Building + leading tech teams at scale

AirTree
AirTree
May 28, 2019 · 4 min read

Insights from our AirTime portfolio breakfast with Hugh Williams

A few months back we held another AirTime event to discuss the challenges of building and leading a tech team at scale. We had over 30 tech leads from our portfolio join us for the session and we were lucky enough to have Hugh Williams host.

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Hugh Williams presenting at our AirTime portfolio breakfast

Successful companies always have big, hairy, audacious goals

Company goals must have six things:

  • Simple — a relentless focus on one single goal can make a real difference
  • Mission-driven — something employees get excited about, and are proud of
  • Customer-facing — the only currency that matters
  • Measurable — displayed at the top of each team’s dashboard are the goals the whole company has bought into
  • Aligned right across the org — there should never be a situation where an Engineering lead is talking to the Product team and discovering they have different goals

The 60:30:10 ratio

For Engineering leaders, getting the right balance for how you should spend your engineering resources is the hardest problem to solve.

  • Things that come from the engineering team
  • Innovation, the crazy wonderful things that Product or Engineering can do to delight customers and users
  • 30% — focused on engineering priorities, including architecture, improving platforms, quality initiatives, and so on
  • 10% — spent on some “free chaos”. Allow your team to work on innovative projects which could contribute to the 60% (product) or the 30% (“the house”)

The right-size for your teams

From experience, it’s 6–8 people. If it gets larger, the complexity of point-to-point communication slows it down. If it’s smaller, teams don’t have enough resources to change the world.

It’s about the people

At a high level, when interviewing engineers make sure you look out for four things:

  1. Problem solver — can they write real code in real language to solve a real problem?
  2. Action-oriented — is this a person who stops talking and starts doing?
  3. Results-driven — is this person focused on getting things done that matter? (action-oriented without the drive for results can be really dangerous)

Creating a strong, sustainable culture

There’s no silver bullet, but some basic principles are:

  • Constantly celebrate — hold up examples of what great looks like
  • Constantly fix — quietly deal with things that aren’t great

AirTree

A venture capital fund in Aus and NZ.

AirTree

Written by

AirTree

AirTree is a venture capital fund that supports the most ambitious Australian and Kiwi tech founders. First round, multiple rounds.

AirTree

AirTree

A venture capital fund in Aus and NZ. Working for game-changers. First round. Multiple rounds.

AirTree

Written by

AirTree

AirTree is a venture capital fund that supports the most ambitious Australian and Kiwi tech founders. First round, multiple rounds.

AirTree

AirTree

A venture capital fund in Aus and NZ. Working for game-changers. First round. Multiple rounds.

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