Building relationships to motivate new engineers

Cliff White

Chief Technology Officer at Accellion



When you bring a new engineer into a very complicated project, you may face difficulties with knowing how to ensure they are inspired by the goals of the team, and knowing how to integrate them with the rest of their team.

A year and a half ago I had a remote team with four people working on integrating our product with Microsoft 365, and I brought in a senior engineer to help with this project. The new employee didn't know the other people on the team, and I only knew the remote team members through the relationships I had built.

Actions taken

I first needed to explain to the engineer why the project would be more difficult than it appeared at first glance, and why what we were doing was unique. We are the only private cloud offering that provides this kind of integration, so we had to build a unique proxy layer in the cloud service that understood how to route to the right on-premises version of the product. He had to plan this out and he had to work with other members of the team to ensure it worked seamlessly with our front-end. Ensuring that engineers understand the importance of a project is key, as it helps to make sure that the project is accomplished as quickly as possible.

When bringing on new, highly-skilled engineers into a complex project, I also always ensure that I know my engineers very well. I talked with the new engineer multiple times a day, until I was comfortable that everything was going well. I even woke up early to get on the phone with him, and would have one-on-one calls, as well as calls with the whole team. It's important to talk to both the individual and the team, as talking to an individual builds a bond, while talking to the whole team allows you to bring down people's barriers and foster a relationship between team members.

Lessons learned

It's important to talk to team members, and I always ensure that I talk to individuals in my team on a regular basis. I don't just focus on project details, but also invest time in getting to know each of the team members. Don't underestimate the importance of ensuring that staff are comfortable talking to you and to the rest of the team. If you don't build a relationship upfront and take the time to explain the importance of what your new engineer is going to be doing, they will flounder. And if they are a remote staff member, this issue will be further magnified.

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Cliff White

Chief Technology Officer at Accellion

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