Becoming a Manager of Engineers: Focusing on Team Visibility

Joëlle Gernez

Vice President, Engineering at Pinger


No Visibility of Your Engineering Team’s Work

I was managing a huge team of about 80 people, but the business was frustrated because they were not making enough delivery. The operations part of the company felt that we were just slow. On the other hand, when I looked at my developers, they were working very hard. The problem was that there was inadequate visibility of what the engineering team was doing.

Make Your Team’s Work Visible: How to Unmask Capacity-Killing

I created a dashboard that would speak to the executives, leadership, and the business side of teams. The main theme was to explain to them that after developing a product for over ten years, we had a product that would run on phones, and therefore we needed to keep up with yearly updates. Besides, let’s not ignore the technical debt. If we do not take care of our technical debt on time, the productivity of teams is going to be slow.

I found a way to track and abstract the type of activities that the team was focusing on. I offered the dashboard to the leadership so that they could understand that we were spending more than twenty percent of our time in maintenance, plus the time spent on bugs. On top of that, more than thirty percent of our time was being spent removing technical debt. In all, we had a very limited time for new features.

At first, it was somewhat difficult to explain our side of the story, but eventually, it did provide a good understanding of the capacity of the organization. Furthermore, we were able to better prioritize features. Three years into the dashboard, we also showed some improvements on technical debt as well as time spent on bugs. Through such processes, we were able to prove that we needed lesser time on maintenance.

This was a powerful way to help the business side understand the capacity of our team and create a more reliable roadmap.

Lessons learned

  • Transparency. I was able to elevate a big engineering effort to the business roadmap. By doing so, we were able to do a better quality of work.
  • Talk about things more openly. When you are done creating a feature, talk about what you would be working on next, and how the engineering work has been leveraging the right features at the right time.

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Joëlle Gernez

Vice President, Engineering at Pinger

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingFeedback TechniquesTechnical ExpertiseTechnical SkillsSoftware Development

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