How to set up a new engineering team
VP Engineering at SUBLIME
At my old company, I was working to build a product that later became a flagship product for the company. When building the architecture we started by working on the lower layers, before building up into the higher layers where we built server infrastructure. I was the only engineer working on this section of the project. However, we needed more engineers, as we needed to work on the product at a faster speed. We attempted to tackle the problem by recruiting and building an efficient team. It was difficult, however, as it was my first experience as a manager, and I was expected to manage myself while also building a team.
I approached this situation by first asking for help from people in the company who were already managers. I visited my colleagues and asked them about how they would approach the issue. I also sought help from staff in HR who were happy to provide me with advice. They helped me to build a recruitment plan which detailed where we would recruit from, how we would find new recruits and where we defined what was required. After getting this advice I was able to write my first job description.
"When you build a team, take as much time as is required to onboard and train them into their roles."
When we hired some engineers it was a little frustrating at first. I had been working on the project for a while and knew it inside out. This meant that even the most excellent engineers we'd recruited were not initially as efficient as I had been. When this occurs, it's tempting to try to take over and do the work yourself. However, your most important task when hiring new recruits is taking the time to train them. Be willing to take that initial hit. Initially, engineers will not be as efficient as you are, and you'll need to be willing to slow down so you can properly train them. You also have to be willing to explain to your management team that, at first, the project won't go as fast as before, due to the training that will be required. When you build a team, take as much time as is required to onboard and train them into their roles.
Looking back, I have learned a few lessons. Ensure you have a basic plan in place for the first week, first month, and first three months of when your recruits start, covering all of the things that your engineer needs to learn to do, whether that's administrative or technical processes. Also include your one-on-one's, set up your expectations, and include training with colleagues. After the engineer completes their training, ask for feedback. By getting feedback on the plan from each new recruit, you'll be able to improve and refine the plan for your next new engineer.
"Onboarding buddies can also be useful. The buddies are responsible for your onboarding process and help you to work through it."
Onboarding buddies can also be useful. The buddies are responsible for your onboarding process and help you to work through it. They should be a colleague and should have experience with the processes the new staff member needs to learn. New staff members may be uncomfortable asking questions of their managers, so a buddy allows them to ask questions more comfortably. The onboarding buddy also will benefit from this, as it gives them a chance to demonstrate their strengths in terms of leadership roles.
Finally, engineers want to be able to deliver code as quickly as possible. Ensure you give them chances early on to do so, even if it's just with simple jobs. Help them go through all of the processes, from start to finish, and help them to deliver the code before the first or second week. This helps them to feel like they are contributing to the company's goals, and you'll be able to ensure that they are capable of doing the job.
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VP Engineering at SUBLIME
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