In March of 2022, we were joined by Aidymar Bigio, a Senior Director of Engineering at Oculus, who has spent the last 18 years building at Meta and Google. Now working on Meta’s Oculus product, she is building the next computing platform for the metaverse.
During our AMA, we discussed today’s evolving landscape specific to engineering in the start up world, how to find talent and how to adapt to engineering needs as you grow.
Below are seven takeaways from the conversation:
Have a compelling story and be clear on what you need
Engineers are in high demand with the growth of start-ups today, so it’s important to understand what you’re trying to do when you sell your vision.
Engineers these days are not just motivated by salary and company name. They want to solve interesting problems. The more crisply you can explain your problem and vision, the more motivated they will be to help.
Include a clear job description as well as a pitch that highlights the following:
- Overall strategy for the company
- Opportunity for this particular position
- Growth trajectory for both the company and the individual
- What they are going to be working on, what technologies and what you see as the opportunities for innovation
- What is the problem space and how their involvement will further the company strategy
Focus on the candidate in your first interview
In your first interview with a candidate, you can kick off with an elevator pitch about the company and opportunity and then shift to getting to know the candidate. Many people make the mistake of spending too much time on their company vision or trying to go deep in the tech right away instead of learning about the candidate. Make sure to have them tell you what makes them excited to determine if they are a good fit.
You can also use this time to assess their risk appetite – one question an f7 founder asks is:
“If you ended up leaving within one year of joining, what do you think we – as a company – would have gotten wrong to push you into doing that?”
This tells you what people value and allows them to reflect in a different way.
All of this will also allow you to adapt your conversations in the future to what will resonate best with them as you shift to selling them on your business.
Leverage your network and third parties to find talent
Not surprising, one of the best ways to find good talent is to leverage your network. It also allows you to get a reliable second opinion on someone from your network to get a sense of what type of worker they are.
Additionally, there are numerous third party companies that can help you source and in certain cases evaluate talent. Some leveraged by f7 founders include Karat, Fletcher.ai, Tryplebite and Tech LA.
Embrace remote work
The rise of remote work allows you to get creative with how you bring people in. Remote work taps into so many new pools of talent that were previously unavailable to companies limited by certain office locations. It is now being seen as an important perk for engineers.
There is a lot of high quality international talent and communities of talent that can be tapped into and nurtured, including in South America, which may be more time zone friendly for US based companies.
Consider hiring a Senior generalist engineer at the early stage
When you are first getting started, it is beneficial to have one of your first hires be a Senior Engineer who is a generalist. This is someone who is a swiss army knife – flexible, adaptable and able to inform your engineering needs as you grow and your product matures.
Once hired, empower your engineer(s) to come up with a plan
If you’ve done your job in finding the right talent, give your engineer(s) the chance to understand the problem space and come up with a plan to solve it. Find the balance between autonomy and accountability. Have trust in them to guide the way in terms of how they are solving the problem. Throughout the process, be sure to ask the right questions to ensure they are testing their assumptions and on the right path (i.e. how long with this take, how much will it cost, etc). You should always ask these questions, but continue to trust their skillset to get the job done.
As you grow, understand engineers’ skill sets and what environments they work well in
The skill sets required to excel in engineering and in management are different, so it’s important to understand where your engineer(s) falls on that spectrum. Some people can play a hybrid role, where they are deeply technical but also enjoy the people side of work. However, some don’t enjoy or excel in that type of hybrid role, and it can be detrimental to take a super productive, technical talent and begin adding management tasks to their workload.
As your team grows, this is something you will need to evaluate. Likewise, you’ll evolve to hiring for specific skill sets as opposed to the more general hire from the earlier days.