Why You Need a Director of Developer Experience

In a previous post I talked about what a CTO does and how at Weave I kept the ownership of the overall engineering culture at Weave. As we have grown (now to over 60 engineers) it gets harder and harder to manage the communication and operational culture of the department. In some ways, things have to change (you just can’t operate the same way as you did with 10 engineers) but there are other cultural values that you do not want to change… ever.

To mitigate this you have to hammer home your cultural values as much as possible without it becoming tedious. We run a quarterly review with the entire department and make sure to review our mission statement along with all our values. In addition, we highlight at least one item from the engineering manifesto each demo day (every two weeks).

But even with that focus on the culture, still things get lost into the ether of a larger employee base. Along with those previous concerns, there are other concerns around the full employee lifecylce and how the operational culture is around the interview process, employee onboarding, and training, to name a few.

At Weave, we have always said we want to train some of the best engineers in the nation. We want people that leave here to come away with tons of knowledge and be significantly better than they were when they got here. We have put some processes in place for that (skill and scope, and other career progression processes) but have put the bulk of the responsibility on our engineering managers to head up training and people development. Because chapter leads (our engineering managers) also are on a squad and have to build products (player coaches), it is often people development that falls by the wayside.

I proposed we create a full-time position that is all about people development and engineering efficiency at Weave. The new position would be the Director of Develper Experience (DDE).

I know Developer Experience means different things to different companies, so here is what I proposed the responsibilities of this position should be.

Hiring Process

An engineer’s experience at Weave starts with the hiring process. It also helps create a good reputation for us among the engineering community. Having the DDE own the hiring process gets them involved early in creating an amazing experience for engineers. The DDE is NOT in charge of interviewing every candidate. They are in charge of developing the hiring process in collaboration with the VP of Engineering, other directors, and engineering managers.

Training Programs

As new engineers start they need to be trained in many things. For backend developers at Weave, this most often involves a completely new language (Go). In addition, it means learning all sorts of department/chapter specific knowledge and then squad-specific knowledge. The DDE would come up with intuitive ways to educate new and current engineers on all these things and help managers facilitate the education. Training programs could include, but are not limited to:

  • Group training sessions on engineering best practices
  • Training and documentation for new chapter leaders and tech leads
  • New hire training

Documentation of Best Practices

Along with training, the DDE would own the methods and processes around documenting our development practices. This is not to say the DDE creates all documentation, but spearheads a method and process around documentation and helps engineering leaders use the method to document their knowledge. Specifically looking at automation as documentation could be very useful.

Public Outreach

While this position is mostly focused on internal engineering success, I think it it is wise to spend a portion of time doing outreach via meetups and other venues. I suggested about 10% of time be dedicated to this.

Build Developer Experience Team

As our team grows, and in particular if we raise money, we will need to make this a team effort. That includes engineers to build out custom internal systems for our people development needs (e.g. A system to track skill and scope, and what engineers are working on in their career progression).

Results so Far

We promoted one of our most senior engineers that was at the top of his S-curve (a.k.a. getting bored in his current role) to this new role and it has been amazing so far. He started with his focus on the hiring process and based on surveys of new employees he increased satisfaction significantly for the new hires. I’m excited to watch as this role continues to form and will post a followup post after a year or so letting you know how it has helped our department.