Disruption Insights: Support Fast MVP Releases and Capitalize on First Learnings

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Paulina Burzawa

Apr 11, 2023 • 9 min read
Sergio Laranjeira Disrupion Insights Blog hero

Providing the best experience for both internal and external stakeholders is what enables engineering leaders to have a real impact on business.

This is one of the main principles followed by Sérgio Laranjeira, Director of Engineering at Delivery Hero. He also believes this wide focus is what enables organizations to stand out and achieve success on a global scale.

And given the experience he has gained in hypergrowth companies like FARFETCH, Zalando, and N26, it’s well worth spending a few minutes going through nuggets of wisdom we gathered from him.

We all know that well-defined goals and KPIs are crucial for the efficient organization of technical work, but we believe there’s more to it than that. The Disruption Insights series aims to uncover how household names manage their tech teams and how that translates into business opportunities.

🎯 Engineering challenges

Exciting engineering challenges right now

We’re currently developing a Global Contact Platform aimed at facilitating customer, delivery rider, and vendor contacts with the goal to offer an even higher quality of service to all stakeholders. We have to cover several lines of business, various channels in multiple different regions, and we are doing this while migrating services to a new infrastructure.

Migration is already a big challenge, so doing it while launching the platform globally brings an extra layer of complexity. So, busy and very exciting times are ahead of us!

My answer here is most likely the expected, reasonable, and boring one. There are times to take risks, and it’s then that you experiment with new technologies which engineers talk about a lot or would love to play with. But there are also moments when older, more reliable solutions are the preferred choice. I believe stability and innovation should not be affected by these choices, and that’s why deciding on which path to follow should be preceded by an evaluation of all the pros and cons in order to mitigate any possible risks.

Predicting the possible impact on what you want to deliver will help reach a final decision. This is also an opportunity to promote a culture of learning and experimentation, which we do at Delivery Hero by having discussions using requests for comments.

💻 On the tech side

KPIs and missions essential to your role

When leading a Tech Tribe (a tech team at Delivery Hero) I have to track several KPIs: budget and cost metrics related to all personnel and non-personnel costs, project productivity, scalability, quality, security, and of course metrics related to employee satisfaction and performance. I look at them almost every day.

As for purely technical work within projects, the Dora Metrics – deployment frequency (DF), lead time for changes (LT), mean time to recovery (MTTR), and change failure rate (CFR) – are those that we believe are important to gauge and improve when they don’t progress over time or are a bottleneck for us.

We promote a culture of constant feedback, so eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score) is measured every quarter. Our aim is to continuously improve the way engineering units work, keeping them engaged, diverse, and focused on operational excellence. This is extremely challenging, and we as leaders have to work very hard to ensure the right items are prioritized at the right times.

Success in the software development process

Speed of delivery is a very important aspect when talking about a successful software development process.

For example, an MVP delivery can take so much time that it’s no longer an MVP. That’s why I usually support fast MVP releases, as they enable fast first learnings. Thanks to these lessons, we then know where to focus our efforts in future iterations considering customer needs, market feedback, and business impact.

All in all, if we can continuously iterate on the solutions we deliver, keep scaling them, and carry on improving, all while being proud of the product we offer – that’s what I consider a success in software development.

🤝 Internal cooperation

Do’s and don'ts you’ve learned while scaling tech teams

I’ve faced challenges related to hypergrowth at a few companies during my career, and the most valuable lessons I’ve learned are related to hiring and onboarding.

It’s critical to have a well-defined process for organizing and conducting interviews, and I’m also referring to organizing them internally. A higher number of interviews should be taken into account while planning employees’ capacity. The process of making decisions on hiring should be documented too.

Onboarding is also a vital part of the puzzle here – leaders must ensure that they have easy access to all systems, documentation is up to date, and there is sufficient time to clarify any doubts or extra questions.

If I’d gotten a chance to go through these processes again, I would have probably hired a few leaders ahead of time, giving them ownership of that part of scaling tech teams.

As for the don’ts, I would definitely avoid rushed hiring – companies should prioritize a well-defined strategy for the development of teams or departments before scaling.

Crucial stakeholders you work with

I work most closely with my direct reports, senior managers, and directors. We cooperate to spot any possible blockers, properly divide strategic tasks, and support each other to be more efficient in leadership roles.

There are also several tech teams we share OKRs with that I consider our stakeholders. The OKR part plays a crucial role in ensuring alignment, helping us to stay on the right track, and working towards the same goals.

🧩 Hiring and team management

Skills and traits you focus on

When hiring engineers I focus on traits that prove ownership and accountability. During every interview, I ask the candidate to share a story with an example of a complex problem they solved and I look for behavior or decisions that really prove they have both of these qualities and feel responsible for the solution they deliver.

Making engineers satisfied and happy

I believe in the importance of effective leadership, creating opportunities for growth, and recognition. It takes a strong, committed leader to ensure that your people are challenged and have the chance to gain new skills so that they can keep developing professionally.

And, of course, it's essential to recognize their efforts along the way by sharing feedback and public recognition. This kind of leadership helps keep engineers happy, satisfied, and motivated to do their best work.

Recipe for preventing burnout

My recipe for preventing burnout, and this is also what I advise to my coworkers, is to take time out to disconnect. As a leader, it's especially important to set a great example in this regard. For me, regular exercise – whether it's sports, running, or a 45-60 minute workout every other day – has been a great way to recharge and stay fresh.

Of course, finding the right balance is key. Some days you may need to go for a run, while on others you'll want to take things slower. Through trial and error, you can find a balance that works for you and learn to maximize your time in the most effective way possible.

Leadership style you prefer

I adapt my leadership style depending on circumstances, but prefer a relationship based on trust and empathy. This is key for building high-performing engineering teams.

💡 Looking into the future

Bets on the future of development teams organization

Engineering teams will continuously evolve. Let’s look at the idea of cross-functional teams – it’s been known for many years, and yet I think we have not fully elaborated on this setup.

More diverse and technically knowledgeable teams will play a crucial role, especially with new solutions that improve work efficiency popping up almost every day.

The evolution of sports teams can be an interesting analogy to look at, especially concerning how the organizations around them grow to become more efficient. I bet strong leadership will keep playing a crucial role and also that the intellectual diversity of teams will increase depending on the business and product they own.

Technology buzzword that makes you laugh

I wouldn’t say it makes me laugh, but I find the concept of hyperautomation very interesting. I believe most systems should be easily connected, and machine learning and artificial intelligence can offer numerous solutions here.

We live in a global world with a global society, but we barely have global financial, social, or healthcare systems that are actually connected and secure. We can do better in this regard and then we will be able to automate almost everything, reducing the amount of manual work and repetitive tasks.

Read the first post from this series and more:

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