Flexibility and Listening as a Manager
2 July, 2021
After being with Edmodo for more than eight years, I grew from an individual contributor, eventually becoming a director. I was gaining responsibility, managing managers, and progressing well as a professional. Then, COVID happened.
Edmodo is in the ed-tech space, a service that allows teachers to perform classroom functions online. With everyone suddenly studying from home, our site traffic grew to 15x within a couple of months. It was all hands on deck across our engineering team; we needed to keep the site from crashing in order to be able to scale. At the time, my team was working on a product feature, unaffected by the situation. Still, we wanted to help.
With the sudden traffic surge, team leads met daily to discuss what was to be prioritized for that day. Our dev-ops team would raise any potential issues, and the issue got assigned to someone on the spot. Teams were required to shift their focus to the latest performance assignments being given.
Few of these assignments came to my teams, but I wanted to do more. I started sharing these updates with my team in anticipation of priorities that may shift on short notice. In one of these discussions, one team member suggested that we could help the site scale with front-end optimization. The idea resonated with me; I proposed it as a short project in our daily leads meeting.
We didn’t have a lot of time, and everybody was doing what they could to contribute. We were looking for ideas to stabilize the site and make full use of this unexpected growth.
After earning project approval, I formed a new squad in a matter of days utilizing members from different teams. The team lasted for four weeks and made more than fifty site improvements. Time was of the essence, and I had to keep everybody on track. We met every day to discuss daily assignments, critical changes, and how to push fixes through to production.
In the end, Edmodo was the only ed-tech site that did not go down during the pandemic. It was a huge victory for us.
- As a manager, it is important to be flexible. Be on the lookout for what's happening outside your group. When change happens, be prepared to adapt.
- As a manager, you won’t always be the smartest person in the room. Listening to your team is important. In this case, the best idea came from a team member, not me.
- Communicate with your team frequently. Keep them informed so that everyone is prepared for what's ahead.
Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader
Jonathan Ducharme, Engineering Manager at AlleyCorp Nord, encourages the importance of a workplace environment that cultivates mental wellness.
Engineering Manager at AlleyCorp Nord
A proposal for how to create an org structure that will deliver software systems that you want, not ones you get stuck with.
CTO at REAL Engagement & Loyalty
Individual Contributors are familiar with a technical development framework that helps them with building products. Managers, especially new managers can leverage a parallel framework to help them build their teams while drawing analogies from an already familiar framework.
Viswa Mani Kiran Peddinti
Sr Engineering Manager at Instacart
Muhammad Hamada, Engineering Manager at HelloFresh, addresses the uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, how these have affected our work environments, and how we can adapt.
Engineering Manager at HelloFresh
Roland Fiala, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Productsup, raises an interesting issue about autonomy in teams: does it hinder collaboration opportunities that lead to better problem-solving? He shares his system for promoting teamwork in engineering departments.
Senior Vice President of Engineering at Usergems