Engineering Team Values: Guiding How We Build Products
By Martin Hunt, CTO, and Rob Cromwell, VP of Engineering
Last month, we hosted Verkada’s inaugural Builder’s Day, a day for our technical teams to come together and reflect on the previous quarter, celebrate wins, share knowledge, and prepare for the quarter ahead. Given the remote work environment we’re in, this was an important opportunity for us to think about what will propel us forward as we pursue our ambitious vision of powering the modern, integrated building.
Part of the day’s programming included a presentation around the Engineering team’s values. Our goal was simple: to crystallize the basic and fundamental qualities that should inform not only what we do, but also how we do it. From prioritizing which features we should build, to determining what the proper amount of testing is, to deciding if and how to document code, our values serve as the team’s foundation — our ultimate guide in how we build products as we set the new standard for enterprise building security.
Preparing for this presentation was a forced exercise of reflection upon the traits and qualities that we want to not only exhibit as engineering leaders, but also evaluate in candidates who want to join our team as we continue to rapidly hire. As members of a fast-growing startup, our engineering team is made up of nearly 100 professionals who are fighting for our place in the market. We are builders. We are owners. We move quickly. We have an outsized amount of responsibility that requires a tremendous amount of focus. We succeed and fail together.
As we embark upon changing how the world thinks about safety and security through our products, there are six values that guide our work. These start with ownership, which we take very seriously and believe sets our engineering team apart from others, and are followed by five other values that enable ownership and ultimately empower each individual team member to make decisions.
As a startup, one of our biggest competitive advantages is that we work in small teams and therefore have the ability to move quickly, as opposed to larger corporations where hierarchy tends to slow things down due to added people and overhead. Smaller teams help encourage autonomy and create a more pronounced sense of ownership. Not only does this result in building features and code with more care, but it also leads to higher engagement and can contribute to overall job satisfaction.
Operating with integrity in its most simplistic form means doing the right thing. In a business context, this translates to doing what is best for the company; then what is best for your team; then what is best for you. We deeply care about each engineer’s personal and professional development and take mentorship, learning and development, and career advancement very seriously; but we collectively put the best interest of the business above all else in every decision we make — no matter how big or small. This also means doing right by the customer, ensuring that we meet or exceed best practices around data privacy and security as well as build best-in-class features that satisfy customers’ needs.
#3: Persistence and Grit
Being part of a fast-growing startup is not without its challenges, and those who do not exhibit persistence and grit in the face of adversity are not successful. We learn from our mistakes and triumphs, we iterate and pivot when things aren’t working, and we persist no matter how difficult it might be, with our vision at the forefront of all we do.
#4: Bias Towards Action
Having a bias towards actions means instead of waiting for things to happen, you make them happen. This does not mean we compromise quality for speed and ship fragile code that will break easily. Rather, we take initiative to move things forward quickly that we believe will meaningfully contribute to the advancement of our product.
As technical experts in our field, we devise novel and innovative ideas that solve customer problems in a way that products from our competitors don’t. We don’t want to be good, and we don’t want to be great; we want to be the best. Team members take it upon themselves to continue learning and ideating, and we uphold ourselves to the highest standards with regards to the products we create. We recognize that engineering is a craft — a skill that we practice and continue to improve upon. Craft doesn’t mean that we strive for perfection, but instead that we learn how to apply our skills optimally in a fast-paced, iterative environment with evolving use cases, limited resources, and finite time.
While we value giving engineer’s autonomy and ownership, teamwork is absolutely essential in our ability to succeed. We are all laser-focused on the priorities in front of us, and collaborating with and relying upon our peers for input, feedback, and even motivation ultimately enables us to more effectively achieve our goals.