A startup has a tenuous life span. Every day a new one sprouts up, and every day another one folds. So given the turbulent nature of a fledgling startup, what can you do to keep yours afloat?
One of the key elements that can determine the success or failure of a startup is its engineering team. In particular, knowing when and how to expand. Here are 5 things to keep in mind before you decide on scaling your team.
1. Establish systems
Deciding on growing your team of engineers probably means the amount of work has increased. The startup culture wherein everyone gets a hand in on multiple projects will have to change when new members are added.
Splitting team members in terms of strengths and expertise are now crucial especially when other projects are added. Having clearer systems and processes of working together is a more efficient way of handling a larger team. Otherwise, a new set of hands will just end up being counterproductive.
2. Get ready to let go
Whether it means saying goodbye to a trusty old desk or sharing a part of a project you worked tirelessly on – scaling a team will result in some growing pains. This period might be difficult even (and especially) for the most senior engineers. That’s why it is highly important for you to be the comforting presence in this process.
Hiring new people may cause your existing team to feel anxious. When work starts shifting around, assure them that it’s all part of growing. If possible, give them a timeline. Before everything happens, set expectations and be transparent about any changes to be made.
For KFIT founder, Joel Neoh, this means letting go of the weak links. If new hires or existing team members cease to be effective, as difficult as it may seem, it is your job to immediately remove them from the team.
3. Have a core team
Before you start looking out for new hires, feeling secure with your current employees should be of utmost priority. Having a solid core team who can serve as mentors and keep tasks in check is an asset every company needs. These people are not necessarily those with senior job titles, what matters is that they can get things done.
Carousell, the highly popular marketplace app learned this the hard way. Having only three of the founders acting as leaders when the company suddenly expanded, proved to be difficult. Though employees were working hard, the lack of key team members to take the lead resulted in tangled priorities (now resolved).
If you (the boss) are able to zone out on other tasks without having to worry about the state of ongoing projects, then your team is certainly ready to welcome new people.
4. Be thorough
You’re now ready to welcome new engineers. You’ve built a solid team, and you’ve worked hard to get where you are today. Your next move is crucial. A new person can bring a whole new dynamic. With that in mind, putting up the job ad, conducting the interview, and making the decision should be put under a careful process. Better yet, allow your existing team to take part in the selection.
For a tech giant like Dropbox, it was initially the norm to hire engineers only within the founder’s circle. But when the company grew to have over 700 million users, the jump from 30 to 200+ engineers signaled a reevaluation of the hiring process. It was now crucial to go beyond the circle and seek experts who brought something new to the table. Instead of hiring fresh graduates from prestigious schools, they looked at past experiences to identify an ideal fit for the company.
Adding the wrong screw into an already perfect machine could cause a total malfunction. This should not be taken lightly.
5. Invest in your people
As your team grows, the overall skill level would in-turn also increase. However, just because a new member raises the overall competency of a team, it doesn’t mean that you should be satisfied with their current capabilities.
For example, as Tinkerbox grew, they began hiring highly specialized leaders to take charge in developing and refreshing the skills of their engineers. These individuals are dedicated to maintaining high-quality code which proved to yield high productivity. While at Uber, a variety of courses are taught daily and are available to any employee regardless of tenure.
Having regular retrospectives, investing in training, and holding team building activities are some of the few ways you can improve a team’s efficiency and effectiveness. Keep in mind that there will always be advances in the field of technology. it is imperative to keep your team updated, refresh their skills and let them know that you value their work.
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