Oliver Starr

Oliver Starr

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Developers Corner

Onboarding to a new team as an engineering leader

In this post, Jean Hsu of Range shares some guiding principles and practices that have been helpful to her in navigating this onboarding process as an engineering leader.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Jean Hsu of Range.

I recently joined Range as their new VP of Engineering. Over the last few weeks, I’ve ended many days full of meetings feeling energized — grateful to work with this incredible group of humans. And to be honest, I’ve also ended days feeling depleted — feeling a bit bashful about basic questions and overwhelmed by all that I don’t know.

Although I’ve previously onboarded at big companies like Google and smaller startups like Medium and built onboarding programs for engineering teams, this is the first time I’ve onboarded to a team in over eight years. It’s also the first time I’ve been onboarded to a team while everyone is working remotely, not to mention in the middle of a pandemic, while my kids are distance learning from home! With those remote constraints and personal time constraints in mind, I wanted to be particularly intentional about how I spent the first few weeks.

In this post, I’ll share some guiding principles and practices that have been helpful to me in navigating this onboarding process. 

Use Structured Questions to Get to Know Individuals and the Team
One-on-ones are foundational in getting to know people as individuals. You will want to schedule recurring one-on-one meetings with people you work closely with — whether that’s direct reports, cross-functional leads, or your manager.

In your first or second one-on-ones with the team, ask a set of structured questions to guide the conversation. You can give people a heads-up that you’ll be doing so, so they know it won’t be the norm for all one-on-ones. These are the questions I asked everyone on the engineering team:

  • What’s going well at Range?
  • What’s been frustrating, or could be better?
  • If you could have your way, what one thing would you change?
  • What do you want to get out of your time at Range?
  • What support can the team or I provide?

Think of these questions as a broad invitation to share whatever they feel is important. There are few enough that there’s plenty of time to dig into the responses in a 45 minute or hour-long time frame. Delve deeper into each with open-ended follow-up questions like “What else?” and “Can you tell me more about that?”

Without a clear intention, over time, one-on-ones can settle into status updates or pleasant-but-not-too-meaningful chitchat.  By bringing up these topics at the start of a new work relationship, you let the other person know that the one-on-one space is one where these topics can be discussed. One-on-ones are the venue where you want to hear what’s going well, learn about any frustrations, discuss areas ripe for change, what your direct reports want professionally, and what support they need. 

Lean into Your Beginner’s Mind
When you’ve been on a team for years, working day-in and day-out in the same codebase and same team, you acclimate to small changes around you, like slowly increasing build times or that weekly meeting that doesn’t seem to have an agenda. Blindspots emerge that slow the team down significantly.

When you’re the newcomer to a team, you’re the only one with entirely fresh eyes. Take notes on what you notice. Are there product features that seem particularly delightful to you? Do you find any processes that feel needlessly painful? What about obvious gaps that feel important to fill?

It’s easy to tell yourself, “Oh, I’m new, so I’m sure they have a good reason for that. I’ll just keep my mouth shut and see if it all makes more sense in a few months.” It’s tempting not to want to rock the boat and not be the new engineering leader associated with complaints. Quite reasonably, you don’t want to be the person who chimes in at every meeting with, “Well, at Google, we did XYZ.”

To get around being the “problem messenger,” get buy-in upfront from other leaders with whom you work closely. Talk to them about what gaps you can fill in the leadership team, and discuss processes for you to leverage your “Beginner’s Mind” in this critical period to share observations and insights.

Absorb Information, and Let Go of Your Need to Know Everything
At Medium, the previous tech company I worked at, I joined before there was a Medium. I was there through the nascent ideation process, building out of the initial product and every single product iteration after that. 

At Range, I don’t have that in-depth knowledge to lean on.
Suppose you are, like me, joining a company as an engineering leader. In that case, you may be trying to absorb everything you can about the team, the individuals, the processes, the codebase, and the product. Piece together what you can — have conversations with engineers, designers, product people, sales, and marketing. Read relevant docs, and learn from the expertise others have on the team.

And know that you don’t need to have that full historical context to fill your role effectively. I also remember times at Medium when I had no context at all. Once, I helped DevOps scope out a plan for thwarting DDOS attacks, even though I had no prior meaningful knowledge concerning this issue. I scoped out and executed a successful multi-month API project, with little context as well. 

So absorb what you can to get up to speed and let go of your need to know everything. Ask questions when you have them, and ask for help when you get stuck. Trust that you’ll tap into your team’s expertise to get the information you need to lead teams and projects. 

Define Your Role
As you settle in and start to get a feel for the team’s needs, take some time to take a step back and define your role. It can be easy as the new person to help out everywhere as needed, but take the time to think about what you want the position to be — what do you want to be doing six months or a year into your job?

There will be parts of your role that are more concrete and non-negotiable, but engineering leadership roles often have a lot of room to choose your adventure. 

I love to write, so part of my role definition includes external-facing influence through writing blog posts and helping with other content for the product. Someone else may want to carve out time for regularly preparing and delivering talks or play a meaningful role in defining and iterating on team processes. 

When I’ve taken the time to clarify my role in this way, it helps to contextualize the day-to-day tasks and feel less scattered and reactive. It’s analogous to taking the time to define and communicate a team’s North Star and top priorities. Even if individuals are working on varied tasks, it’s essential to know how it ratchets up to the team’s focus — and that also helps individuals be mindful of when their work doesn’t contribute clearly to the team’s priorities. Similarly, taking the time to define my ideal role gives me clear intention and direction — so rather than feeling scattered or overwhelmed, I can see how the disparate parts of my job add up towards a role I aspire to fill.

Joining a new team as an engineering leader can be exhilarating, daunting, joyful, and overwhelming — sometimes all in the same day! You may be pulled in all directions before you even settle in. While you’re getting up-to-speed, remember to keep just a few priorities top-of-mind and communicate them clearly (even if they change every few weeks). I hope these principles and practices help you navigate this transition. 

About Jean:
Jean
 Hsu is the Vice President of Engineering at Range. Prior to Range, she built product and engineering teams at Google, Pulse, and Medium, and co-founded Co Leadership, a leadership development company for engineers and other tech leaders. She’s also a co-actively trained coach and has coached many engineers, tech leads, managers, PMs, VPs of Engineering, and CTOs. She loves to play ultimate frisbee (though not during pandemics), and lives in Berkeley with her partner and two kids.

About Range:
Crafting new ways for organizations, teams, and individuals to unlock their full potential

The team at Range believes that healthy companies aren’t simply better places to work, but do better work and will ultimately be more successful. But that’s easier said than done — it often seems the more humans an organization adds, the less human it becomes.

We think this can (must!) be fixed, and that by putting (awesome) team success software into people’s hands, they can build wellbeing, awareness, and performance into the fabric of work.

By Oct 26, 2020
Turing Announces $14 Million Seed Round
Turing News

Turing Announces $14 Million Seed Round led by Foundation Capital

Company will use the additional capital to accelerate the global shift to remote work Today marks a giant milestone in the history of Turing. The company is delighted to announce its oversubscribed seed round of $14 million. Turing is proud of the support we’ve received from top-tier VCs and prescient investors who share our belief… View Article

Company will use the additional capital to accelerate the global shift to remote work

Today marks a giant milestone in the history of Turing. The company is delighted to announce its oversubscribed seed round of $14 million. Turing is proud of the support we’ve received from top-tier VCs and prescient investors who share our belief that the future of work is boundaryless and that remote-distributed teams democratize opportunity for talented developers wherever they may live.

Investors in Turing’s seed round include Foundation Capital led by Ashu Garg, Adam D’Angelo, Facebook’s first CTO & CEO of Quora, Gokul Rajaram, Cyan Banister, Beerud Sheth, founder of Upwork, Jeff Morris Jr., as well as executives from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Amazon.

According to Turing CEO and Co-Founder, Jonathan Siddharth, “We were already growing fast prior to the coronavirus crisis. I think remote work is here to say. COVID has accelerated a shift that was already underway. We’ve seen a 5-year shift play out in the last 5 months. A lot of companies that want to go remote-first still face key obstacles on sourcing, vetting & managing remote developers. It’s really hard to find silicon valley caliber developers who are remote. It’s hard to evaluate developers who are remote. It can also be frustrating to communicate with remote developers across different timezones. Often the right kind of daily, weekly syncs don’t happen. It’s hard to manage performance. That’s why we built Turing. Turing is creating a new category of verticalized remote work in the cloud. It’s a cloud of developers, that’s sourced by software, vetted by software, matched by software and managed by software. It’s AWS for Talent. What if, you could “push a button” to hire and manage remote developers?” 

The company will use the additional capital to keep scaling the business, investing in continued automation, AI initiatives to source, vet and manage remote developers.

According to Ashu Garg, General Partner at Foundation Capital, “When the Indian outsourcing and IT revolution was in its infancy, I predicted that the market would grow 100X over the next decade. People thought I was crazy at the time and, in retrospect, my prediction seems like a gross underestimation. I feel the same way about Turing. We are creating a new category around remote and distributed work. The future of work is remote, and we’re just getting started.”

Turing’s Founding Story

Turing was founded based upon the idea that talent is universal while opportunities are not. The company’s mission is to find the best developers from all over the world and match them with companies building world-changing products. 

Turing is co-founded by Jonathan Siddharth and Vijay Krishan. The duo discovered the power of using remote teams to build a company during their last venture, Rover, which the two started while still attending Stanford. SaysTuring CTO, Vijay Krishnan, “The cost and challenge of competing with Google, Facebook, Apple, and other giant Silicon Valley companies led us to source highly skilled remote developers from around the world.  What we learned building a company with a fully distributed team convinced us that remote-distributed teams are the future of work.”

Their experience at Rover provided the skills and knowledge that made them the perfect team to launch Turing. Turing’s data science powered platform offers a vertically-integrated solution for companies to spin up engineering teams the same way AWS lets companies instantly add additional server capacity.

Looking towards the Future

Turing will create 1000 jobs for remote engineers by 2022. The goal of the business is to provide Silicon Valley caliber jobs to the top 1% of developers from all over the world, help businesses scale at the push of a button, and level the playing field for the world’s best developers. 

Turing’s founders believe that the future of tech is boundaryless. The company is powering the remote revolution by making it fast, simple, and cost-effective to add exceptional talent to any team, and then to monitor and manage your people no matter where they live.

About Turing:

Turing is an automated platform that lets companies “push a button” to hire and manage remote developers. Turing uses artificial intelligence and data science to source, vet, match, and manage remote developers from all over the world. Turing currently has 160K developers on our platform from almost every country in the world.

Turing’s mission is to help every remote-first tech company build boundaryless teams. Turing’s backers include Foundation Capital, Adam D’Angelo, Facebook’s first CTO & the current CEO of Quora, Gokul Rajaram, Cyan Banister, Jeff Morris, and executives from Google and Facebook. The Information, Entrepreneur, and other major publications have profiled Turing.

About Jonathan Siddharth, Co-Founder, CEO

Jonathan is the CEO  and Co-Founder of Turing.com. Before starting Turing, Jonathan was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Foundation Capital, following the successful sale of his previous AI company, Rover that focused on deep personalization of content recommendations. Jonathan received the best Masters Thesis Award in Computer Science at Stanford University where he specialized in Artificial Intelligence while building AI-enabled products. In his spare time, Jonathan likes helping early-stage entrepreneurs scale companies and tinkering with AI projects.

You can find him Jonathan @jonsidd on Twitter and [email protected] His LinkedIn is https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonsid/.

About Vijay Krishnan, Co-Founder, CTO

Vijay Krishnan is the Co-Founder & CTO of Turing.com. At Turing Vijay leads data science efforts that inform automation in vetting, matching, and managing remote developers. Before co-founding Turing, Vijay was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Foundation Capital following the successful sale of his last AI company, Rover, a business he co-founded while at Stanford. Before Rover, Vijay was a scientist at Yahoo’s Data Mining and Research group. His work led to patented methods to increase Yahoo’s large-scale text categorization accuracy with profound implications for search relevance, ad-matching, user, and content personalization efforts.  

Vijay has a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University, specializing in AI. Vijay is recently married and lives in Palo Alto, California. You can find Vijay on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Media Contact  —   Oliver Starr, Head of Content    —   [email protected]    — 530-641-3999

By Sep 2, 2020
BoundarylessEnterprise

Will Work Remain Remote Post COVID-19?

The world has changed. In December of 2019, you wouldn’t have been willing to bet that by April of 2020, we’d be doing every technical job in the US from our homes. Yet here we are as the world’s biggest-ever experiment in remote work enters its second full month. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that for most companies, even those with little or no remote work experience, things have been going pretty well.

The world has changed. In December of 2019, you wouldn’t have been willing to bet that by April of 2020, we’d be doing every technical job in the US from our homes.

Yet here we are as the world’s biggest-ever experiment in remote work enters its second full month. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that for most companies, even those with little or no remote work experience, things have been going pretty well.

So well, that Benedict Evans, the author of this remarkable newsletter (If you haven’t signed up, you should.) felt that now was an opportune time to reprise a wry truism and ask some excellent questions about it.

Benedict Evans Tweets about Remote Work

But then, he goes on to say:
“And in parallel, for years people wondered if the exploding cost of living and declining quality of life in Silicon Valley would force companies to start moving out . When would ‘are you driven enough to live here?’ be overtaken by ‘I can’t live here no matter what’?

“And now, we’ll find out. How many Silicon Valley companies will come out of months of forced remote work and decide that actually, they don’t need to pay SV office rents, and they don’t need to pay salaries to support housing costs 50% higher than London or NYC?

“So, this could be a catalyst for an acceleration in the global diffusion of software companies. /fin”

Or to put it more simply, as a result of coronavirus, has “remote work” become merely “work”? A lot of smart people seem to think so.

Below, Rich Barton, the co-founder of Zillow, announcing via Twitter that his entire team will be able to keep working from home for many months. He’s one among many Silicon Valley leaders that have come to agree that the benefits of remote work often exceed the drawbacks, even when you take the current pandemic out of the equation.

Rich Barton on Twitter Today we let our team know they have flexibility to work from home (or anywhere) through the end o… 2020-04-29 14-48-00.
Meanwhile, Jason Aten writes that even the behemoth, Microsoft, believes that remote work isn’t going to disappear once we emerge from the current situation.

Investors, many that used to believe that every key person needed to work from the same location, have altered their beliefs in today’s new reality.

This tweet from investor Jeff Morris is a great example:

As I type this, a number of companies are collecting data to learn just how far along the curve we are from remote work as a novelty to remote work becoming the way most of us work going forward.

We’re trying to find out how productivity has changed with most employees working remotely. We want to know whether people feel that remote work has improved or reduced their quality of life. We hope to get an idea of the annual savings companies expect to realize by eliminating the cost of maintaining some of the most expensive office space on earth, and we’ve been monitoring the shift in total payroll expense as a result of companies leveraging remote talent in geo-arbitrage regions.

While we don’t have answers yet, we have some clear sentiment. Many people won’t go back to the office. Some will appreciate the option to work where they please. CEOs believe they can radically reduce real-estate and salary costs without sacrificing much, if anything, in the performance of their teams.

At Turing, March was the company’s biggest month ever. Demand for skilled, remote-ready engineers has never been higher. And all of a sudden, companies that were remote-reticent have become believers.

While many uncertainties are staring us in the face, one thing is relatively sure; right now is not a great time to be a commercial realtor in Silicon Valley.

By Apr 30, 2020
COVID-19

Laid Off? Need Engineering Talent? Turing is Here to Help.

We are living in an unprecedented moment in modern history. People and companies are dealing with tectonic change coming from every direction. Unfortunately, our country and the world are going to go through a very painful rebuilding process. Many companies that were not fundamentally strong are going to go through layoffs and amazingly talented developers… View Article

We are living in an unprecedented moment in modern history. People and companies are dealing with tectonic change coming from every direction. Unfortunately, our country and the world are going to go through a very painful rebuilding process. Many companies that were not fundamentally strong are going to go through layoffs and amazingly talented developers are going to be let go.

But while some companies are downsizing or even closing entirely, others are hiring as quickly as possible. Turing wants to be the bridge between suddenly available engineering talent and positions that companies need to get filled now.

Our AI vetting system and global reach can help identify talent from all over the world and help that talent get matched with good-paying jobs at well-known companies. Our goal is to help America rebuild by connecting over 100,000 engineers with amazing jobs.

If you are a highly skilled engineer that’s been recently laid off, and you have expertise in the areas Ruby On Rails, JavaScript, Android or iOS Development, or Python, we may be able to help you find work very quickly. We also encourage you to share this post with your colleagues, who might also find themselves looking for alternate employment.

If you are a company that is in the enviable position of needing to scale up immediately to meet new, crisis-driven demand, we can assist you in finding and managing top-tier talent from around the world.

In addition to placing talent and filling open positions, we’ll be regularly updating this post with other companies that are seeking talent.

At this time, Turing is actively seeking individuals with the following skills:

  • Ruby on Rails Engineers
  • Mobile Engineers (iOS and Android)
  • JavaScript and Python (any JS framework)

Minimum requirements for these positions: 4 years experience, 2+ years experience working remotely.

To get started with Turing and be matched with open positions, the first thing you need to do is visit developers.turing.com and begin our vetting process. Once you’ve successfully completed our testing process, we’ll schedule you for a follow-up interview to make sure you’re ready for remote work and placement.

We know this is a challenging time for everyone. Turing wants to be your partner in finding work or scaling up, no matter where you are. Join us.

By Apr 22, 2020
COVID-19

Helping Amazing Engineers Get Back to Work Quickly

Please enjoy this replay of Turing CEO and Co-Founder, Jonathan Siddharth, as he speaks to the shockwaves rippling through the technology community as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Helping Companies and Engineers During this Crisis

Please enjoy this replay of Turing CEO and Co-Founder, Jonathan Siddharth, as he speaks to the shockwaves rippling through the technology community as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Says Jonathan; “We are living in unprecedented times. A lot of people are about to be negatively impacted by all the changes in our economy. I’m sure you’ve already heard of layoffs at many companies or companies planning to do layoffs.”

“Unfortunately, our country and the world are going to go through a very painful rebuilding process. Many companies that were not fundamentally as strong are going to go through layoffs where amazing, talented developers are going to be let go.”

“We think information workers, knowledge workers, and software engineers are likely to be disproportionately impacted in the US, and many other places.”

“We want to do our part too. Turing has always been committed to finding the world’s best developer talent, through our automated vetting engine and matching them with the world’s best companies.”

To hear the rest of Jonathan’s thoughts and how Turing can help, watch the full Periscope above.

By Apr 6, 2020
COVID-19

Remote Now! A primer for the “suddenly remote” during the COVID-19 pandemic

By now, you’ve almost certainly heard the news. As coronavirus cases explode around the globe, more and more companies are instructing their teams to work from home. For companies that already have a fully or partially remote structure, this is pretty much business as usual. But, if your employer is more traditional, being forced to run an entire business with a team that finds itself in the position of suddenly being remote presents a slew of challenges.

Introduction:

By now, you’ve almost certainly heard the news. As coronavirus cases explode around the globe, more and more companies are instructing their teams to work from home.

For companies that already have a fully or partially remote structure, this is pretty much business as usual. But, if your employer is more traditional, being forced to run an entire business with a team that finds itself in the position of suddenly being remote presents a slew of challenges.

This primer, which will be produced in short excerpts, is intended to help employees and employers get a grip on the essential skills, tools, and best practices that will reduce the problems and stress we’re all likely to encounter during this frightening time.

For most of us, this Remote-Now experience will (hopefully) be short-lived. If we’re fortunate, we’ll weather the coronavirus crisis quickly, and within a couple of weeks, people will be able to return to their offices and normal work schedules.

This primer is not intended to help your company “go remote” on a long term basis. Our goal is to give you the necessary knowledge and skills to enable you to continue your operations with as little disruption as possible during the near term.

As a result, we’re not going to do an exhaustive review of every tool, or of all the techniques that remote-first companies use. Instead, we’ll focus on simple practices and widely available and mostly free tools that will allow you to get started quickly and function at a reasonably high level during this difficult time.

Over the next several short posts, we’ll profile the tools we think are the easiest to learn, the most common (making it more likely your team is already familiar with them), and especially those that are inexpensive or free. We’ll talk about scheduling, give you a list of the most common remote worker shorthand, and go over the best practices we’ve found that will help your team interact in the most seamless manner possible.

To help you get started, here’s a short list courtesy of Lisette Sutherland of Collaboration Superpowers with the simple things your company and employees can do now to help make this daunting and unexpected challenge a bit easier:

  1. Find a dedicated place in your house. Make this an area where you can be productive and is separate from your private life. 
  2. Use video. It’s important that your team members can see and hear you well. Have plenty of light and wear a headset.
  3. Create a team agreement. Talk about expectations for how to work together—templates available here.
  4. Set goals and be enthusiastic. Working remote is all about trust and communication. How will you know what each other are doing? 
  5. Get familiar with the tools. There are great tools available for online collaboration like ZoomSlack, and GoogleDocs that can make this process easier.
  6. Lean in. Start without big expectations, experiment, and grow your skills. Put feedback loops in place to evaluate progress. Regular retrospectives on how the team is doing will inspire continuous improvement and trust.

In addition, don’t forget to be empathetic. Not everyone has worked from home before. Some issues and distractions are likely to make this effort more challenging for some than others (kids home from school or a sick spouse come to mind). 

There’s a learning curve here. Going Remote on the fly is not the simplest thing in the world, especially when that world is freaking out around you. Put simply, be kind to one another. We’re all in this together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Mar 13, 2020
BoundarylessEnterprise

Ashu Garg is Bullish On Boundaryless Teams as the Future of Work

Ashu is equally bullish on the role that remote, distributed teams will play in the future of work. Join us and learn why Ashu likens the Bay Area today to Florence during the renaissance, why the world is flat, and why the companies he believes in incorporate boundaryless teams in their plan from the start.

In today’s episode of our podcast, we meet Ashu Garg, General Partner at Foundation Capital.

Ashu loves puzzles and making bold predictions, including the prediction he made in 1998 that the IT Services Industry would grow by 100x in the next ten years. A decade on, that projection proved prescient.

Today, Ashu is equally bullish on the role that remote, distributed teams will play in the future of work. Join us and learn why Ashu likens the Bay Area today to Florence during the renaissance, why the world is flat, and why the companies he believes in incorporate boundaryless teams in their plan from the start.

By Feb 10, 2020
BoundarylessEnterprise

The #Boundaryless Remote Distributed Teams Podcast with Murray Newlands:

In today’s episode of our podcast, we meet Jonathan Siddharth, CEO and Co-Founder of Turing. Jonathan built his last successful company, Rover, using remote, distributed teams. His new company, Turing, is based upon the idea that talent is global, while opportunities are not. Please tune in to discover how to hire remote employees and what it takes to build your company with a fully distributed team.

The #Boundaryless Remote Distributed Teams Podcast with Murray Newlands:

In today’s episode of our podcast, we meet Jonathan Siddharth, CEO and Co-Founder of Turing. Jonathan built his last successful company, Rover, using remote, distributed teams. His new company, Turing, is based upon the idea that talent is global, while opportunities are not. Please tune in to discover how to hire remote employees and what it takes to build your company with a fully distributed team.

About the Boundaryless Remote Distributed Teams Podcast:

The world has changed. In the past, companies were built with locally-hired teams, operating out of the same office. But today, entrenched competition, brutal commutes, exorbitant real-estate prices and more global distribution of talent have upended this practice. Now, billion-dollar companies are now created with teams working remotely and distributed all around the world. Creating #boundaryless companies is hard but we will give you the tools to succeed.

By Feb 4, 2020