If you’re an engineer or team leader, it’s crucial to comprehend what your company means by “building engineering teams at scale”. This term can incorporate various elements, including the infrastructure that links people from diverse locations, the group’s dynamics and the culture that nurtures learning, unlearning, and relearning. A well-functioning team should ideally possess a well-rounded combination of all these factors.
We were thrilled to have 240 engineers from across Asia join us to celebrate Facebook’s 16th birthday. We also had the pleasure of welcoming the Director of Engineering at Facebook, Ziad Traboulsi, who shared his extensive experience and insights gained over almost two decades in the industry, including his experience as a startup founder in the early 2000s and his involvement in various Facebook teams over the past ten years. It was truly a privilege to have him with us for this special milestone.
Below are some of the valuable life lessons he has gathered throughout his exhilarating career:
For those with an engineering background:
Success comes with hard work and perseverance. Learning and progress require a considerable amount of time and effort. To achieve something remarkable, one needs to make the effort to create it themselves. For instance, when Ziad wanted a specific MP3 to play when he woke up and went to school, he faced the challenge of the unavailability of app stores, smart alarms, and other technological resources. Instead of giving up, he taught himself the necessary programming skills to solve the problem. After 1.5 months and coding around 100 lines, his dedication paid off.
Listen to your heart. It’s crucial to bear in mind that technology is only a tool to achieve a goal, not the end goal itself. What aspect of technology sparks your interest? Is it the potential to address local problems, establish necessary infrastructure or analyse the needs and preferences of consumers? Ziad explains how his curiosity about economics and human behaviour was aroused by his aspiration to use technology for people’s betterment. He cites an instance where a person with a heart condition joined a Facebook group and benefited immensely from gaining access to a wealth of knowledge.
Enjoy yourself, but don’t forget to challenge yourself. To fully realise your potential, it’s advisable to work on improving multiple aspects rather than just focusing on what makes you happy. It’s crucial to strike a balance between your strengths and interests as this is where the true challenge lies. Focus on developing both to achieve optimal outcomes.
Take responsibility for your actions. Ziad stresses that at Facebook, everyone should concentrate on their own responsibilities and not be distracted by others’ activities. He motivates individuals to step forward, take charge, and pursue leadership roles, regardless of the potential rewards and consequences. Moreover, he recommends that one should not hesitate to make mistakes while striving for progress.
To all Engineering Teams:
Promote “Transparency” and “Openness” — Every engineer can examine the work of their peers, as they all have access to each other’s code. Therefore, engineers possess significant influence, requiring them to act responsibly with their authority. It’s vital to remember that with great power comes great responsibility.
Do you foster a culture that encourages open discussion, openness to questions on any matter regarding the organisation? Ziad recalls a Facebook Q&A session where everyone in the company, including the CEO, can freely ask and answer questions without hesitation.
Is there a platform or application available for our engineers to communicate with each other? This could be an internal network or a more specialised messaging service like Slack or instant messaging.
Reduce obstacles to enable better decision-making. Engineers should have the autonomy to make choices that benefit both themselves and the organisation as a whole.
Are there any obstacles that hinder engineers in their decision-making process? Do they have complete access to all code bases during their onboarding process? Moreover, if an engineer desires to change teams within the company, how simple is it for them to do so?
Cultivate an atmosphere of “good faith” as this ultimately contributes to better teamwork among engineers.
Engineers must be afforded the liberty to experiment and learn from their mistakes. Ziad noticed that Facebook has shifted from their previous approach of “Move fast and break everything” to “Move fast with solid infrastructure,” offering developers more freedom to innovate and acquire knowledge.
Limitations on scalability:
Ziad has emphasised the difficulties of scaling engineering teams in regards to their ability to expand, adjust, and support various products. To tackle these challenges, he recommended two strategies:
Continuously reinvent your practices to meet the ever-increasing demands of consumers. In the past decade, the methods used to search for and hire new employees have undergone significant changes. As businesses expand and reach out to a broader audience across multiple levels, the methods and techniques that facilitated such success must also evolve. This is true for workforce planning, data centre deployment, and the operations of technical teams.
Minimise the time between iterations. Building a framework that allows for quick prototyping and code iteration is crucial for creating an environment that can design, create, test, and release products in real-time, in response to consumer demands and product requirements. By investing in the right infrastructure, companies ensure that they can maintain nimbleness and flexibility in their development process, enabling speedy code iteration and fast product deployment.
In conclusion, it is critical to acknowledge the significance of both the company’s culture and the engineering team’s culture in enabling the scaling of engineering teams. With that in mind, I would like to pose a few questions for you to contemplate:
At Works, we aspire to foster a culture of teamwork, consideration, and inclusiveness. We believe that this is the bedrock for building a formidable and prosperous team, and we are pleased to say that our culture is a reflection of our fundamental principles. We engage in and promote our culture through our company guidelines, benefits, and initiatives and have accomplished success in attracting and retaining exceptional staff as a result. We believe that our culture’s positive ambiance has been pivotal in our accomplishments and continue to aim for distinction.
Below are significant remarks made by Ziad Traboulsi:
It is often said that “code prevails over debates” and that “numbers are the driving force behind the team.”
The capacity to establish connections with others should not be exclusive to a chosen few but instead accessible to all.
Pay careful attention to your legacy; it is the impetus behind your accomplishments.