12 questions about engineering culture
An excellent collection of “best practices” in the engineering culture of modern IT companies. The author has worked at Uber, Skyscanner and Skype in Amsterdam – approx.
These 12 questions can help you understand what an IT company is like internally; and, most importantly, these things are rarely written about in job descriptions.
I came up with this “test” to get a better understanding of what constitutes a “healthy development culture” in 2021. I found that Joel’s test, is taken for granted by so many companies already, but it is already two decades old, and it does not include many of the points that you would reasonably expect from a really cool engineering company.
If it’s a venture-backed startup or a publicly traded company, do engineers get share in capital? Does this apply to all engineers, or should the shares be “earned”? If it is a private company with no venture capital, do engineers get generous share of profits? Attention: here not count public companies offering options (ESOP) with discount; “Generous profit share” means a bonus of at least 15-20% of the annual salary in a “normal” year.
Is there a general list of high-level tasks (“road map”) common to most commands? Do engineers regularly update and re-map their team’s “map”?
Do engineers work directly with other employees (engineers on other teams, designers, managers, data scientists, etc.)? Answer no if they are expected to communicate through department leaders instead of direct communication.
Are code review and testing part of your day-to-day development process?
You have CI (“Continuous Integration”)? When the engineer finishes writing the code, will it be automatically uploaded to prod (via CD, “Continuous delivery”); if not, can the engineer start the release manually?
Does the company follow the principles “Internal open source”when can any engineer access and contribute to most of the code of other teams (given clear “owners” of the code, of course)?
Can we say that duty roster (on-call), if any, “Healthy”? Is the quality of the shifts measured in any way (I mean minimizing the number of calls outside working hours, whether it be noise or real problems, and not how quickly a particular Vasya picked up the phone when the notification system calls – approx. per.) and their impact on developers? Does fixing unhealthy calls take priority over any other work?
Are managers of engineering teams by “techies”that is, have they previously been engineers in their careers?
Does the company have career ladder with clearly described levels and requirements for each of them?
Does the company have the ability to switch to Parallel career ladder in development or management, without “falling” at the very bottom?
Does the company have healthy feedback culture? Answer “yes” if there are at least two of the following three: a) 360 performance review (mandatory: developers give feedback to managers as well) b) colleagues give feedback to each other c) company-wide surveys to collect feedback workplace atmosphere (and changes are made based on the results).
Does the company invest in professional growth… Answer yes if at least two of the following three are present: a) mentoring program in the company b) budget / scholarship for professional development (books, trainings, etc.) c) regular technical lectures where employees learn from each other friend or invited experts.
You can “pass” the test for your current employer here (or send by form the author of the original) and mark the result in the poll or comments; I would like to single out a few companies that have received consistently high marks.
Companies with a friendlier and more predictable culture received a higher score on average; they are usually quite are similar to Silicon Valley in their approach to engineers… The test is based on ideas from the post Software Engineering Culture Test…
It is important to note that often the score will be more meaningful for a specific team, and less so for the company as a whole, as “healthy shifts” or even “time to production” can vary greatly for different teams in a large company.
Companies whose teams showed a result of 12 out of 12:
Amazon, Facebook, Google
GitHub, Square, Twitter, Shopify, Spotify, Stripe, Uber
Auth0, Eventbrite, Freshbooks, Intercom, Sumo Logic, Udemy, Yelp, Wise
ClassPass, Glovo, Impala, KeepTruckin, Loom, NerdWallet, Monzo, Noom, Scribd, Sonder
Bud Financial, CommonBond, Indigo Ag, Litmus, Postscript, Rows.com, Quizlet, ThoughtSpot
Companies with teams scoring 11 out of 12
There are no “healthy shifts” (honesty bonus on this!): Box, OpenTable, New Relic, Wayfair, Delivery Hero, FindHotel, Good Dog, Kraken, Signal AI, Stash
No promotions or profit sharing for engineers: BBC, Just Eat Takeaway, Skyscanner, moonpig, Trainline, Zalando
It’s okay if a startup or small company (up to 20 engineers) answers no to questions 9 (career ladder), 10 (parallel career ladders) and 11 (feedback culture), but as the company grows, there will be fewer excuses not to invest. into these improvements.
Growing startups rated 10-11 out of 12 that are missing elements 9, 10, or 11 (but management has confirmed that they will tackle these factors as the company grows) include: Fonoa, Linear Product Hunt and Udaan…
It also makes sense to ask these questions of the company as part of a “reverse interview” after receiving an offer, it will help to get an idea of how your future team works and how favorable its culture is for engineers.
From the translator: in original post there are several links to vacancies in “good” companies in Europe.
How many points does your employer gain? (anonymously; indicating the company, you can write in the comments)
6 users have voted. 9 users abstained.