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Shaping Engineering Culture in a Chaotic Environment

Shaping Engineering Culture in a Chaotic Environment

If you've worked for a rapidly growing tech startup, you know that in the blink of an eye your organization may go from 300 to 2000 people. Hiring craze, you can't keep track of the organizational chart anymore and your productivity takes a huge hit because there are so many conflicts.

This talk is about shaping an engineering culture and scaling it to your organizatio even when everything seems to be turned into chaos. Of course there are no single right answers to everything, but here are some valuable lessons learned out these "growing pains".

Tutti Quintella

June 12, 2020

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  1. Hi there! • Tutti (@tuttiq) • From ⇒ ⇒ •

    Major in Computer Engineering • Software Engineer for ~8 years • Manager @ Mercari, Director of Women Who Code Tokyo • Engineering Office Team • Diversity & Inclusion + Learning & Development
  2. Engineering Office? Mission: The best employee experience for all engineers

    Activities: Organizational development, engagement, DevRel and people growth across the Engineering division E.g.: • Hiring and onboarding experience for engineers • Learning opportunities, engaging work environment • Culture and Processes • External relations with Dev community

  4. Diversity taken to the next level Over 40 Countries People

    from almost all regions of the world.
  5. Diversity taken to the next level • 40 different nationalities

    mostly on the Engineering Division • Japan, and Eastern Asia in general, have some of the most traditional and homogeneous cultures • People from almost all regions of the world: all americas, west, east and north europe, middle east, africa, south, southeast, west and east asia, oceania, etc • No such thing as "everyone is kinda used to western culture" like I've seen in other places
  6. Language barrier • Only about 20% of Japanese people can

    speak conversational English • Less than 10% can speak with business-level fluency • Majority of the foreigners in Japan also speak English as a second language
  7. How do you define culture in a large and diverse

    organization? Spoiler alert: it's not by sticking your values on your cool office walls.
  8. How do you shape culture in a large and diverse

    organization? • How do we resolve disagreements? • What should be considered a priority? • How to evaluate engineers and their contributions?
  9. Engineering Competencies: An Open Discussion "What competencies make good engineers?"

    • Led by the CTO, fed by everyone • Open discussion on Slack • Tons of research and references • Open document that anyone could add comments • Town Hall discussions
  10. One step back: from Competencies to Principles Hiring Onboarding &

    Training Setting goals Career ladder (core skills + technical skills) Evaluate / Promote Engineering Principles
  11. One step back: from Competencies to Principles CTO Vision +

    Town Hall discussions Interviews with EMs and Tech Leads Mercari Company Values & Culture Diverse committee with local & global experience Mercari Engineering Principles 9 items that can be understood and applied to any member of the engineering division, from new grad to VP Research on other tech companies
  12. Mercari Engineering Principles Go Bold Seek Continuous Improvement Go Bold,

    Fail Fast & Learn Early Take Action & Responsibility All For One Focus On The Customer Strive For Alignment Foster Trust & Inclusion Be A Pro Deliver With High Quality Share To Empower Be Strategic & Efficient
  13. Make sure the message is clear We know every engineer

    is different from another and we encourage and celebrate diversity. We will not expect individuals of the same level to have exactly the same progress on the ladder. We know that people will grow in a different pace in different competencies. This diversity of strengths and weaknesses is good because engineers can complement one another with different skill sets.
  14. Make sure to explain the full picture Hiring Onboarding &

    Training Setting goals Career ladder (core skills + technical skills) Evaluate / Promote Engineering Principles
  15. Principles "on the wall" Changing your words, your careers site

    and your employee manual is not enough. You will only begin to change culture if you live and breath your values everyday through your ACTIONS: • Hire according to your principles • Reward/praise (or give feedback to shift direction) • Evaluate and promote the right behaviors/competencies
  16. A clear proposal to solve a clear problem • An

    evidence-based and specific problem statement • An aligned vision of the ideal future (for the specific thing you are trying to change) • A clear proposal of your idea to solve the problem • A high-level plan to implement your proposal
  17. Explain very clearly the full picture Hiring Onboarding & Training

    Setting goals Evaluate / Promote Engineering Principles 1st step Career ladder (core skills + technical skills)
  18. How everything connects Hiring Onboarding & Training Setting goals Evaluate

    / Promote Engineering Principles 2nd step Career ladder (core skills + technical skills)
  19. Step by step Hiring Onboarding & Training Setting goals Career

    ladder (core skills + technical skills) Evaluate / Promote Engineering Principles 3rd step
  20. Create a framework to apply it to your cycle Level

    expectations Level expectations Level expectations SWE 1 SWE 2 SWE 3 Goals Evaluation Promotion Goals Evaluation Promotion Management path Specialist path
  21. Training your managers • Lots and lots of sessions, Q&As,

    open doors • Hands-on workshops • Bring the discussion to hiring managers
  22. Define a guideline / best-practices • Start of the quarter:

    use it to set goals • Middle of the quarter: use it to check progress • End of the quarter: use it to retrospect Using the career ladder to reflect and discuss often, it will become a tool for better self-assessment, member review and feedback ✅ ⏳
  23. Incorporate into the systems: Onboarding As soon as possible, add

    it to your onboarding process! • Explanation of the principles, where to find the full matrix, how to use it on a regular basis • New members and especially new managers
  24. Incorporate into the systems: Evaluation • Part of the cycle

    (goals, 1:1s, continuous feedback) • Shape your evaluation questions (Self-assessment, peer reviews, manager review) • Embed it into your system (literally!)
  25. Incorporate into the systems: Hiring • Shape the hiring questions

    • People involved in the hiring process should know how to assess candidates based on it • Promotes consistency on the new member level placement
  26. More challenges ahead • Refining expectations and implementation on all

    fronts • Achieve full understanding across teams • Promotion guidelines based on ladder progress • Fluid/hybrid career paths, lateral change of roles ALWAYS
  27. Lessons Learned (the hard way) • Shorter experiment+learn cycle (leaner/agile)

    • More diversity of roles, not only managers • Better stakeholder mana- gement, no loose ends • ALWAYS overestimate the effort
  28. Lessons Learned (the good way) • Incremental implementation (step by

    step) • Open and collaborative process • Have all engineering functions represented • 100% language inclusiveness is REALLY HARD, but possible
  29. Keep evolving! If your first version is great, you're probably

    late to release it If you are not unsatisfied with your work from 1 year ago, it means you're not growing And remember, change management takes time, patience and practice
  30. Thank you! Questions? Tutti Quintella https://tuttiq.me @tuttiq About Mercari Group:

    https://about.mercari.com Mercari JP: https://mercari.jp | Mercari US: https://mercari.com Free illustrations on this presentation by Freepik