Decision Making And Team Training In A Startup

By Ingrid Amitricioaei17 Aug 2020
Reading time: 5 mins

A few weeks ago we had a chat with Matteus Tanha and explored different areas a CTO has to deal with, from team training and developers upskilling to project management and tooling. We found his words very insightful and thought it would be good to share this information with you.

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Matteus Tanha is the CTO of Human Lambdas, a startup offering AI tooling that helps companies overcome issues with data labeling or want to use some human in the loop solution.

Meet Matteus

Matteus studied chemistry and chemical engineering back in Sweden, then pivoted into more theoretical chemistry and after that, he decided to dive into the startup world.

He likes lots of aspects of the startup ecosystem:

“In a startup, you can move faster with decisions and planning, and that’s also something I like about it.”

He spent some time in the Bay area and knows that the startup environment can also be very overwhelming.

Matteus works with three devs now, so they are four including himself, but in the past, he’s worked in bigger teams as well, with up to 20 devs. This allowed him to gain lots of expertise in team working and he’s now ready to share some lessons learned during these years.

Team and project management

There are quite a few challenges a CTO has to face daily. According to Matteus, one of them is making sure you use the support of the right tools, essential for any sort of progress, especially for the work of the developers. They tried different methods to keep up with work and manage projects, from the scrum master style to something more popular like kanban.

Another challenge to face as a CTO is related to teamwork: being able to build an environment where people help each other and creating a place where they feel free to ask questions or discuss.

And finally, Matteus thinks it is also very important to choose the tech stack that works best, keeping in mind that there are always some gaps in the people’s knowledge that you might not know about.

“So there’s a lot of decision making and in the end, you’ll need to go for the ways that are the least harmful for both the teamwork and the project you’re working on.”

Resources and delivery

How do CTOs decide who to assign a project to and how to structure it in a way that everything falls in place at the end? Matteus believes there should be a standard process when it comes to teamwork, but the truth is that creating it is quite challenging, especially in a startup.

“With every project, you need to understand what direction to go. It’s very easy to build stuff, but you need some process for doing that, and finding the right balance between building stuff and putting in the right resources into something that makes sense, that’s another challenge.”

Matteus was pointing out how helpful communities are, also for decision-makers.

“You need to be part of some community that helps with your choices sometimes, and recommends, for example, the best platform for deploying.”

Communication in startup teams

According to Matteus, in a team, it’s better to over-communicate than to lose things and discussions on the way. And especially when the team works remotely, it’s easy to lose some discussion points and collaboration.

“We have a few processes in place: we use Slack for daily communication, we have a bi-weekly team standup, and then we have Trello where you can manage projects and tasks. We also use Github for questions. I guess the one thing I would like to improve in this process is over-communicating.”

Mentoring and upskilling

When it comes to training your team, the decisions are never so easy and straightforward. You need to analyze the situation you are in, the deadlines, availability, budget, and many more aspects before making the right decision.

In startups things usually move faster, and the teams are smaller. That’s why as a decision-maker you might need to go for the best and most efficient option: learning and doing the work at the same time.

“Once we’ll have more people in our team, we surely want to add some learning days in our yearly schedule and make sure the devs are up-to-date. I’ve experienced this before and I find it’s great to have a 6 months learning plan for all teams, well structured and with defined goals.”

Now at this early stage, when someone comes with an idea but doesn’t know exactly how to implement it, Matteus sees 2 options:

  • If someone in the team has the expertise, they opt for tandem coding sessions: in this way, they share the knowledge and learn from each other. This obviously also depends on how much time they have to develop a certain project. In case of no time, he’d get some external help.
  • If nobody in the team knows that particular topic, he’d choose an external expert to do the work. The benefit of having an external contractor training the devs is that it is faster: they do the work but they also learn during the work.

Training outcomes

We also asked Matteus what would be for him a good training outcome, and what expectations he’d have from a developer who just completed a training session.

“When the choice is training, I’d expect the developer to get the fundamentals of the tech we need, being able to discuss and collaborate with the other people involved in the project to find a way to integrate everything.”

If you have a company that faces issues with data labeling or wants to set up a human-in-the-loop solution, reach out to Human Lambdas and they’ll help you figure something out together.

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