The Engineering Leadership Podcast · Episode 91

Eliminating hierarchy, going direct & removing team friction

with Greg Czajkowski

Jul 05, 2022
Greg Czajkowski (SVP of Engineering @ Snowflake) shares some of the secrets he’s learned about great teams! We discuss the power of eliminating hierarchy, “going direct,” reducing energy dissipation in your team, removing friction in your org, and creating “higher innovation per time unit.” Plus dilemmas balancing velocity & quality, what to do when team size is used as proxy for power, and how to know your eng org is operating at peak output!
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ABOUT GREG CZAJKOWSKI

Grzegorz (Greg) Czajkowski, a distributed systems and organizations scaling expert, is Senior Vice President of Engineering and Support at Snowflake. Prior to Snowflake, Greg spent 13 years at Google, where he was VP of Engineering responsible for a broad portfolio of Google Cloud data analytics and machine learning products and for internal services addressing data analytics needs of all of Google’s businesses. Before Google, Greg spent six years at Sun Microsystems, working on Java runtime environments and operating systems. Greg has a PhD in Computer Science from Cornell University, an MBA from UC Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from AGH Krakow, Poland. He holds over 50 patents.

"What I learned at Snowflake is  really practicing "Go Direct."  If there's something you don't like, you'd like to fix, you have to go to the person who made the decision.

Usually you learn much more about the decision. There's a good conversation. Sometimes you convince the owner of the decision to do something different.

I think nothing beats going direct, because any other means of trying to change a certain decision, certain point of view indirectly, is ineffective causes, frictions, and ultimately energy gets dissipated.

- Greg Czajkowski   

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SHOW NOTES:

  • Qualities and characteristics Greg's observed in great teams (2:02)
  • Why Greg joined Snowflake (3:46)
  • “Go direct” and other secrets to great teams (5:27)
  • Balancing "go direct" and the chain of command (7:35)
  • Eliminating hierarchy (9:21)
  • Creating higher innovation per time unit in engineering teams (11:21)
  • How do you know your eng org is operating at peak output? (13:41)
  • Balancing business expectations and removing the dilemma between velocity & quality (15:36)
  • Energy dissipation (18:21)
  • Removing team friction at scale (21:20)
  • How Snowflake’s small team units optimize for intimacy, learning & dev happiness (23:50)
  • How small teams scale up & interact across the eng org (25:56)
  • How to address when team size is used as proxy for power & career progression (28:35)
  • Rapid Fire Questions (30:37)
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