The Pillars of Shyft’s Engineering Culture

Written by Taylor Case, Shyft’s Senior Front-End Developer, on Medium. See the original post here

E arly stage start-ups are so interesting to me. There are so many different ways to implement a beautiful vision that can make people’s lives better, but there are so many factors that can change the way people go about it. Road blocks including market fit, poor execution, poor team chemistry, and bad timing can ruin an otherwise fantastic idea. I compare it to a blank, moving canvas with multiple people trying to paint on it.

So many different events can occur that send a company into disarray and de-rail them from the path that they are on. We prevent that by having a clear vision, and having the strength to stick to it. There is a balance though, as one needs to know when enough is enough and when to pivot from what they are currently doing. Once a company has a clear direction, the next step is to bring in people that can help us shape the company in our vision.

Slowly, the company dream will start to solidify and take shape. Once there are people in place in each department, they will decide and create a vision for their particular area of expertise much like a sub-culture, or a district within a city. This is one of the most important times in a company’s infancy because we are planting the seed that will eventually blossom. The personality of the company will form and consolidate into an early stage of what the company will ultimately become. Now is the time to define the cultural pillars of our engineering team and what we value, which will ultimately carry us through scaling the team and create success for us in the future.

So what do we value here at the Shyft engineering team?

Agility

We are a small team, and we have a lot to accomplish. As our industry matures, our product is formed based on the needs and wants of customers along with the identity of our company. Requirements change, and we are constantly looking for ways to improve and create tools that affect our bottom line in a positive way. Agility and flexibility is key as long as we keep in mind that our time is precious, and we still need to craft quality products, not just some hack-job that will patch over needs for a short amount of time.

An important sub-quality of agility is chemistry and this means that quality communication and collaboration is paramount. We have quick turn-arounds for our products, and working with other engineers from other parts of the team is inevitable. Everyone is busy, so keeping our meetings straight and to the point is important. Chemistry is important for this in order to understand the other person and what they need as requirements change and evolve, like requesting a change of an API from the back-end, or updating design assets for the front-end. All of these events change our scope, and we need to adapt and thrive throughout them.

“We are an engineering culture that is forward-thinking and unafraid of failure or change.

Ownership

This, in my opinion, is the soul and backbone of the Shyft culture and what I believe to be the most important. Shyft values the entrepreneurial spirit that embodies early stage start-ups. We are growing quickly, but as we grow we don’t want our energy to stagnate. We want to be able to give employees the freedom and confidence to make the decisions that are critical to their jobs in order to empower them and inspire them to create and inspire others. Our projects are big and at a start-up, if one person doesn’t do something then no one does. Being able to own a project and care for the quality, create the deadlines, and systematically work through each challenge is a characteristic that we look for here at Shyft. There is no project too big, but that doesn’t mean that we must be arrogant about taking on deadlines and executing. We have to work smartly and pick projects strategically in order to grow the correct way.

We are an engineering culture that is forward-thinking and unafraid of failure or change. We try to grow with the industry, which means adapting and growing with the industry. It means that sometimes not every idea we have works out. But we learn and grow from those mistakes, instead of cowering back in a corner after we have realized our mistakes. From integrating new technologies that help us make delightful products to always questioning ourselves and making sure that we are moving in the correct direction, we are constantly looking for new solutions and better ways to take on the challenges before us.

At Shyft, our engineers own their product from start to finish. From planning to build tools, to testing and then ultimately deployment, we have our hands on every part of the building process. This can be intimidating, but we believe that knowing every part of the process is critical to ownership. Once we scale and build, we will be able to break up these roles. But the learning will have happened, and we can be considerate of our colleagues when passing off the projects to them.

Humility

Engineering is hard. Nobody knows everything there is to know, and we are perfectly aware of that. Acknowledgement of this fact is an important staple of the culture at Shyft, and that is why we believe in bringing a diverse set of minds in order to solve bigger problems. Asking questions and challenging the way we are overcoming challenges is a path that I believe will bring us to optimal solutions and continual improvement in our craft, and we can accomplish some fantastic goals that we have set for our company.

The willingness and the hunger to learn from others is something we value deeply. It takes a certain person to be able to admit that you don’t know something especially when it is related to your profession. Many people think that if they don’t know something that is related to their profession, that diminishes their value. But we believe that the only way we can acquire those skills is by asking and being cognizant enough to understand when they need help. Humility is underrated.

Many people think if they don’t know something related to their profession, that diminishes their value. But we believe that the only way we can acquire those skills is by asking and being cognizant enough to understand when we need help.

We have so much to accomplish at Shyft, and we are just getting started. The journey will be long, and the challenges great. With the medley of curious and driven minds that we have put together, we will grow and learn from each other. The base is already in place, and it is time to grow and execute.