Growing pains when growing a team

Motivation
Health / Stress / Burn-Out
Scaling Team
Career Path

6 December, 2017

Mary discusses how she kept an engineer engaged after he got worn out while working on building a Sync engine.

Problem

When I first started growing my team in Palo Alto at Accellion, I had an engineer who was not growing into the role I gave him. We had decided to build a Sync engine on top of our Secure File Sharing platform (this is not something to be taken lightly as Sync is hard!). I had one of my best engineers leading the team. The problem was, we were having issues with Sync on a daily basis. We couldn't seem to get a handle on the complications of sync and my lead was getting tired and beaten down. Meanwhile, my other teams were growing fast and they were having a hard time on-boarding new engineers.

Actions taken

I didn't want to lose one of my best engineers, so I had to do something to help him in being more successful and I needed to get new blood working on the Sync issue. I decided to create a new Infrastructure team and have him lead it. I then got some more senior engineers to take on the Sync issues. The Infrastructure lead changed overnight. He was completely engaged and he worked hard to build a team and tools to help the new engineers. The more senior engineers were easily able to re-architect a solution that worked and it has kept us syncing for the last few years.

Lessons learned

I not only learned that having an Infrastructure team early on is essential to growing teams quickly. I also learned that sometimes we put people in positions that they can't be successful in, but there may be something else that they can do. Engineers can get burned out when presented with a problem that is hard to solve. Moving them to something they can be successful at is important. I have always tried to keep talent no matter if they are a rockstar or an individual contributor. As long as they are contributing at a good pace, are not causing issues within the team, and they are helping to shape your culture, they are worth keeping.


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