How to help engineers from larger companies adapt to a startup environment
President at Actual
I once hired an engineer from a big company, which had over 150,000 employees. After a few days, I realized he was not taking responsibility or ownership for what he was doing. In meetings, he would often ask "Whose job is it to do that?" or "Who's responsible for this?". I quickly decided I needed to make him realize he needed to take responsibility.
When chatting with him I realized that he had been working in a very different environment. In his previous company, when the CEO said X, the decision would have already been through multiple VPs and managers, so there was not much he could challenge or debate about. I explained to him that in our company it was only a lead and three other engineers working in his team, so if there was a failure it was his job to diagnose it, if a feature needed to be released he needed to work directly with the PM, and if he was working on tickets he should walk directly to the support team and ask them for help.
"When people come from a different environment, you cannot simply expect them to understand your company's structure from day one."
I believe it's not enough to just say these types of things, so I decided to pair him with a more senior engineer who had also worked in larger companies. He provided the new engineer with day-to-day coaching and helped him to figure out how to succeed in a startup. The new engineer was extremely talented and quickly managed to step-up. Moreover, his experience with building bulletproof software in a larger company, with one million users from day one, was very beneficial to our startup, as it was in need of some more discipline.
"Internal coaching and mentoring is also an extremely good way to help people quickly improve."
When people come from a different environment, you cannot simply expect them to understand your company's structure from day one. I believe you should set up clear, upfront expectations, based on the person's background. Internal coaching and mentoring is also an extremely good way to help people quickly improve.
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