Managing and Engaging a Temporary Team

Sarah Ericson

Engineering Manager at Affirm



Last year in my organization there was a high priority project that was kicked off. This project was set to impact every engineering team in the organization and was being resourced with engineers from different teams. The engineers were on short-term loan from other projects and I was chosen to act as their engineering manager. The problem that I faced was keeping the group of engineers- who hailed from various teams- engaged and productive.

Action Taken

I began by recognizing the problem early on and decided to treat them like a single unit team who would be working together on this project long-term. Therefore, we did full sprint planning, stand-ups, and retrospectives. Basically, we did the whole agile process and I treated the project as if it were with a regular team.

"I treated the project as if it were with a regular team."

But they weren't a regular team, the engineers were on loan, so additionally I pulled in their individual managers and had weekly meetings with them. These meetings served to keep the managers in the loop of what was happening on the project and also to get ahead of any conflicts that they might have had on their regular team due to their missing engineer. I wanted the managers, and myself, to stay as informed as possible so that we could take any issues into consideration while prioritizing for the high-priority project.

Further still, I would send out regular company-wide updates about the project. I felt that it was important to provide these updates since the project and the team were cross-functional. It was a project that was not fully on anybody's roadmap or in any particular field of visibility, thus, I took the initiative to be clear to everyone on the direction and progress of the project.

In the end, we were able to ship the MVP of the project. Afterwards, engineers were able to fairly smoothly return to their regular teams. More so, now the original project has a fully staffed team associated with it with a specific roadmap behind it.

Lesson Learned

  • I think it's important to go gain a sense of whether something is going to be challenging or not. In this case, knowing that managing the team was going to be challenging allowed me to get ahead of the situation and take the necessary actions.
  • Getting ahead also allowed me to put in place solid processes. This proved helpful in increasing the engagement and productivity of the team.

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Sarah Ericson

Engineering Manager at Affirm

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyEngineering ManagementMentorship ProgramsIndividual Contributor RolesStaff EngineerAgile, Scrum & KanbanLeadership & StrategyTeam & Project Management

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