When you first When you start a startup, you’re just trying to build and market a product. The first group of engineers has an “all hands on deck” mentality and they will do everything they can to realize the product. But as your business grows and needs change, that mindset is no longer as viable, especially as you bring more people on board.
As you add more talent, you need to organize your engineering team into more logical groups. That means more defined roles, making individuals and teams responsible for specific parts of the product while expanding its capabilities. How well you manage the transition from an organically grown team to a more purposefully organized, efficient machine can be the key to how successful your business will be as it scales.
Plaid CTO Jean-Denis Greze, whose company makes APIs for banks, had to deal with that kind of transition when he arrived in 2017. The company was in the midst of Series A financing with about 20 engineers still trying to find their way to product-market fit.
Since his arrival, the engineering team has expanded to 350 people and the company’s valuation has risen to $13.4 billion. Carefully growing and organizing the engineering team has been a big part of that success, especially for business building tools designed for developers.
How has a growing company like Plaid scaled up its engineering team by 17.5x in four years? and keep everything in good condition? We spoke to Greze to get some answers.
It’s all about planning
When Greze joined the company, just as it was reaching the end of its Series A maturation, the engineering was organized in a more general way, responding to customer requirements with little specialization where necessary. And he felt that while this worked for the short term, it wasn’t exactly sustainable.
“If we had a major product requirement for a set of customers, we’d just take a couple of engineers — not randomly, but with the right skills — and we’d let them work on that project until it was done. And then they’d go back to it. general pool,” he explained.
After six to 12 months with the company, the team had grown to more than 30 engineers and Greze realized that the company would soon have to take a different approach.
The solution was to divide the engineers into more dedicated teams, but he cautions that he wasn’t just dictating these changes. Before doing anything, Greze met with both the founders and the engineers doing the work to discuss the new way of working, and found that most people came to the same conclusion as him.