Revolut’s Vlad Yatsenko on Building World-Class Teams
How do you instill and maintain a winning workplace culture in a start-up whose workforce is rapidly multiplying?
In the second part of our interview with Revolut co-founder and chief technology officer, Vlad Yatesenko mused on hiring and firing, on why the stereotype of the socially inept engineer needs to be retired, and how to keep all moving parts of a growing company focused and in sync.
We got so much out of our conversation with Vlad that we decided to turn it into a two-part mini-series. Did you miss the first episode? Get it right here!
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No time? No worries! Read our 5 key takeaways from the conversation
- No engineer is an island
Beautiful code only gets you so far. Staff members need to be able to communicate and analyze a picture bigger than their computer screen. All employees, engineers or otherwise, should problem solve and collaborate in cross-functional teams.
- Growth isn’t only about new customers
Revolut is a community-driven brand powered by word of mouth. To keep that engine going, existing customers need to be kept happy.
- Build company culture into hiring
Start-ups should be faithful to the culture and mindset that sparked their original growth. Revolut job applications test candidates’ ability to problem-solve and get sh*t done, the cornerstones of its success.
- A rotten organizational culture seeps into your product
Conway’s Law claims a company’s organizational structure is mirrored in the systems it creates. Organizational disconnects and communication barriers should be remedied fast so they don’t impact or limit a company’s product. Agile companies produce agile products.
- Ditch rituals
If you have a company ritual, question it. Why is it there? Swap them for organic processes and procedures.
Here are a few highlights from our conversation.
No matter how extensive your skillset is, we’re stronger together
Fred: As leaders, to maintain company culture as you grow, when you look at something and you see that it’s off you have to be uncompromising. What are the few things that you’ve been uncompromising with your team as you grew?
Vlad: Certain elements of culture will evolve and change. But there are core principles.
“Things that are not compromisable are the mindset and ideas that are at the core of the culture allowing a company to succeed.”
If we want to continue growing and solve more and more problems in finance for our customers, we have to have this mentality of thinking deeper about these problems. Making sure we’re solving them. Improving those things all the time.
To do it in an environment where it’s not just a few people anymore, you have to then think: what does it mean in terms of executing that. It’s not two people anymore, it’s more people involved through the whole organization.
When I speak to engineers, one of the things I stress is that it’s not just about your technical skills.
“No one can think about all possible cases and find solutions that address all possible problems. You have to compensate by communicating and collaborating with everyone else.”
Sometimes people divide: “Engineers, they are geeks, they don’t have to talk and don’t need soft skills.”
I’m completely against that. It’s not even about agreeing. It’s about: “Did we solve this problem, and did we solve it in the best way?”
Focus on the “why”
Fred: How tough has it been for you to maintain relevance as the leader of the tech team in Revolut?
Vlad: One of the principles or ways to maintain relevance is to keep a level of openness and transparency.
“Whenever I say something, I should explain it as well.”
Why do I want my team to do a certain thing? Why is that important? The “why” is what keeps people understanding the purpose and keeps people engaged and connected — versus a corporate environment where we see people that don’t even listen the “why” and impact the thing anyway.
Rituals support work, not the other way around
Fred: What are the key rituals that you’ve used over the years, that you’re using now to pass on the key message that you need to pass on to your team.
Vlad: I’m not big into rituals to be honest. I might be against rituals.
“If there’s a ritual you have to think: ‘Why do I have a ritual?’ It should be more natural.”
A ritual, to me, is like a mindless exercise. One of the things people ask is: “Do you do agile? What is your development process.” I’m like, what do you mean by that?
Some teams will use elements of scrum. Other teams will use something else. But there’s a general principle: we want to deliver value as fast as possible. And then you adapt your process depending on people’s experience.
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