The second piece of my blog is going to be a little different from the last one. I decided to stalk an Engineering Manager that works at Zendesk. As a Technical Recruiter I spend every single day speaking with engineers, trying to understand how they work, what excites them, what drives them. This led me to spend an entire day with one of them to see what it’s like.
As a little girl I, along with most people, had some misconceptions around the word “engineer”. What I perceived to be a very mathematical and methodical role is actually a lot more about being creative and problem solving.
First of all let me introduce the person that I glued myself to — Elisa Coluccia. Elisa started at Zendesk 6 months ago. She is managing one of our mobile teams. This team is responsible for a manifestation of our support product within mobile. It is an app that enables our customers to help their customers on the go. As an Engineering Manager she has lots of responsibilities and she allowed me to have a good overview of some of those.
Elisa starts the day with ticket duty, an operative task. It is a task that managers don’t need to do but she feels it is important for her to check how the application is working which allows her to have more informed conversations with the engineers on her team. When a customer has a problem there’s a space in our app dedicated for people to talk with us, enabling us to help the customer directly — through a creation of a ticket. It depends on the day and how busy she is but normally she tries to take at least 30 minutes to cover ticketing duty.
The first meeting I got the chance to attend was with Patricia, the Test Engineer assigned to her team. At Zendesk we work in a embedded QA and DevOps model. The goal of these meetings depends on the stage of the project but this one was to work on improving an instrument that the team is using for the visibility of the release process.
As soon as we finished with Patricia we were straight into the next meeting. “Singing in the Shower”, one of our oddly named meeting rooms was the venue, to meet with 2 engineers on her team — Richard and Jeremy to discuss the Android API support strategy. As the previous one, very technical, but it was super interesting to understand what is being done on the Android side of things.
At Zendesk we work in a Agile methodology, with sprints, daily stand-ups and retrospectives. We try to follow it as closely as possible, however, some teams have variations…
I was really lucky since I chose the day of the Sprint Retrospective. Elisa gives great importance to the preparation of the Sprint Retro. Basically, she takes data from the past sprints and sums up in order to share with her team the achievements and the areas that need further development. She said that it is essential to look at the aggregated data from a team perspective and not on a individual perspective. The data reflects the “velocity” of the team in each sprint, which is an indicator of the complexity of the work completed.
Next up, I grabbed the 1st seat on the team stand-up. They gather together in a circle and throw a stress ball to each other. If you have the ball, you talk! This is your opportunity to discuss what you will be working on that day. This kind of practices encourages positive team building, builds and improves collaboration within team members and also reduces roadblocks and problems. It was interesting because Elisa’s team is a big team, we have 3 Android Engineers, 4 iOS Engineers, a Test Engineer, a Product Designer and a Product Manager so I got to understand what each person was working on.
Elisa suddenly became super excited and I found it weird.. It was 4pm on a Monday so I asked her why. She told me that now we were going to her 1st Sprint Demo meeting. This is a great opportunity for them to show each other small demos of what they have done to progress the app they are working on. They share ideas, they give constructive criticism and highlight the good work done. After the meeting was over, I could understand Elisa’s excitement. Not only was her 1st Sprint Demo as a Manager at Zendesk but also it was a great way to see how her team is evolving.
A bit later that evening everyone got together for the Sprint Retrospective. It is a safe space for the participants to speak about what happened in the previous sprint, what worked well and what can be improved, but also to celebrate the achievements. Elisa’s contribution is mainly around sharing important data but she also tries to help the team to take action and improve on key areas.
Finally the day ended the best way. Richard was expecting his first-born so the team organized a surprise baby shower. We had balloons, Zendesk branded baby clothes, whistles and obviously… CAKE!
All the mobile team played their part on organizing the baby shower. A few took care of the decorations and food others brought the confetti. It was so nice to see how they all get along so well and how they care about each other.
I felt that I learnt so much from shadowing Elisa. I had a little taste of what it means to be a Manager at Zendesk. It was a great way of reminding myself why I love to work in a company like Zendesk. It is so rewarding to see how the engineers share such a collaborative environment. They come together to build awesome products, they have the opportunity not only to work with modern tools but also to share their ideas in a safe space and all that while having lots of fun. What else could someone want?