LeadingIn Tech #4: Building teams that will outlive you

March 2021

Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

Hi there!

Welcome to the fourth edition of the LeadingIn.Tech email. On this opportunity I will be sharing some thoughts on building teams that outlive their original members.

In the past edition I've talked about Resilience and how to it creates organisations that are better prepared to endure difficult times. If you are a leader in technology you will already know that 🔍Hiring is a fundamental part of creating a strong company culture that will help the ones that are part of the company work together towards a common cause. A culture that will live longer than the time their initial members stay in the company and that is resilient enough to adapt itself, endure hard times and thrive when there is tail wind to push them forward. This is what Simon Sinek describes as having an Infinite Mindset in his book The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

Now, let's use a hypothetical job description to elaborate this idea and imagine for a moment that LeadingIn.Tech is a company and is hiring a Software Engineer to build the "content discovery tools" for the toolkit.

Title

Software Engineer - Toolkit Content Discovery, EMEA Remote

This title is simple but its giving some bits of initial information to the candidate that is navigating through hundreds of similar offers, "Software Engineering" is the role, but is generic enough not to filter out candidates that have background with different programming languages than your company is currently using. Instead if you hire by looking for "NodeJs Developer" you will be locking yourself to the short term goal of hiring for an specific programming language skill when the best approach would be to be looking to hire someone that is capable of solving software engineering problems independently of the technology they use and capable to learn new ones as needed.

The second part of the title says "Toolkit Content Discovery" this gives a hint on what team they'll be and what role it plays as part of the company’s mission. This also shows how the company's organisation is structured in a way that each team owns important parts of that mission so they can easily reflect themselves every time a new milestone is achieved

Last but not least, "EMEA Remote" refers to where this position is to be filled. In this case is for a remote job (just because I love 🌐Remote) with preference for Europe and Middle East regions, let's imagine that the reason for it on this example is to be closer to the EMEA customer audience who might have specific needs.

A vision

At LeadingIn.Tech we believe great leaders are the north star that inspire others to achieve great things together. We want to empower them with the right tools so that they get access to everything they need to unlock all of their potential and of their teams.

A job description very commonly would begin with the company's mission statement. This provides the reason of existence of the company. What are theirs long term goals and what problems are they trying to solve for the future. Having a strong vision is a key part on having an infinite mindset. When hiring, leaders should be looking for people that share the same passion for pursuing the vision. This sections is the opportunity to connect with the people that have the same intrinsic motivations to solve the same problems you are trying to solve.

The product

At LeadingIn.Tech we aim to build the most comprehensive toolkit for leaders in technology and provide them the necessary resources to help them grow and better lead their teams. We know every leader have different needs, thats why at the Content Discovery Team we provide solutions that will facilitate access to relevant context according to their company size, location, development stage, their position or their personal background. At the Toolkit Content Discovery team we build tools to allow them find and discover the right content at the right time.

This section helps the candidate understand how the company and the team they'll be joining will contribute to the long term vision of the company. It'll also help them understand how the company is organised as in our hypothetical position where the candidate can guess that the team owns the end to end experience to let leaders in technology find the content they need that is best adapted to their circumstances. They can also infer from it that they will be working in a rich multidisciplinary team that is empowered to reach their goals.

The role

We are looking for a software engineer to work on the of the end to end development of the experience of Content Discovery, from data ingestion, classification and discoverability. You will:

  • Work on a multidisciplinary team delivering impactful projects.

  • Lead design and execution of the projects providing high quality solutions.

  • Improve performance, stability, scalability and reliability of the services.

  • Produce simple and maintainable code as part as a continuous improvement process.

The role section describes the scope of responsibilities and and the expectations of the position. This targets to know about the current needs for the organisation and set a starting point for the candidate to get a first contact on what the actual job is about. What practices and organisational approaches the company follow. This is a great opportunity to describe how great is the opportunity or the challenge ahead is.

The who

The ideal candidate will:

  • Have passion for sharing knowledge and helping others grow professionally

  • Have previous professional experience in the software development industry

  • Good English communicator and optionally in Spanish

  • Self-motivated and able to work in autonomy with great organisational skills

  • Experience in developing software with two or more programming languages (Java, Kotlin, Javascript, Ruby, etc.)

  • Able to work in agile iterative environments with short feedback loops

  • Can navigate through ambiguity to provide solutions that will delight our customers*

Now here is where you describe your ideal candidate. Here you'll need to make sure to be describing what it's really important for the candidate to have in order to be successful at the company not just the position he's applying for. You want to describe the behaviours that better describe your company culture. And remember you are not looking for the perfect candidate that ticks all the boxes. You are looking to the best possible candidate that will share passion, that is prepared enough to fill the role and that it has the potential to grow and help others grow with them.

Bonus points

Some skills or knowledge that will help you onboard faster in the role but are not mandatory:

  • You are familiar with no-code/low-code platforms and able to automate tasks to generate, organise and deliver content. (Some stuff we use: Notion, Substack, Cloudflare, Zapier, Typeform)

  • You have web development experience with HTML5/CSS3

  • You have strong knowledge in Javascript and NodeJs

So you can't avoid dropping names of your tech stack right? Now it's the time to brag about the shiny new tech that your company is using and it might give some bonus points to the candidate if they are familiar with them.

Just make sure this is not an unrealistic list of brand new technologies where you ask for years of experience in some framework that was just out a few months ago.

Conclusion

Going back to the theme of this issue, to build teams that outlive you. It all starts in understanding why your company exists, what is the mission and put that into the core of every decision your company makes, and yes even when writing a job posting. As you can see, from the previous dissection of our hypothetical posting by navigating from top to down you'll notice where the priorities are.

The way you communicate what are your priorities is important to bring in the right people for your company, people that share the same passion for the mission. People with the potential to grow within the company not only vertically but laterally. And last but not least, people who will help others to grow with them which makes them multiplier forces. These three pillars are the ones that will put your company in the right place to play the infinite game and have a team that can keep pursuing the company's mission for generations even long after you are gone.

So what about going beyond the job posting. What does a Hiring Manager need to do? How do they present themselves to the candidate, before, during and after the hiring process?

Let’s remember that an interview process is two-ways and it is as much an interview for you picking the right candidate as it is for them to pick the right company.

When looking for resources to learn more about the subject I've asked this on my personal twitter account:

And the answers I've got to these questions were so amazing that came in a perfect timing to get inspiration for this issue:

Special thanks to those that helped inspire this edition:

David (@highwayman)

Emma (@SalamancaPeral)

Ernesto Arroyo 🇺🇳🇪🇺🇪🇸🏁🏴‍☠️ (@earroyoron)

Félix López (@flopezluis)

Justyna_Adamczyk (@Justyna_Adam)

marina @ bliss (@Currofile) / Twitter

Tabita Luis (@TabitaLuis) / Twitter

Ruyman (@ruyman_cc) for keeping me motivated to keep writing.

Angel (@amcereijo) for always helping me to keep the bar high in the contents of this newsletter.

Here are some resources I've found during this month that either inspired this newsletter or got recommended to me while getting inspiration:

Articles

After Hiring: The Remote Guide to Onboarding

Dealing with the problems of scaleups

Designing Without Whiteboards: The Remote Guide to Product Design

Find Your Why: How to Draft a Why Statement

Focusing on wellness at work

Leading Distributed: The Remote Guide to Management

Leading your engineering team with ‘experiments’ not ‘processes’

Polishing Product Management Skills

Re:Focus: Write A Vision Statement That Works

Reengineering the Recruitment Process

Scaling Your Remote Team: The Remote Guide to Hiring

The Art of Async: The Remote Guide to Team Communication

Three crucial skills that leaders must develop to become executives - The Skip

When to Take a Chance on an Imperfect Job Candidate

Writing Tips for Remote Workers (And Everyone Else)

📖 Books

An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management by Will Larson

Books On Recruitment To Read - Emma Salamanca

Cracking the Coding Interview: 150 Programming Questions and Solutions by Gayle Laakmann McDowell

Scaling Teams: Strategies for Building Successful Teams and Organizations by David Loftesness

Smart and Gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky's Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent by Joel Spolsky

Staff Engineer: Leadership beyond the management track by Will Larson

The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

The Tech Resume Inside Out by Gergely Orosz

Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart

🎬 Videos

The Infinite Game: How to Lead in the 21st Century - YouTube

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