our European teams to apply their skills to solve the most complex and impactful problems in defence.

We embrace an open and transparent culture that welcomes healthy debates on the use of technology, and AI particular, in defence, its benefits, and its ethical implications

The grand scheme

At Helsing we develop and deliver AI-based capabilities and the enabling infrastructure that allow semi-autonomous platforms to localise, navigate, and perceive the world in real time. We build software that is subject to significant and unorthodox technical constraints, must operate in a wide variety of constantly-changing environments, and has to support an ever-growing list of challenging use-cases. What we build ultimately ends up in the hands of real people in high-risk, high-stress situations, so must be both reliable and frictionless. Taken together, this brings a whole host of interesting engineering challenges across a wide variety of fields that you’ll help us solve. To give some examples:

  • Distributed systems (eg, intermittent connectivity and byzantine actors)

  • Embedded computing (eg, resource-constrained compute and reverse-engineering)

  • Robotics (eg, control systems and tasking)

  • Networking (eg, long-range low-bandwidth radios and cross-medium routing)

  • Deployment infrastructure (eg, air-gapped devices and heterogenous fleets)

  • Security (eg, data sharing in low-trust, no-TLS networks and actually-secret data handling)

  • Machine learning (eg, systems for model development, storage, and dissemination)

In several of these areas, we are working near the state-of-the-art; we actively read (and sometimes implement) research papers, and often need to push even further to make theory work in practice. In others, we are applying well-known techniques to real-world situations (with real-world limitations) that have never been used in before, which requires skill, diligence, and honing a deep understanding of the underlying technologies.

The day-to-day

  • Review code contributions, proposals, and RFCs from colleagues. At Helsing we strongly believe that unblocking others takes precedence over spending more time on your own work.

  • Propose and implement new features, capabilities, algorithms, infrastructure, or even full products across our stack. We encourage our engineers to look beyond their immediate team for missed opportunities, and to speak up when they identify one.

  • Become a mentor, find a mentee, and help support and develop our interviewing pipeline. The people make or break the company, and we want as many engineers as possible to be part of fostering and growing the organisation.

  • Share your experience and technical know-how with other Helsingers. We host tech talks, get together for smaller “let’s learn together” groups, run topical office hours (eg, on Rust), etc. to help each other get better with time.

  • Maintain our existing software stack, including working with internal and external customers to identify issues, improving operational reliability and performance, and fend off technical debt. The stack is a mix of Rust and Python, with Python mainly living in the ML-heavy sections.

  • Further develop our tests and benchmarks, both at the micro and macro level. We operate in a domain where robustness is of the utmost importance, and an extensive and ever-improving test suite is key to achieving that. And without thorough benchmarks, we’d be flying blind.

  • Present your work at our weekly demo sessions. We want engineers to come together around what they’re working on and to feel like they’re not endlessly squirrelling away at something that doesn’t matter. To that end, we host (and actively work towards) demo sessions that allow early feedback, celebration of progress, and a better shared understanding of everything that goes on at Helsing.

You’ll do great if you…

Note: The following bullet points describe only one variant of our dream candidate. None of us matched all of these at once when we first joined Helsing. We very much encourage you to apply even if you believe you meet only part of our wish list.

  • Can write legible, maintainable, and performant code

  • Communicate well in English, both verbally and in writing

  • Enjoy collaborating with others, including reviewing code and pair programming

  • Are comfortable working asynchronously (writing PRs and RFCs, having discussions by email)

  • Have backend development experience, ideally with a language like Rust, Java, Go, or C++

  • Are familiar with backend interface tools like REST, GraphQL, gRPC/Protocol Buffers, and Arrow

  • Strive to improve yourself, your peers, and the culture you work in over time

  • Feel like ethical considerations are an inherent part of engineering

You’ll be even better prepared if you have experience working with…

  • Rust and Python specifically

  • Container-based and cloud-native application architectures (eg, Docker, Azure, AWS)

  • Metrics tooling (eg, Prometheus, Grafana, ELK)

  • SQL and streaming database systems

  • Routing protocols (eg, IGP, BGP)

  • Cryptographic protocols (eg, Signal, WireGuard)

  • Hardware interfaces (eg, Arduino)

  • Robotics (eg, control systems)

  • Production ML systems

Why Helsing

The work is important. We aim to give democracies the tools they need to thrive and protect themselves. At Helsing, you’ll be working on problems that directly impact the defence of democratic countries while balancing both ethical and geopolitical concerns, and few things are as important as that.

The work is unique. We operate in a domain that has highly unusual technical requirements and constraints, and where robustness, safety, and ethical concerns are vital. Combined with the high-impact, real-world, cross-cutting nature of the work, you get access to unique Engineering and AI challenges that make meaningful impact in the world.

The work is interesting. Our work frequently takes us right up to the state of the art in technical innovation, be it reinforcement learning, distributed systems, generative AI, or deployment infrastructure. We have to constantly innovate to stay ahead and to make possible the seemingly-impossible intersection of requirements placed upon the systems we build and deploy.

The company is ambitious. In our domain, success is a matter of order-of-magnitude improvements and novel capabilities. This means we take bets, aim high, and focus on big opportunities, which makes for a dynamic work environment with lots of room for exploration and variation, and the possibility of being a critical part of truly groundbreaking projects. And doing so has yielded results: we already operate in four countries, and have landed multiple significant government contracts despite being a relatively young company.

The company invests in its people. Every start-up claims that they have excellent engineers and want to hire top talent. We’re no different. What sets Helsing apart is that for us hiring and developing our people is a matter of necessity. In our domain, the level of engineering excellence throughout the company has severe real-world ramifications, and our customers and partners depend on our engineering teams' continuous improvement to stay ahead.

People are trusted. We firmly believe that no one person has all the answers, especially in our domain, and that ensuring all voices can be heard is how we minimise the risk of poor judgement. We actively encourage healthy, proactive, and diverse debate internally about what we do and how we choose to do it. Teams and individual engineers are trusted (and encouraged) to practice responsible autonomy and critical thinking, and to focus on outcomes, not conformity. At Helsing you will have a say in how we (and you!) work, the opportunity to engage on what does and doesn’t work, and to take ownership of aspects of our culture that you care deeply about.

What we offer

  • Flexible working focused around outcomes, not time-tracking

  • Competitive compensation and stock options

  • Relocation support

  • Social, education, and gym subsidies and allowances

  • Regular company events and all-hands to bring together employees as one team across Europe

  • A hands-on onboarding program (affectionately labeled “Infraduction”), in which you will be building tooling and applications used across the company. This is your opportunity to learn our tech stack, explore the company, and learn how we get things done - all whilst working with other engineering teams from day one

Helsing is an equal opportunities employer. We are committed to equal employment opportunity regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability or gender identity. Please do not submit personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, data concerning your health, or data concerning your sexual orientation.
Helsing's Candidate Privacy and Confidentiality Regime can be found here.