Great speaking with Karim Fanous, VP of Engineering at Qumulo, a company that provides modern scale-out file storage software. Qumulo began five years ago with about 20 engineers and one product manager. Today they have 160 employees, about a third of which comprise the engineering team.
The nucleus and vision of the engineering organizational structure were established by Neal Fachan, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist. Neal was committed to hiring self-driven people and empowering them to self-organize to work on a particular problem or feature.
Today there are about 10 teams, each comprised of four to six engineers, one product manager, and one Scrum Master. Every team works on one or more features that are built over a few weeks or quarters but that are broken up into two-week increments so the team can get feedback from customers in a timely manner. The composition of the teams is dynamic, yet changes happen infrequently and are done within reason. Each team designs, plans, develops and tests their feature(s). You can read more about this model here.
One of the key learnings from adhering to an autonomous team model is on the importance of hiring right. Qumulo looks for technical and non-technical skills in all of its engineers. Non-technical skills typically include the ability to collaborate, communicate, be customer driven, “get stuff done” and act as an owner of the business.
Karim is confident that self-driven, motivated individuals build better products. They don't need to be motivated since they are owners of the business. Providing individuals with a purpose and autonomy acts as an incredibly motivating force. Also, the compelling team-based work environment enables Qumulo to compete for talent in the very challenging Seattle market.