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Growing a Team and Implementing a Psychologically Safe Culture

Goal Setting
Remote
Company Culture
Psychological Safety
Cultural Differences
Prioritization
New Manager

7 January, 2022

Saarthak Vats
Saarthak Vats

VP Engineering at noon

Saarthak Vats, VP of Engineering at noon, describes how he grew a team from the bottom up, creating a nurturing and learning environment for new members.

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.

Outcomes:

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.

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