Managing a Product Team

Senthil Kumar

Manager, Software Engineering at Twilio



In my last capacity, as the manager of an engineering group, we needed to cater to the development tasks or feature set from the formal product management team and the solution architects as we are a platform with multiple integrated staff and parallel. As a strong engineering team, we have solved a lot of problems concerning integrations within the organization. Thus we became the go-to team for the consulting project within the organization for solving similar problems. For example, we would get requests for integrating Zendesk or similar solutions into the platform. We were adept and enjoyed solving the tasks from the traditional product management team. However, as we were a small team, we were having issues addressing the growing functions from the solution architects, which were time-sensitive, and from the internal customers for other integration opportunities. The needs did not fall into the radar of product management but had an engineering aspect, and as a systems group, we catered to both internal and external customers. The growing tasks caused disorientation within our team, and we were having difficulties in prioritization and meeting deadlines.

Actions taken

To begin with, I connected with the product management team and discussed with them the goals of my engineering team and how we help the organization, which takes time and effort. We also pointed out certain things that were happening outside the radar.

Afterwards, we had a follow-up, and I communicated to the product team that we had a problem that needed to be solved. I suggested that requests should not come to us directly but rather through the product management team because they will provide better judgement on problems such as business calls from partners. This also helped us to brainstorm from both the planning perspective and the engineers’ capacity perspective. The product management team welcomed our suggestion of prioritization of objectives. We also had roadmaps that were typically aligned with a few themes. For example, we would allocate a weightage to a specific problem and then solve them gradually. We let the project management team know that the weighted proportion should be managed more effectively. Rather than shunting a particular situation, we would work on problems based on specific percentages to satisfy the internal customers.

Once we started implementing these steps, we used the available time to brainstorm the engineering part, such as making tech stack developments and addressing the technical management. The process was run for almost a year, and the transition took place in two quarters. Our stakeholders received positive feedback during the annual review, and our engineering team was energized to carry out more productive tasks. We were able to cater to stakeholders’ tasks without any friction.

Lessons learned

  • You should have a clear and concise problem statement with proposed solutions. Focus on the merit points for the betterment of your teams. As a result, your stakeholders will comply with you.
  • As a manager, you should focus on the product and look after your team members. In addition to product innovation, we can streamline processes for formalizing and keeping some strategies in place. Team members will better understand their responsibilities and have more free time to attend to other tasks.

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Senthil Kumar

Manager, Software Engineering at Twilio

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionTeam & Project Management

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