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Flexibility and Listening as a Manager

Internal Communication
Team Processes

2 July, 2021

Adi Khurana
Adi Khurana

Sr. Team Manager at Box, Inc.

Adi Khurana, Director of Engineering at Edmodo, found himself in exactly the right place at the right time when the pandemic hit.

Problem

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.

Actions taken

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.

Lessons learned

  • 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.

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