Openness for engineering teams


As a student, I am quite often looking at companies to see what they are doing, to understand the market and discover trends. As an engineering student, I am on the lookout for technical content, written by engineers. I discovered recently that I value a lot openness for engineering teams. Being open can be done in different ways:

  • Having a technical blog. You can understand this in multiple ways. First, you can have a blog where you talk about new features, new releases of your API / SDK. This one is quite common. The second one is really rare and very valuable to me: you talk about your engineering process, your hiring process, you share reports of outages. If you have open source projects, you have a blog post to let the technical community know about it.
  • Involvement in communities. You can be involved in communities in multiple ways: regularly sending members of your team to local meetups (not just attending if you can. Presenting and volunteering are awesome), being visible in conferences, giving explicit credit to open source solutions you are using (or giving money to them if you can afford to), host hackathons or hack days at your office. Be explicit about causes you care about and defend them.
  • Open source. Whether you contribute to open source projects or you open source some of your projects, involvement in the community is a great way to gain some exposure, let people know which technologies you are using and giving back to the community.

An update to the Joel Test?

Maybe some of these points will be in an updated “Joel Test” in the future, even if some people already say that it is partially antiquated. Personally, I would add the following questions to an updated version of the Joel Test:

  • Do you support developer education by attending conferences, purchasing books (or something equivalent)?
  • Do you have a simple, documented process to adopt new tools your team uses?
  • Do you have an engineering blog where you talk about your processes, ideas, beliefs and failures?

You can’t have it all

Being able to answer “Yes” to every questions above seems fairly difficult, and really impossible for small engineering teams. If your company is 1 year old and you are 2 engineers, you cannot put all these things in place. But as they say, “practice makes perfect”, so try to keep these goals in mind. Giving an awesome work environment to your engineers will make them productive, happy to work and so much more! Great engineering teams attract great engineers.

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