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Stepping Back To Develop Your Engineers

John Cheng

Engineering Manager at ZipRecruiter

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Problem

I currently work as the Director of Engineering at the Rubicon Project. About three years ago, we started on an interesting project where we wanted to embed a machine learning algorithm into our real-time advertising platform. Because the project was so interesting, I really wanted to be involved with it and I started writing some code for it.

Actions taken

However, I had some really talented engineers on my team. This was a really high-profile project, with our CTO looking at its progress weekly, and I realized it would be a great opportunity for the most senior engineer on my team to show what he could do on a really interesting, but technically difficult project. I needed to take something I really wanted to work on and not do it so I could assign it to someone who hadn't worked on a project like this before. We ran into a lot of challenges along the way and both of us needed help from one another to ensure the project was done correctly. At the end of this process, not everything came out in the way I had envisioned but, ultimately, the end result was great! All of the stakeholders and business people who were involved with the project were really enthusiastic and happy about its outcome. This was what really mattered.

Lessons learned

I earned an important lesson in terms of trusting my team and giving them the opportunity to grow in the areas they want to grow in. Some people really love spending all of their time solving really difficult technical problems and, as their teammate, I'm doing them a disservice if I don't allow them to do this. As you get more and more great people on your team, you need to learn to step back to allow them to do their work. This will allow you to scale the team and to help everyone on the team to be effective.


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John Cheng

Engineering Manager at ZipRecruiter


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