Structuring engineering teams as companies scale
Learnings from Range’s mini-conference with engineering leaders
At Range, we’re curious about how you structure engineering teams so they are as effective as possible. To tackle this topic, we decided to gather a small group of leaders together for a mini-conference where they could share challenges and learn from one another in an intimate, trusted space.
We recruited experts to help guide the conversation: Kimber Lockhart, the CTO of One Medical; Grant Oladipo, an engineering manager from Airbnb; Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D. from Epic Teams; and Ron Lichty, author of Managing the Unmanageable.
Here’s what we learned:
There is no one size fits all for team structures
The optimal structure for your team should be grounded in the unique attributes of your company and your goals. Kimber shared several dimensions that you can consider when choosing a structure for your team: the number of people you have, the relationship to other teams, the speed of impact you need, and more. Ron also shared that he’s worked across many organizations as a CTO, and that the models often vary, but what matters is that you have one and are intentional about the structure you create.
As you grow, your team structure will (and should) change
Organizing a few people is very different than a few hundred. Grant shared how he’s seen his team at Airbnb grow from just a few folks hacking on a side project to a set of multiple teams working to support different parts of an initiative. The team structures they used to empower that work at each stage have been different.
Teams need a clear focus and identity
Every team, regardless of size, should have a clear purpose or goal that is scoped to limit reliance on other teams. This focus allows each team to be autonomous in their ability to take action and create impact. The team’s identity is tied to this purpose, not just its function. For example, seeing yourself as a growth engineer, not just an engineer. Shannon shared that this helps the team feel a sense of community. This is particularly true for distributed or remote teams. Several participants also shared that a clear purpose helps remote teams to have clear ownership over an area, reducing the communication overhead.