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

🔥

Back to resources

Working From the Ground Up

Deadlines
Toxic Atmospheres

23 November, 2021

Adam Hawkins
Adam Hawkins

Site Reliability Engineer at Skillshare

Adam Hawkins, Site Reliability Engineer at Skillshare, uprooted an entire product and built it back up again with the help of his team.

Problem

My company was a bulletin board company like Craigslist, only in other countries instead of the United States. They started the business out by building all of these websites.

Our demographic was developing countries, way before smartphones and mobile apps were a common thing. The process was much more complicated than anybody had expected. This experience was when I really started to internalize some of the problems typically associated with long-running projects.

Actions taken

The project ended up taking much longer than expected. During the project, the business had decided to acquire another company, which added an additional layer to the situation. A bunch of new developers came in along with it. Because of this sudden influx of new developers, product owners, and designers, the project turned into a total recreation of the product.

Previously, the company had considered outsourcing the project to a local firm. After the acquisition, however, we had a ton of new talent already on staff. We talked about building an Android app and one for iOS, as well. We rewrote the entire business stack.

This was far from our intention when we first got started, but that’s what it ended up becoming. It was really, really complicated. Initially, we thought that we could turn the project around within a single quarter. Ten months later, and we were finally there.

Some weeks, we had to work fifteen-hour days, including weekends. It was brutal. During this entire time, the business was putting one hundred percent of its resources into developing this new thing. During this entire time, there has been no new work happening with the rest of the company. Everything else was on pause.

The longer that this went on, the further that they had gotten from their original goals. That created this pressure cooker, but, eventually, it finished, but only after a great amount of suffering and extreme dedication. This was on the part of the developers, everybody involved.

The result? We ended up decommissioning all of the old stuff. We did a hot migration from the old system to the new system. We launched the new website and the new apps, the new architecture and everything. It was like the flip of a switch. The new architecture is still in place, even today.

Lessons learned

  • It is imperative for a business to have these things established and accounted for. If businesses want to build apps or websites, they need to have some sort of consideration for the future. This includes future technical choices, design decisions, and everything else. Sometimes, you may design yourself into a corner that you can’t get yourself out of. This story is one example of that. We literally just had to start over from scratch. You will not be able to overcome the weight of those previous choices.
  • Leading the technical team through this whole process involved dealing with all of the technical issues that led to this situation. I then specifically designed them out of the future system. There was no way that I ever wanted anybody to ever have to go through this again.
  • We wanted to build a version of this project that would last for years because the business wanted to last for years. It was our responsibility as engineers to take those things into consideration. The Product team needed something that could be built upon and managed over time. As the business grows, the software that you develop should grow with it. Before this project, our software was more of a constraint on the business.

Discover Plato

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


Related stories

Working From the Ground Up

23 November

Adam Hawkins, Site Reliability Engineer at Skillshare, uprooted an entire product and built it back up again with the help of his team.

Deadlines
Toxic Atmospheres
Adam Hawkins

Adam Hawkins

Site Reliability Engineer at Skillshare

Why Overloading Product Teams Never Work

23 November

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi, VP of Product at Evermos, shares how he identified the symptoms of his overworked product team and worked towards defining conflicting priorities.

Managing Expectations
Product Team
Deadlines
Stakeholders
Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

VP of Product at Evermos

Ethics and Equality in Software Engineering

2 November

Chris Sellek, Staff Software Engineer at WillowTree, details his recommendations for companies to uplift moral practices and start conversations about inequalities.

Leadership
Ethics
Psychological Safety
Toxic Atmospheres
Chris Sellek

Chris Sellek

Staff Software Engineer at WillowTree Apps

Succeeding as the First Product Hire in a Startup

2 November

Priyanka Naik, AVP of Product and Technology at J.P. Morgan, shares her plan to bring a product to execution as the first product hire in a startup.

Alignment
Goal Setting
Product
Deadlines
Roadmap
Priyanka Naik

Priyanka Naik

AVP - Product and Technology at JP Morgan

An Engineer’s Place in Product Creation

25 October

James Andrew (Andy) Vaughn, Principal Technical Product Manager at AppFolio, speaks on the mutually beneficial partnership between product managers and engineering leadership and its relation to a harmonious product development organization.

Different Skillsets
Meetings
Internal Communication
Reorganization
Roadmap
Toxic Atmospheres
James (Andy) Vaughn

James (Andy) Vaughn

Principal Technical Product Manager at AppFolio

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.