Learning to Delegate

Sami Touil

VP of Engineering at Onfido



I was working on an MVP version of a product very dear to my heart. During that time, the team experienced a loss of velocity and stumbled across a number of technical, product, and marketing challenges. It seemed that we were not as efficient as we were in the early stages of the project, which impacted both our motivation and delivery.

Actions taken

Since our low velocity and a number of other problems didn’t go unnoticed, my manager’s manager approached me and somewhat scolded me. They told me that they understood that the project we were working on was very dear to my heart but emphasized that I was appointed to manage the team and not delve into code. He explained that they provided me with the team so that I could help with guidance instead of being hands-on. The team would take care of technical challenges while I should be responsible for taking care of organizational, and product aspects of our product. In a nutshell, I had to let it go. I had to learn to trust my teammates, give them the right amount of autonomy, and help them level up the skills needed to do what I did before.

I vividly remember that conversation to this day. It was enlightening and hard at the same time. It helped me realize that my stubbornness to stick to the code was slowing us down and that I had to make a mindset switch and let things go. On an emotional level, I was somewhat downhearted because I had to let go of the project so dear to me and watch other people have fun working on it. But without me delegating that part of work, we wouldn’t be able to move things forward and make our product truly successful.

Lessons learned

  • Alone you go faster; together you go further. When you are alone, you can go fast because many things are easier to deal with, and no time is wasted on communication, documentation, or alignment. But with a group of people, you can go further because you will be able to join forces and combine your skills and competencies.
  • I lost some things and gained others. I lost the opportunity to stay hands-on and be deeply involved in technical aspects of the product, but I gained the possibility to build an MVP and made my idea successful beyond imagination. I witnessed a large project being built and becoming hugely popular, which was only possible if many people worked on it. Even though I was not the one to technically implement the solutions, I made it possible and the one to drive it forward.

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Sami Touil

VP of Engineering at Onfido

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