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Increasing the Sustainability of a Product

Deadlines
Internal Communication
Juniors
Performance

7 December, 2021

Manan Patel
Manan Patel

Software Engineering Manager at Coinbase

Manan Patel, Software Engineering Manager at Coinbase, details his process increasing the sustainability of a product suffering due to a flow of traffic.

Problem

Some time ago, my team owned a product that resided in the most trafficked point in our company's app. It saw significant amounts of traffic which caused downtimes from our lack of services. The traffic-heavy feature was affecting services downstream on our app as well. I wanted to focus on how to get this scale and be more reliable with the additional traffic. Our initial plan was to have a staff engineer lead this product and address all the problems. They worked on it for around six weeks, but there wasn't as much traction as hoped. At this point, I stepped in and helped the lead prioritize the problems and create a strategy to extract the most effective solution.

Actions taken

Firstly, I set up a daily sync to increase the urgency of our product. I wanted my team to be more engaged when working on tasks related to scaling our product. It was vital for me to attend these meetings to escalate the urgency and convey the importance of that effort. We wanted to move on this as quickly as possible so our app could handle these large traffic numbers again.

I scheduled a more extended meeting where my team brainstormed different solutions from all the engineers, not just the lead. During the discussions, we listed the impact and engineering cost of each key. Then, we prioritized each solution through that list and created a plan for the next four weeks based on our priorities. Once we had a plan based on our group decisions for the next four weeks, we worked towards it.

There was pressure from upper management during this entire process in terms of a time estimate and amount of traffic the platform could handle. I stepped in as a line of communication between lead engineers and upper management, relaying the information about the project between the two. At the end of the four weeks, we could sustain ten times more traffic to the feature than before.

Lessons learned

  • If you provide the opportunities to the junior engineers, they will step up into the challenge. Senior engineers do not need to be responsible for the most critical tasks all of the time. One provided the opportunity; even younger juniors will impress you with their work.
  • Framing the problem and products can go a long way in terms of engaging your engineers. If prepared from a customer perspective, engineers may be more motivated for the project, increasing productivity.

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