4 min. read

The Balancing Act: Orchestrating Tech Teams & Managerial Dynamics

An interview with Pooja Salpekar, Head of Engineering at Babbel (Part 1)

Every line of code carries the promise of progress, and every collaborative effort paves the way for impactful change. 

But how? We believe there’s a true artform form that blends managerial prowess with the raw ingenuity of tech teams. Prepare to be inspired and informed as we delve into the secrets behind building cohesive teams, refining methodologies, and nurturing a culture of innovation in this interview with Pooja Salpekar – Head of Engineering at Babbel.

Pooja is a seasoned Head of Engineering with over a decade of experience in software development and team leadership. She is passionate about mentorship and has a strong track record of leading cross-functional engineering teams to achieve business goals. Pooja’s focus on enabling iterative feature delivery has driven key performance metrics and ensured customer satisfaction throughout her career.

Get ready to discover the essence of tech team orchestration—where managerial dynamics set the stage for brilliance.

Leadership & Management: Navigating the Leadership Labyrinth

Great leadership in tech requires more than just technical prowess.

We delved into the essential qualities and strategies that define effective leaders in the tech industry with our Pooja.

Xena: What qualities do you believe are essential for effective leadership? What have you learned over the years?

Pooja: Effective leadership requires vision, clear communication, and adaptability. Over the years, I’ve learned that no two teams are the same; what works for one may not work for another. Leaders must understand their role in shaping and directing a team by tapping into the motivations and strengths of each individual. It’s essential to tailor your approach to fit the unique dynamics of each team, creating an environment where everyone can thrive and contribute to the team’s success.

Xena: How can managers balance technical expertise with strong leadership skills?

Pooja: Balancing technical expertise with strong leadership skills requires a commitment to continuous learning and skill development. Managers need to stay updated with industry trends and advancements, especially in areas relevant to their team. This keeps their technical knowledge sharp and relevant.

Equally important is the ongoing effort to hone leadership abilities. One effective method is to regularly reflect on past team challenges, considering how you handled them and how you might approach them differently now. This kind of reflection helps you grow and adapt as a leader.

Project Management & Execution: Mastering the Art of Getting Things Done

Executing tech projects efficiently involves more than just technical know-how.

Pooja shared insights on prioritising tasks, managing resources, and ensuring that processes truly serve the team.

Xena: How do you prioritise tasks and allocate resources effectively in a tech project? Are these systems here to serve the manager or the team?

Pooja: That’s an interesting question. Sometimes, strictly following processes can lead us to focus on minor issues. For example, if team velocity drops, we might revisit estimations, or if bugs in production increase, we might scrutinize our testing pipeline. These guidelines address common problems, but applying generic solutions might only offer short-term relief.

It’s crucial to dig deeper. For instance, if production bugs increase, understanding their nature is essential. Timeout errors or network issues can’t always be resolved by improving the testing pipeline.

So, while guidelines are helpful, solutions should be tailored to serve the team’s specific needs. Systems and processes should ultimately support the team, ensuring that their unique challenges are effectively addressed.

Xena: How do you manage expectations between technical teams and stakeholders?

Pooja: Managing expectations between technical teams and stakeholders begins with establishing a common language to bridge the gap between technical and non-technical perspectives. Clear and effective communication is key to ensuring both parties understand each other’s priorities and constraints.

Once this understanding is in place, several tools and practices can help manage expectations. Quarterly planning sessions provide a high-level view of upcoming projects and priorities, aligning long-term goals. OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) help in setting and tracking measurable goals that resonate with both technical teams and stakeholders. Sprint demos offer regular opportunities to showcase progress, gather feedback, and make necessary adjustments in a timely manner.

Xena: What advice do you have for teams looking to optimise their tech stack for efficiency and collaboration? (e.g. Tools)

Pooja: Optimizing your tech stack for efficiency and collaboration involves choosing tools that enhance both productivity and teamwork. Start by evaluating your current tools and processes to identify gaps and redundancies

Look for integrated solutions that reduce context switching. For example, think of all touchpoints that a software team can have and can you consolidate those in one or two tools? 

Automations are very powerful. When I join a new team, first thing I look for is what tasks are we repeating and how much time are we spending doing that. Automating repetitive tasks is such a low hanging fruits to increase team’s efficiency.

Xena: Can you share an example of how implementing new technologies has transformed the way your team operates and delivers value through products?

Pooja: A few years ago, we introduced a web performance monitoring tool. This tool allowed my teams to monitor the impact of our releases on end-user experience in real-time. By identifying performance bottlenecks quickly, we could make immediate adjustments, ensuring a smoother and more responsive user experience.

Moreover, we are now integrating this performance data with our business KPIs through our existing performance dashboard. This connection helps us understand how technical improvements directly impact business outcomes, such as user engagement and conversion.

Future Trends & Predictions: Navigating Tomorrow’s Tech Landscape

Pooja shares their predictions on the future trends that will shape tech team management and leadership.

Xena: What do you foresee as the future of tech team management and leadership?

Pooja: I see the future of tech team management really leaning into flexibility and inclusivity. With remote and hybrid work becoming more common, having the right communication and collaboration tools is going to be more important than ever. It’s all about fostering a culture of trust and giving teams the autonomy to make decisions while keeping everyone aligned with the bigger picture.

AI and automation are also going to be game-changers. They’ll help streamline workflows and boost productivity, but it means we, as leaders, need to stay on top of these advancements and ensure our teams have the skills they need to thrive. It’s an exciting time, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these changes shape the way we work.

Looking for more?

Deep-dive on how to build Performing Tech Teams

Interview Part 2

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