Engineering and People Operations: The Story Behind Opportunities to Grow and Develop within Symphony

Engineering and People Operations: The Story Behind Opportunities to Grow and Develop within Symphony

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April 8th, 2021

Usually, when someone mentions learning opportunities and career development, people automatically assume it’s either the engineering or People Operations department leading all activities. In reality, it takes two to tango, and in our case, it takes both of these departments to provide extraordinary support to provide the best environment for our engineers to strive.  Now, let’s take it to the beginning. Mirza Dervisevic, Head of Software Engineering at our development center in Sarajevo, joined Symphony almost ten years ago as an engineer, from where he advanced to his current position. Enis Kudo, People Operations Manager, joined Symphony in a breakthrough moment for us - our spiral growth has just begun, and we were, more than ever, focused on providing the best support to our community members. Like in most successful business partnerships, it took just one moment for Mirza and Enis to connect - in their case, it was Star Trek. "Mirza's and my relationship built gradually, the way Symphony grew. The most interesting thing is it all started with Star Trek," Enis began the story. Fun fact, a few years later, there is still an ongoing debate between Enis and Mirza on which Star Trek series is superior. 

Everything Starts and Ends With People

“Our success stories began almost naturally. In the beginning, we joined forces to provide more support from each of our sides to give engineers opportunities to grow and develop,” says Enis. He explained how they were determined to see more and more engineers engaged, satisfied, and happy with their careers at the end of the day. One of their most successful initiatives was implementing the first version of the Performance Management in Symphony. Enis and Mirza developed it based on the individual development program and the Team Lead role definition. Both of them were familiar with the fact that Symphony is changing and evolving almost all the time, and we needed a flexible system to meet the business's needs. “The first step was introducing the performance management process through two aspects: gathering information and feedback. With the introduction of the Team Lead role for teams, we got the so-called link between people and both the Engineering and People Operations department, monitoring people's progress,” Mirza started.  Enis explained Performance Management: "We see the performance management project as a win-win situation. It means that we meet the business's needs on the one hand, and on the other hand, we provide people with perspective, a unique experience, a culture of growth, and continuous learning. We are proud that we have made a calibration on the company level of what good engineers are, what we need to grow further, desirable behaviors, and what people want.” "Different clients mean a more comprehensive range of expertise. On the other hand, it is the breadth of expertise that allows the company to offer better service to its clients. We work on projects in state-of-the-art technologies, banking, healthcare, trade, transport, and projects in the energy sector. This is an opportunity for everyone, not only in terms of different tech stacks but also in difficulty. So, when we assign people to a particular project, we think of a set of different factors. Sometimes it's the desire of people to pursue a particular technology, and sometimes it's the opportunity for people to advance in their careers. We are well aware that we cannot always meet the needs of people and company every time. Still, we are continuously trying to create a comprehensive system that allows us to get to a place and situation where everyone wins. The Performance Management system brought us precisely that - we are now constantly improving, adapting, and upgrading our processes to match both worlds and needs.” adds Mirza. His words further prove that engineering and People Operations in Symphony are thinking alike when it comes to career development and learning opportunities. 

Investing in Technical and Personal Development 

Of course, every system needs constant work and improvement. Performance management started with technical feedback and gradually evolved into in-depth conversations about project placement and opportunities that resulted in much better output. "We like to say that our Performance Management starts with the selection process where we truly get to know the person who is coming. People often mention that our selection process is complex but thorough. Still, with it, we create a perfect foundation to provide multiple layers of development for our engineers,” explained Enis, adding that in Symphony, we are led by an idea that a person should not change their company but the project.  Mirza added: “Investing in the technical development of our people is imperative in Symphony. We want each person to tell their own story. We try to encourage people to share their experiences. We are guided by the principle of so-called cross-pollination, where people from different projects share their experiences and ways they have overcome specific challenges. We are constantly monitoring and exploring possibilities that match people’s capabilities and aspirations - these activities allow us to offer a person to work in Python in a short period if he or she no longer wants to work in Java, for example.”

Discovering New Horizons Means Challenging and Improving People’s Skills

The Performance Management system never sleeps, actually. To explain it better, Enis shares his experiences "The possibility of advancement and constant technical challenges is the root of everything we do at Symphony. On our side, it is essential to identify development areas and empower people. When needed, we ask for support from other departments within the organization. Just look at it like this, if you have someone who is a great engineer but has a fear of public speaking, we should do something to support him or her to grow further. Our Talent Development team usually works with this person through individual coaching, workshops, and similar activities to overcome obstacles. This is the only way that person will indeed move forward, but also, we as a company will know that we have someone who knows how to talk with our clients about unique products we’re building. On the other hand, we also have on-the-job learning that includes focusing on full-stack, DevOps, working with internal experts, tech workshops, and more.” "The fact that we are working with different clients gives us a breadth of expertise and an opportunity to find a good match for everyone. We are currently working on returning to full-stack development. We want to have more rounded engineers who have a better understanding of the project from multiple aspects. This initiative got a great response from the people, as their development has been at least doubled, giving us more options to assign a person on a specific project," Mirza explained.  Every project in Symphony is some sort of a milestone for people. We always try to offer people, as they move further, more and more challenging tasks to constantly challenge and improve their skills, and discover new horizons. Since creating the performance management framework, we have gone from coaching Team Leads and initiating feedback sessions to establishing a system that grows and develops almost independently now. Today, we have Team Leads that influence other people's development, which means the level of seniority within teams grows much faster than before. We think the fact that we have grown from three to thirteen Team Leads in a very short period speaks for itself." Enis and Mirza concluded.  Embrace what life offers you, and don’t be afraid to ask for more. 

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