Back to resources

Build V.S. Buy: Empowering Teams with a Data-Driven Approach

Innovation / Experiment
Personal Growth
Company Culture
Leadership
Coaching / Training / Mentorship

11 March, 2022

Paramita Bhattacharjee
Paramita Bhattacharjee

Vice President of Product Management at Early Warning

Paramita Bhattacharjee, Vice President of Product Management at Early Warning, recounts when she let her team focus on experimentation to develop a data-driven solution.

Engineers Want to Build

In large organizations, when initiatives come up, there are build v.s. buy decisions that need to be made. Inherently all engineers and data scientists have the notion that it should be done in-house. Why create a partnership when we can do it ourselves? It’s very important for product leaders to assess the build v.s. buy, and how to make the right decision.

Around ten years ago, my company was putting a novel product into production – involving artificial intelligence and modeling. We partnered with two vendors who were leaders in these industries, specifically modeling and machine learning. As I mentioned, there were team members that were incredibly interested and thought the machine learning model could be developed in-house.

Experimentation Within a Team

I was leading the product at that time and understood that these team members wanted to take an opportunity to grow and learn. Similar to many hi-tech companies such as Google, I encouraged experimentation and implemented a schedule that allowed team members to focus on new innovation and research, 20% of the time, for professional development and had high value. In combination with this, if any individuals came up with something high impact, my team would bring it to life.

There was a very smart engineer on my team who spent a significant amount of time coming up with a machine learning model for the product we were working on. I had a few conversations with him regarding machine learning performance and set a threshold of 80% accuracy before it could be launched into production. The idea was that once it was in development, the team could continue to improve upon it and gain a higher accuracy.

He continued to work on his model, working nights and on his 20% time. Finally, he created a model, and put it in a sandbox, only to realize it was performing with only 60% accuracy. Obviously, this was not the threshold that we wanted, and we could not bring it to life with such a low accuracy. The team could have spent time enhancing the threshold but it would be at a cost.

Empowering the Team with Data

This experience taught me that instead of pushing back on team members’ ideas, it’s important to allow them to pursue their passions while being data-driven. In this example, I gave my team member the runway to experiment with his machine learning model. Even after the accuracy was only 60% effective, he continued to work on it for a few weeks to try and improve the score. Eventually, he came back to me and said that we should leverage our vendors to build the machine learning model – as they were the experts in the field.

Since I built trust with him by providing him with opportunities to experiment, his data was telling enough for him to come up with a different recommendation. While keeping the goal in mind, I empowered my team to make decisions with a data-driven approach.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

I was passed for Promotion. What now ?

26 January

Passing for promotion happens to everyone in their career lifespan. If someone does not had to go through the situation, consider them they are unique and blessed. Managing disappointment and handling situations in professional setting when things don’t pan out, is an important life skill.

Changing A Company
Handling Promotion
Feelings Aside
Feedback
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Fairness
Career Path
Praveen Cheruvu

Praveen Cheruvu

Senior Software Engineering Manager at Anaplan

People Oriented vs Task Oriented

20 January

As a Lead or Manager, one could naturally incline more towards being either people oriented or task oriented. Which is better? Do you know which side you lean more towards?

Leadership
Kamal Raj Guptha R

Kamal Raj Guptha R

Engineering Manager at Jeavio

The art of Happiness

20 January

Happiness is a choice. Our upbringing and the surroundings have made it conditional. The first step is to get over the hump is self-awareness. Self-awareness is a journey by itself. The ability to identify what we can control, and we can’t is important.

Personal Growth
Career Path
Health / Stress / Burn-Out
Praveen Cheruvu

Praveen Cheruvu

Senior Software Engineering Manager at Anaplan

Managing remote first organization

4 January

I was hired at HUMAN in 2021 to manage a team that went from hybrid to completely remote working environment because of COVID.

Building A Team
Company Culture
Ahsan Habib

Ahsan Habib

VP Software Engineering at human

Myth Busting

10 December

Supporting principles on why being data led (not driven) helps with the story telling.

Alignment
Managing Expectations
Building A Team
Leadership
Collaboration
Productivity
Feedback
Psychological Safety
Stakeholders
Vikash Chhaganlal

Vikash Chhaganlal

Head of Engineering at Xero