Growing a Team and Implementing a Psychologically Safe Culture
7 January, 2022
Building a Team from the Ground Up
When I began my role at my current company, I was the first individual on the engineering team to work on a specific product. My goal was to build out an entire team as well as a distributor team. The development began from the ground up, meaning I had to develop the technology required to work on this product simultaneously.
These proved to be challenging tasks, as finding strong talent in today's market was incredibly difficult. I also struggled to expand a team, technologies, as well as a product at the same time.
Creating Culture and Growing my Team
Geographically Spread Teams:
I went on to build a team that was distributed among Sri Lanka and India, both working on similar projects. In the time span of a year, I hired third-party contractors before beginning to search for in-house developers. The contractors allowed my project and me to be more flexible and be able to pivot more frequently. Initially, it was slow to attract candidates to join my new team, although as the company grew, it became more simple.
Sparking a Nurturing Culture:
I worked with the contracted engineers to mentor them and create a culture where equality was present. Since many of the team members were contractors, it was vital for them to feel equally represented and important as full-time in-house members. The focus was on a culture that nurtured individuals, no matter their job title.
I embodied my actions and led the team with empathy and respect to live out this psychologically safe culture. I wanted high performance, so I set high standards for myself and the team, being resourceful with our resources and skills.
It was essential for my new team to have psychological safety, to be able to voice their opinions, and share their ideas. To inspire inclusiveness, I began initiatives with new team members to ensure they were part of the community and taught them the technical complexities of the work.
By working with external and internal factors, I built a team by the end of just one year. Although the team still needed some upskilling, they were fully functional and could deliver code to a high standard. Staying with my challenge and focusing on the culture before the technical aspects allowed new team members to ship code quicker.
Areas of Growth for New Teams
- Focus on the culture of a team before anything else. When hiring initial team members, you are laying the foundation for an entire team. If these individuals do not align themselves with your values, others that join the team will take their lead. Think long-term about personalities and functionalities that are beneficial for the team and work backward from there.
- Be in a learning mode all the time. Don't try and achieve perfection right from the start, but rather be forgiving of others' mistakes and be willing to offer your mentorship. Lay a vision for team member's personal growth and support them by removing their bottlenecks or any other organizational challenges.
Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader
Yang Wang, Engineering Manager at Bond, shares how diligently she transitioned from a large company to a series of startups, all balancing between the role of being a working mom.
Engineering Manager at Bond
Angel Jamie, Chief Product Officer at Yayzy, shares how he created the first product roadmap at a startup, and a simple process to keep it alive.
CPO at yayzy
Angel Jamie, Chief Product Officer at Yayzy, recalls his transition from a well-established tech company to a sustainability startup, and the major differences he experienced.
CPO at yayzy
Nani Nitinavakorn, the Sr Product Owner at Revolut, describes how she keeps learning hard skills to increase motivation and respect her team.
Sr Product Owner at Revolut
Vishal Ramrakhyani, Director of Engineering at Zoomcar, shares how grooming an existing senior team member to a leader can boost team morale and keep the culture intact.
Director of Engineering at Zoomcar
You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.
Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.