Growing Your Team Effectively
VP of Engineering at Boku
Hiring Accelerates Fast, but the Processes Become Chaotic
We all know that scaling an engineering team can unfold some great possibilities, but we often disregard the challenges that come with it. We had two small teams leading new initiatives when the company decided to invest more in those initiatives and to grow the two engineering teams. We hired and onboarded three engineers for each team within two months, expecting the output of the team to increase. But the opposite happened. Because the Product Manager (PM) of those teams were considerably new, and we did not add more test engineers to the teams, the teams ended up having a bottleneck on what feature to work on and even when they delivered it, there was not enough test engineer to verify the change. The teams were not productive, and people in the team started complaining about the situation.
Short-term and Long-term
In the short-term, we asked a Senior PM from a different team to help mentor and guide the PM on those two teams. The teams were also asked to redesign the PM, Engineering Manager, and Test Engineer roles and responsibilities in the short term. Because the Engineering managers on those teams were seasoned leaders and had been with the company longer, they could take on more responsibilities in the short term. The engineers also helped test their team members’ work to reduce the load for the test engineer.
For the longer-term solution, I had a discussion with the Chief Product Officer about having a regular hiring alignment. Since each scrum team consisted of cross-functional staff (engineers, PM, design, etc), we should not simply grow each function independently of the other. Having too many engineers without enough PM will result in idle engineering resources. Having too many PMs without enough engineers will result in a long product backlog that never gets worked on.
- When organizing and restructuring teams, make sure there is no bottleneck. There should be a good balance between the product manager, engineers, designers, developers, and so on. Work with your peers from Product, Quality, Design, etc on defining the hiring ratios.
- Communication is the key and having upfront discussions make things transparent. Discuss the impact of scaling and restructuring teams. Talk about the pros and cons and come to a conclusion on how the team should be structured.
- Even with a proper growth plan, hiring can still be tricky because you never know when exactly you can fill the position. So, for teams with aggressive growth plan, we should have upfront discussion on how the roles and responsibilities of the team members might change in the short term until the team stabilizes.
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