Engineer your way to success!

ALT: Ambitious Ladies in Tech Masterclass series

This week’s ALT Engineering Masterclass brought together some of London’s most successful CTOs!

Deliveroo CTO @mhudack, Space Ape co-founder and CTO @tobymoore, and ex-One Fine Stay CTO Sathya Smith, took the stage to share their wisdom, chaired by Local Globe’s ophelia brown.

ALT is an Ambitious Ladies in Tech programme for female London startup talent with 2–5 years experience, hosted by the seed VC fund Local Globe. More about the programme with details of how to get involved here.

What makes a successful engineer?

Understanding the wider business

In order to maximise your potential, you need to take a holistic view of the business and its needs, rather than be focused on the tech. Toby drummed down on the importance of putting the company first, then your team, and finally yourself.

Being a collaborator

Success comes from having relationships with other teams within the business — product, sales, operations. The best engineers have open communication with these teams to fully understand what needs to be built and why. They collaborate, and help the more junior members learn and grow.

Influence and leadership

According to Mike, the desired personality traits of a great leader are being smart, structured, curious and diligent. These lead to the creation of amazing work that inspires and influences others.

Are you talking the right language?

All our mentors agree; be language agnostic. Language popularity changes over time, and you should be able to move with the trend.

A good company will hire you because they like you, and will invest in your stack development over time. Being language agnostic can give you the edge, as you will offer different solutions to any given problem.

Developers wishing to solve deep tech problems through a specific language, are often not aligned to a team’s needs.

Check out ALT’s founding team — LocalGlobe’s Emma, Andrea, Ophelia, Samira, Tara and Suzanne

How to shine in an interview

The more questions you ask the better. Questions make you look like you have opinions and options. The top 5 areas you ought to want to know:

  1. Company attrition — what’s the turnover?

2. Why do people tend to leave?

3. How have people grown within the company?

4. How are you going to help my career growth? What training is offered? Development? Support?

5. Ask about the business, and business risks. How much is the company planning on growing? How do you guys celebrate successes, and handle failures?

Always remember, you are interviewing them too. Go in to the conversation thinking ‘I need to want to work here’. Good companies take their time, and structure the interviews well, so you can tell a lot about the company by their interview process.

Mike’s key takeaway: think — do I want to work with all of these people, and can I learn from them? If the answer is No, then get the hell out.

Growing in to senior roles

Most juniors know they want a more senior role, but as Sathya points out, you need to work out what is it about seniority that you want? More money? Managing a team? Making key decisions?

Once you have worked out the what, find a person that does that in your team, and model what they do. Trace the key aspects of path they took to get there.

Showing confidence in your ability and leadership skills throughout your career gives you the edge. At One Fine Stay, Sathya would take junior members along to management meetings and encourage participation.

Any must reads?

Toby’s top advice: find the person whose success you admire, then find out who or what their inspirations were, and read what they read! Try to avoid “the normal content” as everyone will end up with the same opinions.

As for Sathya, she enjoys reading how people have failed, in order to learn how they pivoted to turn it in to a success.

Tools for success

Software tools are personal, whereas communication (and associated tools) is key. The main takeaways:

  • Workplace (FB for work), which Mike uses at Deliveroo, has brought together engineering teams across 12 countries, encouraging conversation, transparency, and collaboration.
  • Slack brings marmite-like reviews. Great for communication, but discourages focus.
  • There is a great importance to being with people physically, which can be through stand-ups, post-it notes, brainstorming exercises.
  • Have rituals to celebrate success, to unwind, and to bring the company together.
  • Think of product and engineering as the same team, and ensure everyone in that team understand why something is needed.