Our very own Chris Kelley, Engineering Lead at Landis, was recently featured in a Dev StackUp talk about building a “10x” engineering culture. Watch the video or read below for details!
Video Transcript Summary:
Welcome, please introduce yourself! Hi everyone, I’m Chris from Landis here to talk about our team’s path to 10x engineering. I’m really excited to be here. The idea today is not only to showcase how 10x individuals can apply their skills to an engineering team, but rather that 10x engineering, as an entire team, can make an even wider impact. For a little bit of background on me, I spent my formative years going through websites like Stack Overflow and received a lot of “oh that’s impossible, or it can’t be done that way” responses. Seeing this and not believing in the impossible, I would keep searching until I found a way that worked. I love the challenge of finding solutions to things that seem unattainable, and I have to say that Landis has been an awesome environment for me to do so. This company is the first place I’ve worked where I really felt connected to the mission, and that is to help people on their path to home ownership. Through the combination of this, our 10x team mentality formed. Now, I’ve always strived to be a 10x engineer, but one day at Landis the phone rang for the customer success team behind me and I heard a client crying on the phone. They were actually crying out of happiness from the service they had received from our Landis team, and it really hit me then what we were building here. It was this call that re-invigorated my wanting to be that 10x engineer, and also made me realize that it was going to take more than just me, more than just one 10x engineer, to be able to help the millions of other people out there just like that client. It transformed into “I want this company to be a success and I want us to build a 10x engineering team as a whole.”
So what exactly is a 10x engineer? Being a 10x engineer means that you’re able to do ten times the work of an ordinary engineer. In a similar light, if you have a 10x engineering team, you can then have ten times the output and ten times the amount of product. By having a tight knit team of 10x-ers on even a limited bandwidth, you can rapidly ideate and put things into production.
As a company, how do you achieve this? The biggest factor of having or retaining 10x-ers is motivation. At Landis, we strive every day to feel the mission and know who we’re building for. Tom, one of our Landis co-founders, does an excellent job of keeping the engineers in touch with the business which helps us to feel the impact of what we’re building. The second biggest thing to consider is how to remove ambiguities for your engineers. We find that by knowing our goals and presenting them with clarity to the team, we’re able to be very precise on what we need to do and avoid distractions. Keep in mind that a meandering path takes longer to traverse than a straight one. Finally, don’t be afraid to refactor! It’s okay to make a decision and then change it later if needed. Experiment early & do what makes sense. It’s all a part of the journey. At the end of the day, motivation and transparency fuel productivity, no matter how daunting a task might be for the team. It’s all about being flexible. The tree that bends does not break. We’ve made decisions that were too rigid in the past and it hurt us; play the team sport and don’t be afraid to continuously iterate.
How do you stay connected in a remote world? How do you make up for the lack of natural osmosis of information that happens in an office, especially with new hires and onboarding? It’s true that in an office you have a natural osmosis of information, where anyone can ask anybody to jump into a meeting or shadow a call. Slack and Zoom however have really helped us to stay connected. We keep information & meetings in public channels and hop on random Facetimes or slack calls with one another. New hires can easily shadow via Zoom calls, etc. We have the engineers even hop on the phone with clients a few times when they first join or shadow the client success team to gain exposure to all divisions and our clients.
What do you specifically look for as a person on the recruiting front? How do you filter for people who are ready for this type of growth? I like to see how comfortable people are outside of their comfort zone. Of course we’re going to look for people that are comfortable in full-stack engineering, and everyone will have their niche of expertise; however I like to gauge if they have curiosity outside of that comfort niche. You can really tell if someone has the growth factor trait if they have an inquisitiveness and curiosity outside of the skillset they are the most comfortable with.
What communication or management tools have you found particularly helpful? Linear! We use this to track our tickets and work in cycles based on our “t-shirt size” for each item. We’d also love to hear more about other liked tools that people are using. A white-boarding tool recommendation would be great!
How can you prolong someone’s term or increase retention? Make everyone feel comfortable in the space that they’re in. Make them feel involved and supported. Break down the wall between management & the team to make them feel like they want to stay and want to continue to be involved.
That’s awesome. Thanks so much for spending time with us today and appreciate all of the insight. Stay safe and best of luck with your continued success. Absolutely, thank you so much for having me. Stay safe.
For any questions or to learn more, reach out to Chris Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org.