Software engineers are eminently practical people — it’s what makes them good at their jobs.
But how do you get people who tend to focus on nuts and bolts to engage with a company’s higher mission? Or with each other? With that in mind, we asked six Seattle engineering leaders at companies large and small to take us through their first year. They shared with us the projects they worked on and the lessons they took from those experiences. Read on for the deets.
Xinova connects its global network of inventors with businesses that have a problem, but lack the tools or bandwidth to solve it. Vice President of Engineering Paul Payne emphasized the importance of collaboration and cohesion within a team, and said he draws inspiration from his workmates and the inventors they’re helping to empower.
In one word: cohesion. Although the core of the team had worked together previously, we were, as a team, responsible for seeding the software development capabilities in a new company with a vastly different context. While we had full autonomy over our own culture and processes, our challenge was to build something entirely new within Xinova. We had to get our minds around the company’s vision, strategy and culture as well as a few million lines of legacy code, a highly customized installation of Salesforce and a decade of loosely-schematized data, all while growing our team from six to 18. We already shipped an excellent new platform this year, but I’m even more proud of how we came together to do it, defining and embodying our culture along the way.
Once you remove the killers of productivity, it’s amazing how much you can get done.”
First, emphasis on team collaboration, especially quick consensus and process change techniques is essential. We could have easily become mired in figuring out what to do or agreeing on how we should do it; instead, we were able to make productive gains every day while optimizing over time.
Second, working smart is the only solution when you have too much to do with too few resources: concise objectives, prioritization, ruthless scope, focus on MVP, clear abstractions, disciplined design and code review, infrastructure investment, automation, repeatable processes… once you remove the killers of productivity, it’s amazing how much you can get done.
Finally, I think we all found out how many smart people there are with the potential to solve big problems. In the office we’re surround by PhDs, famous scientists and key agents of massive global innovation — but our extended network is truly mind-blowing. It’s humbling to help build a platform for unleashing this talent, capital and technology on the world’s problems. It’s important to stay open to opportunities and new ideas because they’re excellent, and they’re all around us.
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