Hiring Senior Leadership When Scaling Massively
SVP Engineering at Datadog
At my previous job, as a CTO, I had to put in place the right leadership knowing the anticipated growth of the company. When I joined the company, there were around 140 engineers and I knew that we were to scale massively. In two years we went from 140 to 800 engineers. The problem was that we lacked the right leadership to cope with that kind of growth. My prior experience though me that it’s too late to start your hiring process once you actually need people. When I realized I need more help it was already too late. It took me nine months to find the right people during which I was struggling with the workload.
I had to anticipate the size of a team/company in two years’ time. Based on that, I assessed our existing leadership potential. We had ‘junior’ directors managing 50 people and I had to assess if in two years’ time they will be able to transition to a VP of Engineering position and manage 200 people. The problem was that it was their first directorial year and my impression was that they wouldn’t be able to grow as required since they were already struggling to manage 50 people.
After conducting the assessment of existing leadership and their potential to survive an anticipated growth, I realized that it won’t be achievable. I realized that I need to externally hire more experienced VPs while our ‘junior’ directors would then report to them. Though some may perceive that move as a demotion, after showing them an expected growth curve, they acknowledged that would struggle managing 200 people. Even if they would go one level down, they would actually go up -- learning more, managing 80 or 90 people and in general, being able to follow a more natural progression in their professional development.
It took me nine months to hire six VPs and restructure the organization. Two years after things worked out as planned.
- You need to anticipate the growth of the company and plan on hiring people that you will need -- not now -- but in two years’ time.
- Once you identified who you need to hire, don’t wait until you actually need them. It takes six to nine months to hire the right leadership.
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