Getting Good at Payroll

Part of a Gusto “pay stub.”

Eddie Kim and I talk a lot about Denver. We talk about our hiring strategy. We talk about optimizing our organizational structure here. We’re firm believers that the Denver engineering team should be free to create it’s own dialect; having two engineering teams presents an opportunity to A/B test team composition and process. We want to evolve identity and create shared working context to a point where people look to Denver and say “Hey, I heard Gusto builds ‘Product X’ out of that office”.

And a world where Denver engineering has experience in core payroll (our most hardened, complicated, and cardinal code) is one that maximizes our options in establishing a Denver-based product line.

We just finished our annual planning process (our fiscal year ends in 2018), and have identified an opportunity to plug one of our Denver-based pods into our broader SF-based payroll team. The pod comprises one product manager and several engineers, and has been designed to operate autonomously. But it’s going to work in close collaboration with the rest of the payroll team in order to become fluent in the code base and bang out new features in concert.

And it’s this “autonomous but collaborative” structure that seems to be emerging as the ideal relationship between SF and Denver engineering. Three SF-based engineers have been working out of the Denver office for the past two months. Our one-on-one’s have consisted of walks around the block where I pick their brain on how to optimize our team here. All three have said it would be a mistake to create geographically isolated teams. They agree it’s important to have strategy emanate from Denver, but quotidian work should be carried out by people collaborating across our offices.

With one other Denver pod attached to our growth product, we’ve stumbled into a structure that foments this close, cross-city collaboration. And having arrived in San Francisco for a series of meetings over the next few days, I’m struck by how familiar the engineers here are to me despite the fact that I haven’t seen most of them in 5 months.

This is a relationship that we need to maintain as our Denver team grows.

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