Technology for People: How to Develop an Engineering Culture and Make a Quantum Leap In Development
In this article, I will share how my engineering nature allows me to contribute to the growth of people and the company as a whole.
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Software Developer, Technical Recruiter, HRD, VP of Corporate Development, VP of Delivery, and Head of Manufacturing, Supply Chain, and Logistics are all pivotal destinations of my career journey. Such a trajectory may raise questions for a layman: development, HR, and management seem to lie in different dimensions. In fact, for me, as a leader in a technology company, this is pretty logical.
I have always realized that all innovative solutions are created by people and for people. Given this, my goal was to obtain a non-trivial combination of technological base and knowledge about how and why people think and behave. I needed to master the skills of negotiations and sales and understand what exactly stands behind one’s goals, thinking, setting tasks, motivation, and what one’s pains and expectations are. This body of knowledge empowers me to offer technology that will be maximum beneficial. It also helps me with the team: to inspire, guide, help them grow, and become leaders.
In this article, I will share how my engineering nature allows me to contribute to the growth of people and the company as a whole. Also, I’d like to express my thoughts on achieving engineering leadership in the global arena.
An Engineer in a Nutshell: From Inborn to Acquired
An engineer is lazy by nature. That is why there is a constant pursuit of ways to make own work more efficient. Upon gaining certain experience, an engineer does not want to go the long way; on the contrary, one is looking for short and easy paths through automation, process improvement, or optimization. Any engineer thinks about it around the clock, often during vacations and travels. Engineering nature manifests itself in every aspect, both at work and in daily life. Such people are easy to identify.
Partly, an engineering skill is innate. However, education adds the necessary foundation to the picture and builds engineering thinking. For instance, mathematics helps to think algorithmically. Back in the day, my mind was busy on equations with parameters for a while, both at the lyceum and university — perception of ‘what if.’ Now, this experience assists my prioritization during risk assessment. That is, I analyze the result of a particular move. Here, we can also draw a parallel with chess.
Higher education provides the necessary framework: methodologies, algorithms, and their anatomy. And when you already find yourself in a working environment with real examples, you realize why you use a specific database. After that, a novice specialist proceeds to self-education and delves into the topic independently: by studying new things, refreshing existing knowledge, exploring other people’s practices, reading forums, and beyond. In other words, once an abstract algorithm acquires a clear reflection in real life.
Lack of Corporate Culture as a Stumbling Block
The conflict between the company’s strategy and the existing corporate culture is the first enemy of the company’s growth. Despite a progressive digital strategy, an organization might get stuck in some old approaches, where the habits of its employees hinder development. And then, notwithstanding the introduction of new technologies and approaches, people continue to work manually in an old-fashioned way because it is easier for them.
It so happens that a new manager comes and says: “Now I will change everything for you.” And from that moment, one starts recruiting a team that is completely unsuitable for culture. New people can, for example, be much more progressive and dynamic but, at the same time, unable to make changes and even survive in this corporate environment. The new team cannot find a common ground with all the others. Thus, a conflict emerges. Under such circumstances, holistic business development is out of the question: a so-called “clot” appears inside a company, which does not harmonize, and sooner or later, it will be squeezed out.
When joining a company, the new manager must first look into the atmosphere: understand the founders, and study everything that happens inside the business. It is impossible to offer a solution right from the start without learning about the life of this micro-universe. Above all, it is essential to get an idea of what kind of people you will work with, their motivation, values, difficulties, and how they make money. Each business is a separate story that has its own cause-and-effect relationships. As a result, the development will be nature-like and go organically in a certain sequence: adaptation — survival — prosperity — authority — and only then changes.
Also, I often see a cultural gap between engineers, managers, and clients. Development, sales, and management are carried out by people from different areas with various motives, qualifications, values, and approaches. Eventually, the engineer creates a solution that will please the techie but not the client. And the salesman sells a solution that may seem out of place for the engineer’s creative nature, and the latter will be forced to implement it.
Technologies are created for people — this is an axiom. An understanding of psychology and the ability to communicate play a massive role in choosing the right technology to meet unique requirements. A tech company seeking to cut through the noise develops a culture primarily based on empathy. And when salesmen begin to hear and understand those who develop and implement, and vice versa, that quantum leap in development takes place.
People Buy Experiences and Stories
The Western business world is distinguished by its virtuoso ability to sell: presenting ideas and solutions to many people, both clients and within the team, thus finding allies. In American culture, the ability to sell is instilled from a young age: even in kindergartens, pupils are taught to make presentations and are given the basics of oratory. Meanwhile, the Eastern European style focuses on the solution’s essence and improvement. This generates challenges with management (since we often cannot convey value to the buyer), selling ideas, presenting solutions, and inspiring teams.
Storytelling is a tool that can greatly help sell and convey the essence. Throughout my professional advancement, I have worked more with complex systems that few people understand and even fewer want to deal with. But if I don’t sell them, there will be no business. Therefore, it is vital to find a way to express the complex in simple terms because your interlocutor may not have technical knowledge, for example, a businessman or CEO. These people perceive business not through database architecture or process flowcharts but through analytical reports. A full-fledged analytical report is the product of complex business processes and systems and is, therefore, my product, which helps to sell complex management systems.
Analytics becomes more complicated with the passage of time, and businesses have to learn to understand it and make the most of its capabilities. Each graph has a living story behind it, such as the reason for specific figures, dynamics, and lessons learned. Therefore, today, progressive schools of analytics train techies in storytelling — not just to extract data and design but also to turn numbers into stories.
I believe engineering is inextricably linked with management culture as the only appropriate mix for business growth. Otherwise, who needs even the most breakthrough technologies if we cannot communicate their value?
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