Do engineers want to participate in figuring out what to build next?

MediaMath doodle0
May 14 39 Comments

I ask because being a PM, I am curious. In an ideal world, I want thought partners to think deeply on problems and potential solutions

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TOP 39 Comments
  • New worlz
    I do. In fact I only wanna build stuff I believe makes sense for the product. But, there are engineers that only care about engineering challenges, not product challenges.
    May 14 3
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      Yes! Absolutely. In your experience, have you been involved with figuring out what to build next? If so, what did you like about it? And, what did you not like about it?
      May 14
    • New worlz
      Yes. Pros: The ability to influence the roadmap to move the needle faster, ability to explain costs before people commit to anything. Cons: Everyone thinks their ideas are magical and they rarely are. People optimize for their own points of pain. Coming up with a framework of how to judge/pick features is the hard part.
      May 14
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      Super helpful, thank you 🙏.
      May 15
  • New / Eng |l|l||l|l|
    Depends on the engineer.
    May 14 4
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      Well, are you an engineer? Can you speak to this from your experience?
      May 14
    • New / Eng |l|l||l|l|
      I'm an engineer and I care about product more than most other engineers I know.
      May 14
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      I was speaking with a PM at Amazon last night. His hypothesis was that often engineers don’t get involved in doing discovery and making these type of decisions because of cost reasons. Companies decide that their time is better spent developing. But, apparently for a few full funded initiatives, this isn’t a concern.

      Does that sound true to you?
      May 15
    • New / Eng |l|l||l|l|
      I don't know, maybe you should ask an EM
      May 15
  • Google frogcreek
    No, engineers just want PMs to boss them around. Also, make sure you tell us what programming language to use and if we should indent with tabs or spaces. Or both of you’re bold.
    May 14 3
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      Sarcasm noted! I don’t blame you. My question can feel appalling.

      Would really like your thoughts on this. I promise I am really trying to figure out real stuff here.

      All the literature and experts says that dedicated teams should be making these decisions. But, that isn’t the reality everywhere... Is the literature too idealistic or is my reality too dystopian?
      May 14
    • Google frogcreek
      Wow great response to my sarcasm. I think the answer is people want to feel like they could be included in the discussion for what to build next, and want to have a say on what they work on. But not every engineer wants to think about the business or user context, some want to be able to just focus on and choose to work on the technical problems.

      So I think people want to be invited to participate, and some will want to participate but others won’t be interested.
      May 14
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      That is very helpful. I guess then I organize these brainstorming, prioritizing, and discovery sessions and open them to the team... From there, I should expect some folks to participate but not all.

      This helps in making generalizations based on one or two experiences, thank you! 🙏
      May 15
  • I love brainstorming as much as I love doing the actual work after that. Brainstorming helps me know the bigger picture, where it's coming from, who are my end customers, what's the goal, soft and hard timelines, challenges etc.

    While all these do not assist in the actual work, they certainly assist in replicating work from one project to the other, preparing and presenting final results, and assessing overall impact.

    Downside is if those meetings are frequent, it blocks my calendar. Also, sometimes those discussions are very random more like shooting in the dark. I like then to be crisp and quick.
    May 14 5
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      So many gold nuggets here. Thank you for your nuanced answer. I greatly appreciate it 🙏
      May 14
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      How might a PM might the brainstorming real work that isn’t too vague?

      One idea I heard was putting discovery on the board. That perhaps makes it real work. Or maybe not?

      How about the vague piece? Would better agendas and meeting management solve that problem?
      May 14
    • Good questions there. I bet you are a good PM who is working on better collaboration with the team. Not many people do this do kudos to you.

      1. I personally like PMs to be somewhat technical. The PM I work with is super good from both a business and technical perspective, and i can vouch that makes things so much smoother. Example, usually business people don't understand data nuances, how much time a piece of code takes to write, etc. Being technical helps estimate timelines better and also rule out ideas that are feasible from a business standpoint but not from a technical standpoint.

      2. When I mentioned about the vague point, I meant things far too off from the technical aspect when there are technical people in the meeting. Just like PMs don't need to invited to every code review meeting, similarly engineers don't need to be invited to every PM meeting. Just the ones where both can benefit. It's about valuing each other's time. Example - if there are product budget or legal approval discussions, for example, that's too vague for me. But if it's a product feature discussion, it's closer to my work.

      3. Yes, agendas help. Nothing too fancy, just quick 4-5 pointers in the calendar invite. They align everyone during the meeting and prevent from spending too much time on one pointer, thus avoiding unnecessary additional meetings.

      Hope this helps.
      May 14
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      YES, this helps. Really appreciate you taking the time to jot this down 🙏
      May 15
    • Neurocrine python 4.0
      All the best
      May 15
  • Microsoft grm
    There is a trade-off. Ultimately engineers build that next thing and take lots of assumptions in the process (related to future iterations of the product, integration story with other products, what telemetry is important, for which use cases perf is critical, etc). Understanding at least some of the vision makes it more likely that they build what you wanted them to build and it can be iterated on like you expected and wanted it to. No spec will be perfect, and it is impossible to ask for clarifications for every aspect of it. It is also impossible to design a product with perfect perf and flexibility in all aspects and it is better to make those tradeoffs consciously.

    Personally I enjoy understanding the business side of things well and regularly challenge PMs and designers on what to do next or how to do it (since I understand the telemetry better than them in most cases)
    May 14 3
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      Your PMs and designers are lucky to have you!

      Does it feel like a waste of time sometimes since it isn’t actual work on the board? Also, do the meetings suck up your calendar and end up being too vague sometimes?
      May 14
    • Microsoft grm
      The brainstorming process imo is the process to bring out possibly vague ideas, make them more concrete (and make their validation story concrete). There will be ambiguity and the goal is to reduce it as much as possible (or decide next steps to do that)

      Just like any other meeting, such meetings don't feel like a waste of time if they are conducted well. Like having a good agenda, good moderator, specific next steps and follow-ups (most meetings are not conducted well imo)
      May 14
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      You are very right. Most meetings aren’t conducted well.

      What I am hearing from you is that you value the ROI on your time investment. Makes a lot of sense.

      Thanks a lot!
      May 15
  • Bloomberg / Eng THNK<GO>
    That’s literally how we run @ Bloomberg .
    Engineers innovate , build , deploy and even support the product end to end , even though they are kind of looking to change that these days .
    PM are more in coordination and focus oriented role where they talk to customers and understand there needs and help engineers to the innovation and FOCUS on the MVPs .
    I stress on focus as we engineers always tend to make things perfect even though it might fall under the 20% of the 80/20 rule.

    Always let the team decide on what’s needed , you can focus on gathering customer pain points and needs
    May 14 2
    • Microsoft grm
      Yeah, it is very hard sometimes to argue against making something perfect as an engineer (because then you can potentially get labelled as a person who thinks technical sloppiness is ok). But it is the truth that unnecessary code/ design keeps adding unnecessary complexity that actually important features have to pay the price for (possibly resulting in a net negative business impact)
      May 14
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      Definitely sounds like you guys do this really well at Bloomberg! Appreciate you sharing.

      If I may, one question for you: In your experience, do you want the PM to be involved in coming up with solutions with you once a customer need has been identified. I ask because solutions could be dramatically different from user experience and business value perspective
      May 15
  • Cisco Eyeh
    Architects and engineers with entrepreneurial mindset would be very much interested.
    May 14 2
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      From your experience, is this smth you have done? I mean been part of a team figuring out what to build next? What did you like about it? What did you not like about it?
      May 14
    • Cisco Day10
      Yup. That’s something I have been doing for past 5 years.
      May 15
  • Ascension Health / Eng
    10xUrTC

    Ascension Health Eng

    PRE
    Facebook
    10xUrTCmore
    I wish there were no PMs in my organization. Such a waste of resources and engineers' time.
    May 14 1
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      Oh no, I am sorry to hear that. Might you be open to sharing your worst experience with a PM? Hopefully I learn from it and not inflict similar pain on engineers in my organization
      May 14
  • Uber framrew
    As a PM, it’s your job to be pulling in data from a variety of sources to help you best set the direction of the product. Engineers that work on your product should be one of those sources.
    May 14 1
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      Indeed! What I am wondering is whether an engineer / several participate in the process of pulling in data from a variety of sources to help the team best set the direction of the product, in your experience?
      May 15
  • OpenTable Meliodas
    Generally, yes.

    When it becomes spitballing sessions with no realistic chance of getting to production, they lose interest, as they are still responsible for getting current features out the door.

    We often include a few engineers in design sessions for new features. Good ideas come from anywhere.

    Some of our best product features come from our hackathons. There is definitely interest.
    May 14 1
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      That’s really helpful context! Would you mind me asking what role you currently perform?
      May 15
  • Amdocs Kutagawa
    Personally, yes. I assume it depends on the specific person
    May 14 1
    • MediaMath doodle0
      OP
      That’s very fair. In your experience, what kind of people don’t care about being involved with what to build next?
      May 14
  • Charter / Eng
    Mæstro

    Charter Eng

    PRE
    T-Mobile
    Mæstromore
    Engineers like solving problems, even not necessarily problems that affect them directly. They are usually naturally curious, and experiment often to learn.

    One of the most valuable things you could probably do is get prototypes from them or talk to them about their side projects.

    I have built multi million dollar data sets/ pipelines for my company out of pure curiosity. But I don't know who would pay my Dept for them and they weren't requested... so they are just sitting on my hard drive.
    May 14 0
  • Spotify hectrbdz
    Of course!

    Why else would we have decided to join the team?
    May 14 0