Keeping Engineering Teams Moving Onward and Upward at Movable Ink

We asked one engineering leader how he helps his team work, grow and avoid burnout.
Written by Conlan Carter
March 27, 2024Updated: March 27, 2024

In the tech landscape, retaining employees is just as important as hiring new ones. How an organization supports its employees’ overall satisfaction with their workplace has a direct impact on their tenure, productivity and overall happiness — and, by extension, the company culture.

For engineers in the tech space, long-term, like career growth opportunities and burnout, are most impactful. Both factors can be addressed directly by engineering leaders with a healthy investment in their team. Growth opportunities are a central part of the manager-direct report relationship, but burnout varies from employee to employee. 

In a recent report on professional burnout from Reclaim.ai, employees reported being about 60 percent burnt out overall. Top burnout contributors for software and engineering professionals were lack of time for focused work, notification fatigue and excessive meetings.

Built In New York had the opportunity to speak with one leader, Dennis Shy, a director of engineering at Movable Ink, about his experience guiding engineers to better, happier work experiences. With a combination of one-on-one coaching, excellent development tools and enthusiasm for pushing engineers to lead on their own, Shy helps make Movable Ink a great place for engineers to thrive.

 

Dennis Shy
Director of Engineering • Movable Ink

Moveable Ink provides software that empowers marketers with scalable, omnichannel personalization through data activation and AI decision-making.

 

Developers will always face some difficulties in the workplace, and sometimes these challenges lead to burnout. What warning signs do you look for in your software developers? What actions do you take when you see signs of burnout?

One way I identify burnout is by noticing changes in behavior within otherwise consistent performers. Is my most vocal developer suddenly withdrawn in a meeting? Did someone submit a changeset for review containing multiple regressions when their work usually is much higher quality? In these cases, I make a mental note to follow up with them.

Weekly one-on-one meetings are crucial for building trust with my team, so I can better understand the individual. I use that time to establish that experiencing burnout and feeling overwhelmed is not a failure on the individual. Listening carefully also helps me ask follow-up questions, so I can discover actionable steps to address any concerns. That being said, as a manager, it can be difficult to tackle every root cause of burnout. So, it’s important to supplement with mental wellness strategies like taking time off.

Weekly one-on-one meetings are crucial for building trust with my team. ”

 

One factor that contributes to developer burnout is observability, or checking that apps and systems are working correctly to prevent bottlenecks or bugs. How do you help developers identify issues at their source as soon as they occur, so that they're not sifting through a slog of information downstream?

On my team, I appreciate the level of developer observability we currently have. Every developer has experienced the feeling of digging through logs only to find that the crucial piece of information that you need isn’t there, which is why we invest in reliable developer observability tools.

As an example, we use Sentry and NewRelic for our RoR application. Developers on my team have saved time by discovering the Sentry event that corresponds with a user experiencing a regression in our platform. These events contain all kinds of helpful information, such as the exact line of code that threw the error along with any provided parameters. This has saved countless hours of developer time.

Of course, observability is something that you have to constantly invest in, and there are plenty of times when we lack coverage. It’s important for me to empower individuals on my team to improve the system’s observability, sometimes working with our DevOps team — which can be itself an opportunity for individuals too.

 

What sorts of creative stretch projects or meaningful growth opportunities do you offer developers on your team? The more specific, the better.

I’m a huge fan of every developer, regardless of experience or title, having an opportunity to lead a project. It helps individuals develop the skills necessary to advance into senior and staff positions while reinforcing the idea that contributing to a project isn’t solely shipping code. This helps spread the domain knowledge more effectively across an entire team so that no single individual is the sole owner of an area of the platform. This has the added benefit of reducing knowledge silos. The responsibilities of a project lead on our team vary depending on the project. But the most common ones are to collaborate on a solution with stakeholders such as product managers, designers and architects, anticipate roadblocks and proactively address them, and help form the backlog that other developers will implement.

 

 

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