How Guru's Engineering Org Creates (and Uses) Guru
When I joined Guru in the fall of 2019, one of the things I wanted to accomplish over the next year was to put our team in a position to support remote/distributed work and culture as we grew. Little did I know what was coming, or how much it would force the conversation on many fronts.
Like every other team in the SaaS world (or let’s be honest, in any industry), the past year has looked completely different than what we envisioned at our February 2020 annual kickoff. From figuring out how to work remotely to doubling-down on the ways our product supports other companies doing the same, it’s been a year of evaluating the processes, products, and people we need to set us up for success. And as we look towards the future and prepare to grow in 2021, we’ve aligned our product development organization with these needs at the forefront.
How we've structured our Product, Design & Engineering organization
We’ve been fortunate to organize and bring on enough talented engineers, product managers, designers, and product marketers over the past year to grow our functional teams (we call them “pods”) from five to eight.
Pods are purposefully nimble; each consisting of a PM, engineering lead, design lead, product marketing manager (PMM), and several engineers, who together oversee a specific area of our product or user experience. This structure enables fast, largely autonomous decision making that happens close to the work being done, rather than behind the smoke and mirrors of an executive team dictating day-to-day product priorities. They provide structure without rigidity, flexibility without idleness, and focus without stifling creativity. Our pods give an important voice to those most close to the code and the customers—a win-win for all involved.
As we’ve continued to refine and iterate on the best ways for our pods to work together, we’ve found a natural organization into two major areas: helping new users get started more easily, and making sure Guru remains the strongest and most innovative product possible for our customers. We consider each of these areas to be a “pillar” within our product development team, and have organized all of our pods into them accordingly.
The goal of formalizing this structure is two fold: to keep decision making close to development, and to ensure the work being done across our entire team is moving our company and product in the right direction. For this reason, we’ve designated leadership roles on each pillar to oversee the work of the underlying pods—ensuring the entire operation is moving in a way that supports company goals.
Typically, with any structure change comes the dreaded “corporatizing” of it all. The traditional thinking is that the more structured you become, the more siloed you become, and the harder it becomes for everyone to do productive, meaningful work. Fear of duplicated tasks foreshadows fear of duplicated mistakes, and the general concern of team knowledge slipping through the cracks is far from unwarranted. Lucky for us at Guru, we get to use our own product to proactively protect against these challenges, and optimize for collaboration and efficiency as we grow into a new team structure.
Why PDEM uses Guru
Guru gives our engineering team a place to document and access everything from environment setup instructions to project details to important company updates. If an engineer joins a new pod, they can get up-to-speed and start contributing faster because all of the details of their team’s current projects are right there in Guru. If a designer wants to ensure that everyone on their pod reviews designs before they’re finalized, they can send an alert in the product to let everyone know they’re ready for feedback. And when the PM and PMM need to let the rest of the company know that feature update is about to go live, you guessed it—they’ll create a Card for that.
With a single source of truth for both cross-functional and complex, domain-specific information, our team is better able to share with and learn from each other. Silos can’t happen when everyone has access to the same knowledge, which means everyone can make decisions faster and more confidently. The historical tradeoff between structure and order vs. autonomy and empowerment isn’t a reality for teams that use Guru.
Guru also keeps our product development organization in lock-step with our customer-facing teams. A central repository for product questions, customer stories, and marketing messaging helps give everyone a holistic view of how we build, sell, and support our product, and creates opportunities to collaborate and provide feedback on work that might fall outside of our day-to-day. We believe that seeking diverse views leads to better outcomes, which makes collaborating with every department an important part of our product development team’s responsibilities.
Join the party 🥳
If this all sounds exciting to you, read on—we’re hiring across a wide variety of roles throughout our product development organization. We need engineers, product managers, and designers who are passionate about helping us create a richer product experience through advancing our search and discovery capabilities, our editor, and more.
We need teammates to help us create a trial experience that excites our prospects and turns them into long-term customers. We need leaders who can help us grow our pods and our pillars, and teammates who are excited to grow into leadership roles one day (we love to promote from within!).
Excited yet? We sure hope so. Head on over to our Careers page to see if you’re a good match for one of our open positions, and let’s get the conversation started. But of course, if you prefer to just type away on your own in a dark basement and feel like the only knowledge you’ll ever need is in your own head—well, you keep doing you.