Connecting Your Devs' Work to the Business
At LinearB's recent Interact conference, we had three of the top engineering leaders on to give their say on how teams should solve problems.
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"Is my team solving the right problem?"
To answer this seemingly simple question, we assembled a panel of some of the smartest engineering leaders we know and asked them how they answer this question with their own teams.
Featuring Rukmini Reddy, SVP of Platform Engineering at Slack, James Stanier, Dir. of Engineering at Shopify, and Smruti Patel, VP of Engineering at Apollo, the following conversation debuted in front of a live audience at the Interact engineering conference.
Originally an exclusive conversation for Interact attendees, we listened to our fans and decided to drop the full conversation as an episode of the podcast.
- (2:33) Introductions
- (6:18) Current economic climate
- (9:45) "Shipping Theater"
- (14:10) Project prioritization
- (17:59) Metrics everyone uses
- (24:03) Developer experience (DX)
- (28:05) Why Rukmini loves cycle time
- (32:29) Blameless incident management culture
- (37:28) Getting devs closer to customer outcomes
- (42:06) How our guests keep their teams happy
Dan: So let's get started by knowing our panelists. We'll start with you, Rukmini. Your path into engineering is super inspirational. Growing up, you were one of the first girls at your school to ever use a computer. What has your background taught you about solving the right problem?
Rukmini: It's interesting. I think being a woman in tech, whether I was eight years old, learning Logo for the first time or today, it's never easy. And I'll be sharing an example of solving the right problem. Several years ago, I was offered the transition from an independent contributor on the team from an IC to a manager. And there was a real business need for it because the team had scaled rapidly, and I was good with people, and it felt like the right match at the right time. But like all ICs, I went through all the stages of grief when someone first talks to you about management. And when I leaned in a little harder, I think it came down to being afraid to do something new and fearful of the consequences of trying it, just like that first time I had used a computer. But for me, my mantra is fear and courage go hand in hand. And I evaluate every new business opportunity with a decision razor of, will I regret not taking this on? And that has served me really well, and every time I've done that, growth has happened for me personally, and it's helped me focus on what's right for the business as well.
Dan: Very cool. Thanks for sharing that story and a little bit about yourself and your background. James, we're gonna go to you next just for a quick intro. So, in addition to being Shopify's director of engineering, you're also an accomplished author. What has the process of writing a book taught you about engineering leadership?
James: Sure, thanks for the compliment. I think what it taught me is that we're really a small group, and we really need to support each other. Through the last few years, I've met so many people virtually and physically who've said, "Oh, hey, I read your book, and it really helped me." And I think the amount of material that's out there for all of us, as we get better at our jobs and we bring the next generation into our jobs as well, we need to be there. We need to have the material. We need to be able to connect and support each other on this journey.
Dan: Absolutely. And finally, Smruti, Stripe is one of the biggest payment processing platforms in the world. Everybody knows Stripe. What has your role at Stripe taught you about connecting devs to business?
Smruti: Dan, that's a great question. At Stripe, I lead the Data Platform group. This is responsible for critical data infrastructure, tooling, and abstractions which support the core of Stripe's business: money coming out, the payment processing money going out, in addition to key data products for Stripe's users. So as you can imagine, on any given day, we deal with a number of business use cases a variety of user cohorts, including different levels of user sophistication. We're routinely asking ourselves, like, "Hey, which KPI do I prioritize? Do I focus on optimizing costs for our data systems, or do we secure them for least privilege, 'cause data privacy is super important?" And do we prioritize the productivity of CR ML engineers or our go-to-market sales engineers? Do we reduce our own tech debt and toil, or do we provide user-facing value? And so how do we decide all that? And so, through all this, basically, what I have learned is it comes down to building that bridge between business value for our users, including team velocity and engineering velocity, down to individual intrinsic motivation. So that's how I think about connecting devs to the business outcomes.
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