Software Engineering Managers, It’s Time to Rethink Your Culture




Whether you’re a newbie engineering manager or a veteran, you’ve probably felt the shift in your team’s happiness, productivity, and satisfaction over the past years (COVID certainly accelerated it).

Generally speaking, today’s engineers are looking for more than a paycheck. They’re in such hot demand, they can get monetary compensation just about anywhere. They’re also looking for a culture where they can be on a team, grow their skills, and feel good about their work.

As engineering managers, creating this culture is one of the most important aspects of your job.

Before we dive into how to create an awesome culture, it’s important to understand why. Here are four big reasons:

  1. The war for talent
  2. Happy people produce great work
  3. It’s “just a job” is dead
  4. Trust falls are out

Let’s quickly touch on each of these and how they add up to your new “why.”

The War For Talent

First and foremost, there is a war for talent and we’ve seen this firsthand in Denver.  Denver is an up-and-coming tech spot with high demand yet an incredibly low supply of engineers.  We’re entering a period where these technically-talented employees have so many options available to them, they get to be the picky ones.  Us organizations don’t.

This imbalance of supply and demand has created a war for talent, with the managers most in-turn with engineer’s wants and needs coming out on top.

Happy People Produce Great Work

This sounds obvious, but we’ve all experienced organizations where this is overlooked or forgotten: Happy people produce great work.

For the typical person, especially millennials and generation Z, work is intended to be a meaningful portion of their life (but not the entirety of their life). If you work with well-grounded, happy people, then it stands to reason that your organization will benefit as well.

“It’s Just a Job” is Dead

Number three falls right along with “happy people produce great work.”

The notion that “I’m in a job just to have one…just to make a paycheck…just to punch my eight-to-five” is dead.

For many preceding generations, that was the way.  You spent your life with one or two companies for 50 years, because that was your job.  Now, people have more options. For organizations, it’s not enough to be a place where somebody collects a paycheck. There needs to be something more compelling for people to stick with you for a long time.

Trust Falls Are Out

The trust falls, kegs, foosball, the fun events–these so often end up being a thin veneer over crushing people into the ground and grinding them to death over hundred-hour work weeks.

Many organizations use the term “culture” loosely, just to check the box that you have it.  This is the reality for many software engineers.

Over the past year, due to COVID quarantining, this type of fake culture has been exposed.  Kegs and ping pong can’t make up for constant, grueling work when we’re all stuck at home.

In order to compete effectively and be an employer that people want to work for, engineering managers must prioritize these culture changes. The fact that people are searching for not only compensation (yes that’s important) but also co-workers they like working alongside, a manager who leads by example, an environment of support–not punishment.

Tips for Creating a Dynamic Engineering Organization

how to create a dynamic engineering org webinar

Devetry recently hosted a webinar where our CTO, Allan Wintersick, and guest Aaron Bach of FIS went into great detail on creating a great engineering organization.

To watch that webinar on-demand, register here. You’ll be sent the link to watch immediately.

For short-on-time readers, the biggest takeaways for creating a cultured organization were broken out into two categories.

Hire awesome individuals. These individuals will eventually make up your team. Each person you hire shifts your culture just a little bit in some direction. Identifying the right people for your business goals and then getting individual hires right is essential.

  1. Design tests that find out if engineers can do the job. Charisma ≠ a good candidate.
  2. Be objective. Use standardized rubrics, get diverse opinions, and facilitate independent choices
  3. Iterate and optimize your hiring process

Motivate your team to do their best work. As you continue to hire folks, how do you support them? How do you keep them happy? Most importantly, how do you find a work-life balance to make sure that both your organization and the people are happy?

  1. To lead a team, you must be transparent
  2. Have your team help create their own measurement benchmarks
  3. Metrics should contextualize people
  4. Seek to be a healthy chapter in the story of their life

At Devetry, we don’t claim to have it perfectly figured out, but we’ve been working on it since our inception in 2015.  Over the past five years, our engineering leaders have innovated in both hiring and managing and now we’re sharing out learnings with other leaders.

To chat with our team, hit us up!