8 Ways to Build a Great Engineering Culture

24 Aug 2015 - 4 min read

Tim O’Reilly, the founder of O’Reilly Media, has famously put it; “Apply the same level of deep thinking about building a culture as you would about building a product.” In this regard, having a well-built company culture is crucial to every business. But having a well-built engineering culture is what can really foster corporate progress. A balanced and working culture works on so many levels. On the one hand, it gives employers a chance to use it as a tool which attracts, recruits and retains new people who are capable of pushing the business forward through their individual characteristics and mutually shared objectives. On the other hand, it is the driving force which stimulates already hired personnel to experiment, work together and create what might have been thought of as impossible to be created until then. The role of incorporated engineering-led culture is pivotal. Its importance is multiplied by thousands of bites when we talk about IT related companies. Just as anything else that forms the core of someone’s successful story, the implementation of such cultures is positioned among the most challenging and difficult tasks faced by tech entrepreneurs. Therefore it becomes a necessity for all technology organizations. Their greatness and value depend not on their IP but on tactics, strategies, problem-solving orientation and professional product-delivery sense. All of them can spring out from the foundational principles of a long-term engineering culture which is the artefact of a reciprocal institutional effort. Noticing that many effective IT companies share similar fundamentals when it comes to framing an operating engineering culture, we would like to list of eight useful ways to achieve this.

1. Create a clear project mission statement

It is true that clarifying what the project mission is takes a lot of time and thorough thinking, rethinking, considering of outcomes and reconsidering of decisions. Still, asking your team to prepare a concise and structural project mission statement will ease the course of work immensely. Writing such statement will point out what must be done, what must not, what is prioritized and what can be done on a later stage. It will save future wastefulness of efforts and burdens of changing project’s scope partially or entirely. What is more, creating a detailed mission statement enables the assigned personnel to monitor and track the progress of the project.

2. Get the right software abstractions

The abstractions are techniques which serve to manage a complexity of computer systems. One of the key significances for IT teams is to build abstractions which are general and simple. Keeping such software abstractions will narrow down differences and mismatches in engineers’ familiarity and practical knowledge when looking for solutions. Examples of smartly done software abstractions are SSTable and MapReduce created by Google’s experts Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat.

3. Choose the bests

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A business’ leading philosophy is to hire the most qualified, well trained and best people out there. Usually the IT industry is surrounded by complicated projects and products. They require high-level of professionalism and people who have perfected engineering instinct. B-players do not have place in these mediums.

4. Support a respectful working environment

The working environment plays a huge role in how each person works individually and when being a part of a team. Because engineering encompasses a variety of components such as software products, systems, learning about machines, etc., different people may arrive with different expertise. And if one person demonstrates stronger interest and skillfulness in a particular area, another person will be an expert in another area. As an employer, one is obliged to maintain a healthy and respectful working environment which tolerates such differences in expertise. So ask the right interview questions, give candidates a take-home programming exercise and go from there. Hire the ones who are capable of getting things done the right way and at the right time.

5.  Encourage exploration of new things

IT is among the most rapidly progressing sectors around the world. Being static and lacking the desire to explore and delve into innovation are negatives that hinder the progress of a tech-based company. For this reason, give space for applying new methods into your company. Encourage your team to experiment and look for new techs. Excite them with ground-breaking ways of thinking and challenge them to do things a bit differently.

6. Provide sufficient autonomy

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Limiting and putting barriers around the work of engineers leads to everything else but development. They are people who need space and want to feel in control. Establishing sufficient levels of deployment gives enough freedom for them to do things more easily and with more confidence. Giving the personnel this sort of independence is a way to place on them subtle responsibility. They will not only embrace it more willingly but will be able to perform at full capacity. At the end this will result in optimized engineering culture.

7.  Give a chance to people to speak up

 Discussions have an important place in terms of creating a working environment. Therefore, encouraging employees to voice their opinions and share visions is a way to form an adequate engineering culture that will be productive and will serve better purposes. The experts’ value is not rooted in codes only. It is far greater. Enabling them to unveil their full potential will contribute greatly to all business processes.

8. Automation. Automation. Automation

As one company expands, the duties, responsibilities and tasks of the personnel increases as well. Insisting on automation and automated testing procedures will build an engineering culture where the teams can handle their projects much more efficiently.

With all of this being said, crafting an optimal engineering culture stands for a lot of work, dedication, patience, time and efforts. However when it is done appropriately, the results will be more than just pleasing at the end.