Section 3 - Teaching

Tech organizations are shaped by the leadership skills of their managers.

In that section we try to understand the people-management skills of the tech founder

9. Leadership

9.a Are you able to convincingly pitch your company?

  • (+5p) Yes
  • (-5p) No

Our opinion: The tech leader needs to know the positioning of the company. Remember, he is also a salesman when hiring devs.

9.b When was the last time you spoke with a customer?

  • (+3p) This week
  • (+1p) This month
  • (-1p) More than a month
  • (-10p) Never

Our opinion: We already mentioned the importance of the tech team being involved in the customer's feedback loop. The tech leader needs to show that this is a prio to the team spending his own time on that.

9.c How far ahead do you have your product roadmap written down?

  • (+1p) 1 month
  • (+2p) 6 months
  • (+1p) +12 months
  • (-5p) No written plan

Our opinion: The roadmap should be a mix between your vision and the customers' feedback you're receiving. Therefore, you should not plan too long in advance (risk of over-engineering it, because you don’t have enough customer feedback), but not too short (because you might be lacking vision)

9.d Do you have the values of your engineering organization written down?

  • (+2p) Yes
  • (0p) No

Our opinion: Please, do it and iterate on them. The more you communicate your values, the higher the chances that your organization will be aligned over them. If you don’t write them might still be lucky and get everybody aligned, but as soon as you hire people it might change.

10. Hiring

10.a How many developers are on your team?

10.b How many of them worked for you in the past?

  • (+3p) All
  • (+2p) Most
  • (+1p) Some
  • (-1p) None

Our opinion: At the early stage of a startup, it's great if you already know well your co-workers. It will reduce a lot of the potential friction and will ease communication.

Bringing ex-colleagues together is also a sign of the trust that others have on your leadership skills.

10.c How many have shares in the company?

  • (+3p) All
  • (+2p) Most
  • (+1p) Some
  • (-1p) None

Our opinion: Try to keep your great people focused on the longer term through shares.

Explain them the value of them even if they don’t ask for them - which, btw, is very common in Europe.

10.d How many new hires came from referrals?

  • (+3p) All
  • (+2p) Most
  • (+1p) Some
  • (-1p) None

Our opinion: In these crazy times when it's so hard to hire developers, it's great if you co-workers bring you great candidates. It's also a sign of their happiness.

10.e When you advertise a developer vacancy how many applications do you get?

  • (0p) 0-10
  • (+1p) 11-50
  • (+2) +50

Our opinion: Even if most of the initial recruitments will come through your network, try to start building an employer brand.

That's even more important if your product looks "boring".

10.f How long does it take you from first contact to hiring a developer?

  • (-2p) 1 week
  • (+1p) Weeks
  • (+1p) 1 month
  • (-2p) Months

Our opinion: Don’t get crazy trying to avoid failed hires (because you will do them anyway, and a long hiring process might mean losing great candidates).

Try to set a fair process and get the great people you find on-boarded ASAP.

10.g How does your interview process work?

  • (0p) I interview the candidate
  • (+1p) The team interviews the candidate
  • (+1p) The candidate has to code during the interview
  • (0p) The candidate has a pre-screening test

Our opinion: It's important that during the interview phase you get as close as possible to a day-to-day in the team. That's why team interviews and peer-to-peer coding exercises are good.

Pre-screening tests are tricky with senior candidates who might refuse to do them.

10.h Do you do reference calls?

  • (-10p) Never
  • (0p) Yes, references provided by the candidate
  • (+5p) Yes, including backdoor references

Our opinion: In our experience, that's the #1 predictor of future success for hires.

For the backdoor references, if you don't have common connections (check linkedin), you can ask the references provided by the candidate for somebody who didn't get along well with the candidate. Then, ask permission to the candidate to interview that 3rd person.

11. People management

11.a How many people have left your team in the last year?

  • (-10p) All
  • (-5p) Some
  • (0p) None

Our opinion: At this early stage, losing early employees tends to mean trouble...

11.b Why did they leave?

  • (-5p) Lack of motivation
  • (0p) Start own company
  • (-1p) Salary
  • (0p) Fired
  • (0p) Other

Our opinion: It could be okay if they leave to start a company. Other reasons tend to be a failure on leadership.

11.c How often do you do 1on1s with your team?

  • (+3p) Daily
  • (+2p) Weekly
  • (-2p) Monthly
  • (-10p) Never

Our opinion: Try to spend as much time as they need to learn from your team how they feel, what blocks them on doing their job, etc.

Proper 1o1s is another factor that we see having a correlation with success.

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