Strong Engineering Culture, Strong Product Culture by Andrew Martinez-Fonts
What does culture have to do with building great products? In my opinion, everything. I’m a group product manager at Yelp, and in this presentation from MTP Engage, I look at why it’s so important to create a supportive culture where product people and engineers collaborate and trust each other.
I manage a team of product managers and product designers, and while we have a high-performing workplace of product managers and engineers, we have a range of personalities, preferences, and communication styles which inevitably challenges how people work together.
In my 15 years as a product manager I’ve learned that it’s always about the people, and empowering them to get things done without getting in each other’s way. This challenge expresses itself in many ways, but one I’ve noticed recently is in status differences between product and engineering.
At some companies, the product team walks around like they own the place, while engineers scramble to get things done. At other companies, engineers dominate decision-making, and product managers are just trying to keep up with the scrum backlog. It’s a delicate balance to keep each team focused on what they do well and delivering value on time while remaining civil (and maybe even making friends!).
It’s always about the people, and empowering them to get things done without getting in each other’s way.
I’ve been at Yelp for six years, and here I’ve had a front-row seat to understanding – and in my own small way influencing – healthy product/engineering relationships. Yelp has a really strong culture that enables the balance and generosity needed to be successful. Every company has its corporate values, and Yelp’s – to be tenacious, be unboring, play well with others – are tightly held and accurate (in my opinion). Those values also express themselves on the product and engineering teams.
There are a few business practices that Yelp has developed and uses to maintain our fun, inclusive culture, these include everything from hackathons and off-sites to Yelp Love, an internal, open-source platform where you can leave coworkers digital “love” and shout outs. There are other important and less lighthearted aspects of our culture, and challenges still to be faced.
I hope my presentation provides a glimpse into how engineering and product culture works at Yelp, and gives you a few concrete ways to think about the culture in your own workplace.