In this article, you’ll learn more about a new role we created at Doctolib: Tech Strategy. I’ll share the why, what and how, as well as my own kit to start into that job.
Who I am
After returning from 6 years in the San Francisco Bay Area in Data Science organizations, I decided in September 2020 to make the big leap and go back home to join the Tech Team of one of the most exciting European companies: Doctolib. My job? Tech Strategy Manager.
What sold me on Doctolib was that it’s a company in the middle of a quite intense transformation. We expanded to our third country (Italy), delivered our most ambitious product so far in France (Doctolib Practice) to make practitioners’ life easy during consultations, and have been full speed on running the vaccination campaigns for the French government and the Berlin Senate. More than making small marginal changes, Doctolib is really a teenager startup getting ready for adulthood, with all the interesting questions that may come.
Why we created ‘Tech Strategy’
Doctolib has a good penetration in the French market, so our next relays will be new countries and product lines. As such, the Tech organization is a key pillar of this transformation, and our team is growing extremely fast (>40% year-on-year). As I’m writing those words, we have more than 300 members, and as our CEO Stan likes to say: it’s just the beginning. More than just size, our organization becomes more complex: we now have more than 6 Product domains, and went from 5 Engineering managers in 2019 to 9 directors and 40+ managers in 2021.
This is where the ‘why’ of Tech Strategy kicks in! Because of this extremely fast paced growth, many aspects of how we work will break, and we have to reassess and adapt to stay agile and nimble at a much larger scale.
The job of the Tech Strategy Team is to help our CTO, VPs of Engineering, and all stakeholders in Tech & Product go through that transition: prepare ‘Tech’ to have 500, 750, 1000+ members, from an organizational point of view.
Do we really need a role or a team for that?
You may ask: “but, isn’t it the job of the CTO & Directors?”. Our interpretation is that, one thing that is for sure, is that the CTO & VP of Engineering are accountable for the outcome, and Engineering Directors are key contributors. But, many of the topics we handle are important yet not as urgent as other activities. As such, those topics often get stuck, or rushed. Having somebody — or a team — in this position is a good way to ensure that somebody is actually responsible for those topics, and can allocate the necessary bandwidth and focus to make meaningful improvements.
What Tech Strategy does
Concretely, Tech Strategy covers 3 main missions:
- Facilitate the Tech Leadership: We have many rituals within the Tech organization to address our top topics. It’s easy to lose focus, work on lesser problems. Tech Strategy is here to help the Tech management team prioritize the right topics, build a strong feedback loop, address important topics, build and maintain KPIs and rituals to monitor the quality of our delivery, communicate with our external stakeholders, etc.
- Own all Organizational Topics: Tech will not be successful if we don’t build a strong organization. There are a variety of topics to cover: building and onboarding the best team (Onboarding, Recruiting, Staffing plan), developing our team members (Career Growth, Learning & Development, Compensation), creating a strong management culture are just a few of many topics we have to tackle on our day to day. I also like to think of it as a lab for the People team, experimenting new ideas on the field.
- Take care of transversal Technical Topics: as our organization is structured around Product verticals, it’s increasingly hard to bring alignment along the Engineering organization on technical topics. Think of bugs management processes, addressing technical debt, rolling out changes in how we code or how we organize. Making continuous improvement and bringing alignment to the entire organization is much harder than when we had 20 developers. Part of Tech Strategy’s mission is to find solutions to implement those types of changes at scale.
Why I decided to talk about this
I have two main motivations for writing about Tech Strategy.
1/ To share Doctolib Tech’s experience of hyper-growth, from an organizational angle, as food for thought
Growing from a 100+ to 500+ Tech organization is not conventional, yet more and more companies will be going through this transition. Scaling the organization is one of the largest challenges of those companies, yet I was left with the impression that while many companies share the end result on organizational topics, fewer share how they got there. By talking about some of what we went through — our successes, mistakes and learnings-, I’m hoping that this can serve as food for thought for companies in the same phase. I’m also eager to hear from the experience of other organizations.
2/ To push myself to take a step back and learn from our past
#LEARN is one of Doctolib’s core pillars. It’s also a key reason why I go to work every day. As things go extremely fast, there are always burning topics and it’s not easy to take a step back, reflect and learn. In agile organizations, retrospectives are a classic. But on organizational topics, we rarely take the time to do so. I’m hoping that writing articles on a recurring basis will force me to make that effort, and transform this experience into actionable insights.
A quick starter kit!
Looking back, I tried to spend some time reflecting on things that went well, but also the difficulties or failures I experienced. I came up with a few principles — shown below — which I realized could have helped avoid some mistakes I made. It also became apparent that respecting them is easier said than done, and it’s very easy to forget about them when in the rush of things! I’m expecting that the next blog posts I write will give more substance to those learnings.
What I’ll write about next
I have a large backlog of ideas, and will try to write about some of those learnings. Some ideas on the list: My first weeks in Tech Strategy, how Engineers contribute to building the best organization, how we are rebuilding our career development framework with a strong focus on the Individual Contributors track, the KPIs we set in place to monitor the health and delivery of our Engineering organization, how we revamped our bugs process.
If there are specific topics you’re curious to hear about, feel free to reach out to me!
Also, I’m hiring in Paris & in Berlin! If you’re interested in joining my team, feel free to check our open positions (available for both France and Germany) for Engineering Program Manager and Tech People Strategy or reach out to me directly!
If you want more technical news, follow our journey through our docto-tech-life newsletter.
And if you want to join us in scaling a high traffic website and transforming the healthcare system, we are hiring talented developers to grow our tech and product team in France and Germany, feel free to have a look at the open positions.
Special thanks to Alexandre Ignjatovic, Aude Richardeau for reading drafts of this and Garance Bigo for the cover picture.