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Handling engineers’ demotivation when their work is declared obsolete

Sacha Arnoud

Senior Director of Engineering at Lyft

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Problem

"In my domain, technologies evolve quite fast. For example, I remember hiring engineers for their skills in computer vision, but now deep learning is the new thing. These talented people struggle with accepting changes in technology."

Actions taken

"These types of problems arise when people start putting their identity into what they do. For example, they may think 'I am that piece of code or technology'. If that piece of code eventually disappears or evolves out of their scope this undoubtedly ends up in an identity crisis. Engineers end up questioning who they are. I believe it's the manager's role to give a clear picture of the end goal: 'My identity is to find turn signals in an image' and not 'My identity is to find turn signals using my computer vision skills'."

Lessons learned

"Of course, this is easier said than done, so the two tools I use to start this mindset change are metric and incentives. I believe that if metrics clearly relate to the mission of the team (the 'what'), it helps the individual focus on what matters to the team, rather than on their personal contribution to the 'how'. To enhance the latter, you can use incentives (of any kind) to reward behaviors that help with the mission of the team."


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Sacha Arnoud

Senior Director of Engineering at Lyft


Engineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsLeadership Training

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