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Managing Today’s Engineering Organization

Lithium Alumni (Retired) Lithium Alumni (Retired)
Lithium Alumni (Retired)

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The need for strong engineering talent has never been greater, nor as competitive as it is today. The staggering growth of the tech industry has made it an engineer’s dream job market. Today’s top engineers can essentially “cherry pick” the roles they want to fill, as the demand for their skills and creativity is in a constant state of exponential growth.

 

As such, Engineering and HR departments within tech companies have been challenged to not only hire top talent, but also devise ways of motivating top talent to stay. We sat down with Lithium’s SVP of Engineering, Sunil Rajasekar, to talk about how he makes it a daily priority to keep his world-class engineering team engaged, empowered, and truly excited about the work they do.

 

Great teams are often times the result of strong leaders. What’s your management philosophy and why do you feel it’s been effective in creating a world-class engineering team? 

People inherently want to do well and to be successful in their jobs. It’s rooted in our DNA. My role as the engineering team lead is to create the opportunity for everyone on my team to be the best they can possibly be. I see myself more as a coach than a traditional manager. I help set the vision, hire and retain the best talent, and create an environment where my team can thrive. Once you have that, magic happens.

 

I have not only learned a lot about how to create a world class engineering team from my own career and experiences, but also from talking to my peers and learning from best practices at companies like Amazon, Netflix, Google, and a handful of start-ups – all of which have set the bar quite high.

 

There is more demand for engineering talent than there are engineers to fill those roles. How do you compete for top talent? 

We rely heavily on word-of-mouth. Great engineers oftentimes know other great engineers. The challenge we face, however, is that people still don’t readily know what Lithium is or what impact they can make by joining our team. So we’re constantly in a position of having to give people a reason to join. I personally believe it’s a no-brainer. We’ve got a compelling story. Here’s why:

We’re in an emerging and exciting space. We are now in the “age of the customer.” Customers have all the power. They are much more knowledgeable and informed than ever before. Most companies are unfortunately struggling to keep up. At Lithium, we’ve not only adapted to this reality, but we’re also helping to define it for the benefit of our customers.

 

The company is well-positioned. It’s got the stability, resources, and funds to support technological innovation much like our larger competitors. However, given our small size, there’s a tremendous amount of room for engineers to grow and make a serious impact through their day-to-day work.

 

We are solving big tech problems. Engineers want to be challenged. They have an appetite to learn and to improve their skills through the work they do. They want to provide solutions to the biggest questions facing the tech industry today. Our engineers are spearheading innovations in social, mobile, high-volume Saas, and more – all at global scale (and we’ve got over 100 million monthly users to prove that our solutions work!).

 

So once you’ve convinced them to come on-board, how do you motivate them to stay? What are the rewards and incentives that matter most to engineers?

First off, engineers want to enjoy the work they do. My role is to enable that. And let’s be honest, a day-in-the-life of an engineer isn’t always 9-to-5. They are tasked with solving challenging technological problems and every day is different. They are constantly coming up with ways to make our products better for our customers. So it’s important to create a working environment that affords them the space to be creative problem solvers, but also gives them the flexibility to manage their workload the best way they see fit. But, ultimately, they want the freedom to innovate, the opportunity to improve their skills daily, and a clear line-of-sight into how their work directly impacts Lithium’s customers.

 

At Lithium, we’ve got an engineering culture that’s focused on sharing and learning. Our engineers are active bloggers. Many regularly contribute to open source projects. We also host industry meet-ups often. What I love most are our hackathons – events where engineers literally camp out in the office for 24 hours working on “pet” projects. They’ve been incredibly successful, so much that many of our most recent product innovations have stemmed from hackathon ideas.

 

If you were to identify what makes managing engineers different from managing other groups within a company, what would you say stands out the most?

It requires a blend of art and science. The art comes from engineers needing a flexible work environment that fuels creativity and innovation. The science comes from a constant focus on developing high quality products and applications that perform well at scale. The challenge for many companies is finding the right balance between the two. I believe Lithium has struck that balance. We are in position to move at the speed of a start-up, but operate like a well-established business – and are able serve some of the biggest global brands as our customers – thanks in part to our architecture, release practices and how we are organized around autonomous teams.

 

ABOUT SUNIL

sunil.jpgAs Senior Vice President of Engineering, Sunil oversees core development and delivery of Lithium's enterprise social customer platform.

 

Sunil is a seasoned technology executive who brings more than 15 successful years of enterprise, small business and consumer software experience. Prior to joining Lithium, Sunil served as Vice President of Engineering, Operations and Program Management at Intuit Financial Services and held a variety of senior roles in the Intuit Small Business and Central Technology groups. His passion is building innovative and successful web and mobile offerings that companies and end users love. Previously, Sunil worked at Oracle, Cisco and several startups.

 

 

About the Author
Eric Channing Brown has worked for more than two decades as a comms pro in Silicon Valley. Eric’s career has spanned almost every aspect of tech from chips and enterprise storage systems to Internet, media, and consumer apps companies. He has worked for some of the best-known companies in the industry including Sun Microsystems, NetApp, Yahoo!, Skype, and Microsoft. Eric is now VP of Global Comms at Lithium Technologies.
2 Comments
Honored Contributor Honored Contributor
Honored Contributor

Cracking read! So true about a great performing team needing a great leader and having one makes all the difference in my opinion. Ive personally found this myself as i;ve grown into the position i have now but also in the development and growth of my teams. 

 

Thanks for sharing!!

 

Occasional Commentator MarthaGant
Occasional Commentator

Sustaining of good talent is very necessary for that HR provide compensation and benefits attractive packages management coordinate support and control engeeniering staff. HR is necessary in any field and Customers are knowledgeable and informed than ever before. So engeeniers take active part in their field to satisfy them with the help of HR expertise.