Plato Elevate Winter Summit has been announced (Dec 7th-8th)

🔥

Back to resources

Reorganizing the Geographically Split Teams

Remote

17 July, 2020

Shyam Prabhakar
Shyam Prabhakar

Director of Engineering at Reality AI

Shyam Prabhakar, Engineering Manager at Stitch Fix, shares how he reorganized the team distributed across multiple geographies and why self-sufficiency is the key principle to follow.

Problem

I became a manager of managers four years ago and I inherited a new team that would scale massively in a short period of time. We were building a utility website for a very important client when we realized that our organizational structure was hindering us from achieving the best results.

The problem was that the team was structured to be nimble and fast, but was split between the teams in Ukraine and the US. The team in Ukraine was building the back-end, and the teams in the US were building the front-end for a particular feature. That was hugely inefficient due to a number of interdependencies across multiple timezones. On top of that, the lack of trust started to negatively impact our work.

Actions taken

One of the first things I did was to reorganize the teams and make them more self-sufficient. Before that, teams were entangled in dependencies that would ramify and consequently, slow down or even block any progress. By following self-sufficiency as the guiding principle, I enabled the teams to autonomously build one section of the website. For example, the Ukraine team was building the account management section of the website, the San Francisco team was working on the billing section and the Virginia team was dealing with the energy usage.

By doing so, the teams became self-reliable, able to plan many quarters in advance, and blend back- and front-engineering together. Even from the engineers’ perspective, they were able to scale vertically and avoid being confined in one particular area of expertise. Sometimes it required extra effort from my side but the sense of ownership was far more important than a few more extra hours I had to put in.

One component of the restructuring included a cultural intervention. The lack of trust was pervasive and I knew had to restore it. Different geographies perhaps contributed to the ‘us versus them’ mindset that was eroding trust. When I visited the team in Ukraine, I had an engineer from India to introduce his team in Russian while the Ukrainian team member introduced his team in Telugu, as an icebreaker. Just a small symbolic gesture had such a powerful impact on building team cohesion.

Lessons learned

  • Giving team autonomy where they’re able to independently plan ahead is important. Not just from a planning perspective but also from a sense of ownership of the work they’re doing. It also gets us, directors out of their way and fully enables them.
  • Product managers should be included in any potential restructuring and having a strong PM-EM duo from the beginning should ensure alignment. If a product and an engineering person at the Director, VP level are in sync, the collaboration at the team level becomes much smoother.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

Preparing Your Team for the Remote Workplace

29 November

Vadim Antonov, Engineering Manager at Meta, dictates how he brought a brand new team into the remote learning process by ramping up onboarding and creating a mentor system.

Alignment
Remote
Internal Communication
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Data Team
Cross-Functional Collaboration
Vadim Antonov

Vadim Antonov

Engineering Manager at Facebook

Improving Team Execution in a Remote Environment

29 November

Vadim Antonov, Engineering Manager at Meta, details his process of implementing an organized execution system for his cross-functional team.

Alignment
Remote
Leadership
Delegate
Feedback
Vadim Antonov

Vadim Antonov

Engineering Manager at Facebook

Creating a Cultural Shift for Effective Meetings: Building a Writing Culture

10 November

Han Wang, Director of Engineering at Sonder Inc., talks about adopting a writing culture for making team meetings more effective.

Remote
Company Culture
Meetings
Internal Communication
Collaboration
Han Wang

Han Wang

Director of Engineering at Sonder Inc

How to Stay Up-to-Date Managing a Large Remote Team

12 November

Deepesh Makkar, Sr Director of Engineering at SunPower Corporation, details the processes he formalized to stay in touch with large, remote teams that are located internationally.

Remote
Meetings
Feedback
Onboarding
Changing Company
Deepesh Makkar

Deepesh Makkar

Sr Director of Engineering at SunPower Corporation

How to Feel Heard During Video Meetings

5 November

Sydney Russakov, Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn, shares how she made sure to make her ideas get the attention they deserved during Zoom meetings.

Remote
Meetings
Internal Communication
Sydney Russakov

Sydney Russakov

Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn

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.