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50 MIN
07 APR, 2022

Building a high performing Remote Engineering Team


This episode was a continuation of Episode 9, where we discussed with Vivek about Interviewing Remote First Engineering Talent. There was not enough time so we asked Vivek to join us again this week, and discussed Building a high-performing Remote Engineering Team.

We had so many questions we wanted to ask Vivek, with all of his years of experience we were hungry to know more of his expertise and advice specifically now adapting to a Remote-First World.

Vivek is the founder of SDE Skills AI and helps engineers in their interview process so they get hired by big companies like Meta, Microsoft, and Amazon. His empathy is amazing as he always talks about giving back to the community.

A lot of teams were forced to start working remotely to some extent, so we were retrofitted to this new remote world, so is this going to be the new norm? You need to know the company's expectations, are you going to be able to stay remote, or eventually go back to an office? It's very difficult to have a hybrid work set-up, so managers need to ask themselves what the strategy will be, and how will the hybrid be handled? How would you make it work so the remote team does not feel like a second-hand citizen? How are you trying to build a culture, to bring the team together? These are the questions that Vivek recommends that a remote-first leader takes into account when managing a remote or hybrid team.

Arjun asked Vivek when you are building a high-performing engineering team, how do you know your team is executing well?  

In a Fully Remote Organization, by the time you discover something is not working, hours have passed. This gets worse if you are working in different time zones. We need to start thinking of processes as if you’re writing subroutines in a program (Vivek is an engineer at heart) - with modules and sub-modules. Can you put processes in place that lets engineers work several hours without supervision or without needing any input? Tech leads should be able to monitor that and review it once a week and correct course if needed. In the Remote World, the skill to run autonomously is more valuable than other skills.

In one of this episode activities, we ask these questions and wanted the input from the public but also from Vivek, the question was:

Would you rather have a team with: 

  • High competences 
  • High commitment

You can have both but we wanted to know what will happen if you only can choose 1, so the public results were 80% high commitment and 20% high competence. Vivek before looking at the public answers was voting more for ownership over skill, because being predictable is more useful than being performant,  so to be autonomous the perfect mix needs to be a high degree of ownership and a high degree of commitment.

We also discussed the importance of a high work ethic, and how it will be impossible to hire especially remotely someone that does not have a high work ethic because it's difficult to inspire or teach ethics in people. 

As leaders Vivek will encourage people to start thinking about the problem we are trying to solve, how are we doing it, and why are we doing it? He also mentioned how expectation setting and expectation management are very critical, you need to be super explicit about what the expectations are and how you are setting them. 

One of the most important tips in this episode is that Vivek, tells to empower workers to work autonomously, and also stop Micromanaging, only latency and course correction for managers. And it is very important to have a yearly get-together where people can actually meet and break the ice, and this is a great way to motivate the team.

Very important thing is that you should not join a meeting unless you are adding value or getting value out of a meeting, as we all love to hate meetings. 

The last question we asked Vivek When you think about strong engineering culture, what do you think are the elements of that?

So he commented that essentially respect for what came before, because when you walk into an organization, and then you would see tons and tons and tons of things wrong with it and you need to understand why, but just start with respect for what was there. And the most important is to create an inclusive environment where people can ask questions, there are no questions too small or too big, and this is how people can come up with new idea

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