Episode V - Managing in a startup tech company

Paul Sawaya, Co-founder and CTO of Captain401, have a compelling conversation about the different aspects of managing engineers in a small tech company. Paul argues that it is important to not develop an “engineer-first culture”, that failure is important and communication is key.

Managing in a Startup

In a startup, it’s normal for the first few hires to be friends and former coworkers. However, when you reach a certain point you are bound to hire people you don’t know in advance. With this arrives challenges. According to Paul, one of the most important things he advises managers to do is to communicate their work style as well as asking the team members directly about their own work style.

Encourage questions and understand diversity

Paul also stresses that he encourages his employees to interrupt him more and ask for “what engineers do is quite hard”. In his experience, people are shy and might not update their manager on their work until it is completely done. That’s why he says:

“Don’t assume laziness.”

Even if people don’t do any work when you are around, it doesn’t mean they don’t work at all - maybe they work best at night? Everyone works best at different paces and at different times of the day.

Communication is Key

Additionally, Paul Sawaya has learned to take notes and he believes talking and taking notes is key in order to communicate. One way he has ensured communication within Captain401 is to establish frequent 1-on-1s with his team early on.

He expects something from his 1-on-1s and wants each conversation to be valuable in different ways than if you just talk every day in the office.

“Don’t wait until your employee is struggling with something. Just put them in the calendar to start with.”

If you make sure to have regular 1-on-1s with your employees early on, you might be able to divert problems that might otherwise start to become massive.

Listen to the entire podcast above.

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