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Shaping An Engineering Organization

Scaling Team
Motivation
Onboarding
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Collaboration
Hiring

6 April, 2018

Karim Fanous talks about the model he used when growing and shaping his engineering organization.

Problem

An issue many organizations will face at one point in their development is how to grow and shape your engineering teams as the organization grows. My organization grew from 15-20 people to 60, but there were some key steps we needed to take to do this effectively.

Actions taken

You first have to understand the trade-offs and options that you are facing. Your first option is to assign Dev Leads, and then place them in groups of four to five, reporting to a manager. This model is also very tightly coupled to the components within the software stack that you have. You will have a dev lead who owns Network, another that owns Protocols, etc. Another option is to build teams that are completely vertically integrated. This would mean that each team owns a holistic problem, they have the resources within the team to touch any area of the stack, and the team needs to be self-reliant and external dependencies need to be minimized. I decided to take the second option - teams. I built teams four to seven engineers, depending on what they were building, and they were empowered to touch all areas of the stack. All the resources they needed were contained within those teams. The result of this decision was much faster velocity, cleaner code and the shipping of features that were well regarded. However, a challenge of this model is that when you are hiring engineers you can't hire an engineer to work on a specific space. Instead, you hire generalist engineers whose tasks will depend on their team and its requirements. Some engineers really love this. However, others dislike not being able to specialize.

Lessons learned

Start thinking about this issue early on, especially as you are growing. You also have to think about your interview process early on, and what you care about beyond being a good engineer. We learned the hard way that engineers need to be able to both code well and align with your organization's goals.


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