4 min. read

How to Build High-Performing Tech Teams

An interview with Pooja Salpekar, Head of Engineering at Babbel (Part 2)

Building the Dream Team

The way you structure your team can make or break your success.

Let’s uncover Pooja’s secrets to creating high-performing, collaborative tech teams. This is the second part of Pooja’s interview, click here to read the first part.

Xena: How do you approach structuring tech teams for optimal performance and collaboration?

Pooja: The first step in structuring a tech team is to understand its core mission and how it will contribute to the organization’s success. This clarity helps in identifying the necessary roles and skill sets required for the team.

Beyond technical skills, it’s crucial to balance the team with diverse personality traits. For instance, you need a mix of doers, thought leaders, challengers, and cautious planners. This blend of personalities ensures that the team can approach problems from multiple perspectives and work together effectively.

Xena: How do you encourage autonomy and accountability within tech teams while maintaining alignment with broader strategic goals, especially across distributed teams?

Pooja: Team autonomy is crucial for long-term success. To foster this, it’s important that every team member understands how their role fits into the larger organization and how their work impacts top-level metrics. This clarity makes it easier to define the team’s scope, which in turn promotes autonomy and accountability.

In distributed teams, the key differentiator is the process used to establish and implement this autonomy. Clear communication channels, well-defined processes, and regular check-ins are essential to ensure that autonomy is balanced with alignment to broader strategic goals. This approach helped me maintain connectedness and focus, even when teams are geographically dispersed.

Xena: How can one balance the need for specialised skills with the importance of cross-functional collaboration?

Pooja: Balancing specialized skills with cross-functional collaboration starts with understanding the team’s and organization’s needs. If specific specialized skills are required, it’s essential to either hire individuals with those skills or invest in developing them within the team.

Every individual typically has a T-shaped skill set—some excel in a broad range of areas, while others have deep expertise in a specific field. As a team leader, it’s your role to match these diverse skill sets with business needs, ensuring that specialized knowledge is available while promoting collaboration across different functions. This approach helps create a well-rounded team capable of addressing complex challenges.

Xena: How do you foster a culture of continuous learning and skill development within your tech teams?

Pooja: It’s easy to get caught up in daily project work and repeatedly tackle similar problems. However, to develop creative and relevant solutions, team members must continuously update their knowledge and acquire new skills.

In my department, we allocate 20% of our engineers’ time specifically for learning and development. In my department, we have a dedicated week every six weeks where all three teams come together to focus on learning new technologies, challenging existing solutions, and performing necessary refactoring. This practice not only brings my teams together regularly but also allows product managers to clearly separate product sprints from learning weeks. This structured approach ensures that continuous learning is a priority and seamlessly integrated into our workflow.

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