Graduating From Developer to Entrepreneur

Sebastien Saunier

CTO at Le Wagon



In my most recent position as the CTO and Co-Founder of Le Wagon, the main challenge was transitioning from a software engineer's role in a startup to being a co-founder with a team. I was making life-changing decisions as I was building something out of nothing. I realized that when we are in a team, regardless of our seniority, there is a roadmap, a product team, a marketing team, and so on to work with. However, here I was, the only person who knew how to code. I had to consider all things and weigh my options, but I felt that I was never “done.” I had a list of features, tests, and potential partnerships to take care of. The journey itself was a gift, but never having the feeling of completion was something I was not used to.

Actions taken

First things first, we hired some mid-stage talents and trained them on our company policies. We did not have a reference framework or a set of rules for our company. As a technology company, our talent is our biggest asset. Besides, as a startup, we do not have time for optional things, but training our team members to be on the right track and improve the output was made mandatory.

We hired our alumni. We organized our team in a way so that the team helped our junior developers to grow. Since our startup is a coding school, we had engineering talks inside the company, where every developer presented something that they had learned in one quarter. We gathered our developers from four different locations to Paris, and each one shared their experience. In this way, everyone felt empowered, and they re-calibrated their thought process to recognize the bigger picture.

Other than that, at the beginning of the year, I introduced some middle management levels. I could not manage 35 people directly, and so some of the local seniors I had in the team became Engineering Managers. Therefore, I manage them directly, and they are managing 3 - 4 juniors, which is a proper way of delegating and helping them grow within the company.

Lessons learned

  • Not everyone goes the same way. Each company has its own way of doing things. We chose the path that best suited us, while others may choose to find their own way. There is no specific guideline to it.
  • Each company has to discover its own ladder. It requires a great amount of hard work, patience, discipline, and determination, but it is essential to remember that it does not happen overnight.
  • There will be seniors and juniors in a company, and everyone of them needs to be challenged in a certain way. It is for their betterment and growth, and in all, it is also beneficial for the company.

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Sebastien Saunier

CTO at Le Wagon

Engineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionCareer Ladder

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