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16 ways to build a better dev team

Paul Heltzel | June 21, 2016
The secret to building and maintaining a great development team requires transparency, flexibility, and yes, good vibes

Why not run with that instinct and provide a valuable refresh for your engineers’ souls and minds?

At Cisco, Whaley says the company “encourages employees to volunteer their time to help their community or support a global cause. These volunteer opportunities are a way to give back and to spend time together as a team.”

11. Keep connected

If you have a dispersed workgroup and not enough budget to fly the whole team in for a fancy work retreat, you gotta get creative to stay connected and keep remote workers motivated and in the loop.

Nathen Harvey, vice president of community development at Chef, says the company has found ways to bond even though their developers are spread around the country.

“We host all-virtual meetings regularly, so everyone dials into a videoconference and has the same experience. We even host virtual happy hours.” -- Nathen Harvey, vice president of community development, Chef

“We have offices in Seattle, San Francisco, and London. I work remote from Maryland or am often on the road out at community events,” Harvey says. “We host all-virtual meetings regularly, so everyone dials into a videoconference and has the same experience. We even host virtual happy hours. In maintaining an effective team of engineers, think about what are the things that they enjoy. It doesn’t matter if they are introverted or extroverted, social butterflies or socially awkward, the thing they’ll all love is getting to know one another. Once you know those on your team, it becomes easier to get to know people from other departments.”

12. Bear down

Sometimes heading out for drinks or taking the team sailing isn’t the best route to better teamwork and productivity.

“I've found that good developers are engaged much more when you provide them with professional satisfaction than when you ask them to go outside [the office],” says Nir Cohen, an ops architect at GigaSpaces. “Most of them would actually prefer to stay in and discuss work.”

But if sticking to the office means more meetings, team building or not, you’re doing it wrong.

As John Piekos, VoltDB’s vice president of engineering, points out, it’s important to keep developers challenged -- but not stuck in meetings, even if you’re all standing.

“Engineers like to work on hard problems and are most effective when they are uninterrupted,” Piekos says. “So one of my philosophies is to keep interruptions and especially meetings to a minimum. Each team has their stand-ups and backlog grooming meetings, and we hold iteration review meetings every two weeks. Beyond that I have a weekly staff meeting with my team leads (product owners) and a quarterly 30-minute organizational update meeting. One of my engineers even uses the lack of meetings as a selling point while interviewing our engineering candidates.”


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