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Scaling an engineering team in a transformational industry

Taylor Veino

Apr 12, 2020 1:00:00 PM

Are you a startup about to start scaling up your team? Are you freelancing and ready to hire some help? Scaling your business is exciting! But, it can also be challenging if you’re not on your A game, especially if you’re experiencing rapid growth. One misstep could have you falling.

The best thing to do is to learn from other’s experiences and see what challenges you can anticipate. Thankfully, a friend of The Frontier podcast and current VPE of Appcues, Steff Kelsey, shared his experience with us on scaling up large technical teams.

When Your Team Splits

The differences start immediately once your small startup begins to expand and split. You are no longer one well-oiled machine operating side by side in the same room. You have split up into different departments, Asana tasks, and offices. Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of challenges in scaling up your team. Let us touch on a few challenges you might encounter.


When communication isn't on point, your workflow will be stunted. It’s very important to keep things running smoothly and forward. The faster your team communicates a problem, the faster you can come up with a solution.

Steff suggests putting a timeframe on communicating problems and thinking of solutions. Delays can pull people out of development. Have your team acknowledge that there is a problem.

Steff: Things could go wrong. It's real life. So we're going to say that we will acknowledge every time, acknowledge it within fifteen minutes. And we're going to push for a resolution within a certain amount of time.

Making Sure Ideas Are Heard

When you are a small startup working in the same room together, everyone can talk and bounce ideas off of each other. Ideas need to be said and heard freely no matter what the person’s position is. Scaling up turns these conversations into meetings and then debates. The key to keeping that debate from escalating to anything else is creating a space where your team feels like they can be heard

Steff thought that a scoring system would help with this issue. He and a co-worker created a grading system to implement a constructive and neutral environment to bounce ideas off one another

Steff: When people from the front line submit their ideas, we can actually say, “Hey, look, your idea got in front of the platform team; they’ve scored it. Here’s what the score is and here is the stuff that’s being done ahead of you.

New ideas and future requests go through a scoring system to determine which gets done first. The score is based on the idea Steff got from reading Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown.


Finding The Best Talent

The hardest part about scaling up may be finding the best talent. Each company aims to hire elite freelance engineers making fellow companies competitors.

Steff: It’s funny. We’ve kind of flipped it. A lot of times in a hiring funnel, you think about the other way. You’re thinking about the reasons to disqualify. So I like the way [Ledge] you phrased it better which is “What do you want?” instead of “What are the red flags?

Here are some of the rounds found at Steff’s former company:

  • Initial call through check/ sanity check
    Recruiters are the first to filter candidates. They call the candidates, do a small screening and then pass them on to the technical screen.

  • Algorithm-based technical screen
    Recruiters are the first to filter candidates. They call the candidates, do a small screening and then pass them on to the technical screen.

  • On-site software design challenge
    The next round is an on-site software design test. This then leads to a pair-programming test to see how well candidates communicate.

  • Pair Programming

Scaling Up Engineering Teams

Experiencing growth is an exciting time for a startup, but with growth comes some complications. Scaling your teams can get overwhelming, as you find there are more tasks than brains and the backlog continues to grow. exists to help companies in this position: we connect companies with elite engineers quickly. Rather than spending their time vetting and on boarding candidates, shoulders this responsibility, and provides candidates who are ready to jump in to quickly add value.

Get Started

Written By:

Taylor Veino

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