Why Teamwork and Robust Systems are Key to Driving Impact
From identifying business areas for development to fostering a team culture centered on openness and communication, Engineering Manager Kritika Kaul discusses ways in which she drives impact at GetYourGuide.
After a decade working in tech, my current role as Engineering Manager in Partner Tech is the most rewarding job I have ever had — I love working on a customer-facing product seen by millions of people every day. However, my favorite part of the role is building my team and helping them get enjoyment from the work they do.
I joined GetYourGuide in February 2022, and am based in the Zurich office. My background is in software development across a range of industries: first at an investment bank in New York, followed by a few years in fintech, and then gaming. I have also worked on my own startup aimed at reducing female foeticide.
In Partner Tech at GetYourGuide, I work with bloggers, influencers, and companies who want to display and promote our products. As an Engineering Manager, I am responsible for driving customer and business impact, which encompasses the productivity and health of both my team and the system, as well as stakeholder happiness.
Tracking, Testing, and Teamwork
For engineering managers, delivering impact calls for a two-sided approach. On the one side are measurables like data, metrics, and testing; and on the other, less tangible elements like a positive work environment and boosting team morale. First and foremost, it is important to have systems set up that help you track metrics. After all, you can’t improve what you can’t measure. We have several metrics we track and try to measure impact with everything we release. In addition, our AB testing platform enables us to run experiments and measure their impact, and have guardrail metrics set up.
They make dashboards to show the metrics which can be easily pulled later. When they see an uplift in the numbers they know they have contributed towards that.
To achieve this balance between successful delivery of products and team satisfaction, we focus on four key areas.
No matter their specific role, engineers are always guided first and foremost by data. For engineering managers, analyzing the raw data reveals where the team can make the most impact.
In the context of Partner Tech, key metrics for business impact include conversion rates and net revenue. We use this data to devise a yearly strategy. For example, this year when we looked at the data, we realized that it is more profitable for us to get our existing partners to increase their integrations, compared to acquiring new partners. As a result, we are focused on providing tools to our current customers to help them integrate more with our offerings.
We also segment the data by various parameters and explore headroom. For example, after segmenting data with language, we found out that our products are currently most popular in English- and German-speaking countries. We need to increase our coverage in other popular languages like Mandarin, Hindi, and Spanish.
Minimum Viable Product
To gauge the impact we can deliver and understand where to focus our efforts, testing is key.
Once we have a hypothesis, we come up with a minimum viable product that we need to test that hypothesis. For example, in figuring out how to get our existing partners to integrate more with us, we saw in the data that certain integrations did not have a good conversion rate. After analysis we realized that some search queries made through a manual tool were not effective. We therefore decided to come up with a new product that deciphers the context of a blog and makes better search queries.
After identifying partners who wanted to test the new product with us, we started with a simple model to get locations and run that through search. We ran AB tests on the new product to compare it to the old one. After a few iterations we were able to produce the same conversion rate as one of our best queries set by manual tool. This worked because we were able to break down the problem into the simplest hypothesis that needed to be tested — in other words, come up with an MVP to test. As a result, we were ready to take the risk to try to develop a new product.
When it comes to driving impact, it is important to enable your team to deliver faster. This helps them release a feature, analyze the data, and roll back or scale up as necessary. To facilitate this, we have easy development environments set up, and continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) enabled.
We can also release things in production to a subset of the population and check the impact. This gives the team confidence to release and test fast.
If technical debt is slowing you down, it might be faster in the long run to prioritize clearing this blockage so that the team can move faster. Also, I encourage removing or minimizing dependencies on other teams. For example, say we want to run a test that uses another team’s pages: rather than waiting on them to prioritize any changes, we make a copy of the page or pages we’re interested in to experiment on. This will give us an early indication as to whether we are on the right track.
At GetYourGuide, engineering managers are responsible for diverse teams of usually around six colleagues. For this reason, a collaborative working culture is crucial! I try to foster an environment in which people feel encouraged to come up with ideas and are brave enough to experiment. If they see an opportunity for our team to be better or to make an impact, I want them to voice their thoughts and see if we can take action. That also means sometimes that we are wrong, and that’s okay.
Empowering the team to own the results of their projects has helped us increase accountability and engagement. Before anyone starts on their project they already have a plan on what they are supposed to test and what metrics they will track. They make dashboards to show the metrics which can be easily pulled later. When they see an uplift in the numbers they know they have contributed towards that.
Communication with other teams is important too. If another team has made a change that has made an impact on their product, I like to see if it is feasible for us to use that insight as well. For example, we recently found out that one of the teams had success changing the titles of activities; this is something we will also experiment with soon.
I encourage the team to challenge me, and I challenge their ideas. I don’t let the team box themselves in their official roles. Ideas can come from anywhere and we can’t let hierarchies stop that.
Transitioning to Engineering Manager
Having made the move myself, I can confirm: Engineering Manager is a very different role from that of software engineer. I would recommend thinking carefully before switching: It means juggling many different things at the same time, caring deeply about people, and being responsible for everything that comes out of the team. I find it to be a rewarding job, but in a very different way from the individual contributor positions I’ve undertaken in the past. For example, be prepared to do a lot less coding! That’s certainly been an adjustment: I still love the instant gratification that coding delivers, but now also value the more varied, complex, and ongoing challenges and commitments that underpin the Engineering Manager role. To get a taste of what’s involved, GetYourGuide also has an Associate Engineering Manager position, for people who want to try it out before committing.
To summarize, my advice for fellow Engineering Managers is to measure everything you deliver, as well as the long-term impact of the changes. Always deliver, analyze, iterate and repeat your solutions. Lastly and perhaps most important: ask your team for help: you are one unit and everyone loves making an impact.
Other articles from this series
The Road to an Engineering Career: Learning to Code at 27
Behind The Journey: Laurence Rega - Full Stack Engineer
How to Empower Engineers with Infrastructure as Code
How we find and fix OOM and memory leaks in Java Services
From Interviews to Onboarding: Insights From an Engineering Manager