Building Your Initial Engineering Team
2 August, 2019
When I joined an early stage startup as the first engineer, one of my goals was to build out the initial engineering team we needed. Building that initial engineering team is really critical and it must be done right. Having an initial team that is great (or bad) will have a huge impact on the startup as a whole. So I had to be sure I was building the right team.
First, I spoke with the CEO to really understand the mission and vision of the company. We discussed what was envisioned for the initial product and where it could go. Based on that information I was able to build a high-level architecture of the whole platform. This allowed us to all have a clear understanding of what needed to be done. From there it was easy to list the types of skills needed on the team to complement my own, as well as how many people we actually needed. Once we knew the technical profiles we needed and how many people, the second step was to determine the soft skills or culture profile we wanted for our engineering team. We already had a general culture we wanted for everybody in the company, so I had to complement that with an engineering specific culture. I took the time to do some reading and think about the type of engineers we needed for our specific product, the current stage of the company, and the fact that we're 100% remote. This list served us very well since it provided clear guidance for every step in the hiring process- from candidate screening until making sure potential candidate would actually be happy to work with us. I think this is often considered second priority to technical skills, but I believe that is the wrong approach. Culture is at least equally important if not more. Therefore you should spend more time figuring out your culture and only start the hiring process itself once you have a clear picture of exactly what you want. Thus, our hiring process was devised to put the emphasis on the cultural aspect.
Using that process we've been able to create a really great initial engineering team. Launching a startup is full of challenges and hiccups, especially in the early days. Having an engineering team that can cope with this and can help you move forward through that phase is extremely important. I am really happy we prioritized deciding on our culture first and hiring for that.
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