We tackle the trend toward engineering efficiency with Alamelu Radhakrishnan, Head of Engineering Operations @ Shopify. She reveals strategies to move your eng org toward greater efficiency while maintaining high levels of impact & creativity. We also share how eng leaders can identify opportunities for efficiency, giving engineering a seat at the leadership table during efficiency-focused conversations, frameworks for removing toil within your eng team, how to avoid burnout while optimizing for efficiency, and the role of decision-making in maximizing efficient eng orgs.
Alamelu leads Engineering Operations at Shopify, leading the teams responsible for building the systems and technical programs that power Shopify RnD. Her mandate is to maximize the impact of engineers on Shopify’s Missions, and her role spans across team health, engineering craft excellence, strategic planning and prioritization, and successful business operations within RnD.
Prior to Shopify, Alamelu has worked with some of Canada’s most innovative product and consulting agencies, leading software delivery teams and helping organizations leverage technology across a variety of industries.
Alamelu finds joy in solving business problems through technology, strives for organizational excellence, and is passionate about supporting and sponsoring underrepresented folks in the industry. Alamelu lives in Toronto, and loves food, travel, the outdoors, and horror movies.
"The thing that I've been telling my team is that this is not a time to get through. This is a time to lean in. Let's not treat it as, 'Oh my God, you focus on efficiency. Let's just do it, and then it'll be done. It'll be back to the fun times.' These are the fun times. They're just fun in a different way, but these constraints are making us even more creative, and these challenges are going to lead to us doing some of the best work of our lives. That's the exciting thing, and so I think the way through the fear is actually into excitement.”
- Alamelu Radhakrishnan
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- How Alamelu’s role @ Shopify is like an extension of eng leadership (2:52)
- Working yourself out of a job & identifying blind spots in the eng org (5:23)
- Alamelu’s approach to building a new system from scratch (7:00)
- Prioritization strategies when developing new systems (10:34)
- Inside the industry trend toward optimizing for efficiency vs. experimentation (11:45)
- Recommendations for how managers can find opportunities / make adjustments (14:10)
- Frameworks for helping your eng team overcome fear & embrace creativity (16:50)
- How to communicate the impact of engineering on the business (19:44)
- Ensure engineering has a seat at the table during efficiency conversations (21:37)
- The value of ad hoc vs. planned meetings (24:08)
- Alamelu’s perspective on helping eng teams find time for flow (26:19)
- Why leadership should encourage eng teams to “remove the toil” (27:44)
- Areas of toil that Alamelu has identified & how to address them (29:51)
- How to alleviate burnout while shifting toward efficiency (33:04)
- Decision-making as an opportunity for greater efficiency (36:24)
- Rapid fire questions (39:06)
LINKS AND RESOURCES
- Land of the Giants - Big tech is transforming every aspect of our world. But how? And at what cost? In Land of the Giants: Dating Games, The Verge and New York Magazine's The Cut trace the evolution of the multi-billion dollar dating app industry.
- Cloud Cuckoo Land - Five protagonists dwell in the heart of Cloud Cuckoo Land: Anna and Omeir, on opposite sides of the city walls during the 1453 siege of Constantinople; teenage idealist Seymour and octogenarian Zeno in an attack on a public library in present-day Idaho; and Konstance, on an interstellar ship bound for an exoplanet, decades from now. Anna, Omeir, Seymour, Zeno, and Konstance are dreamers and outsiders who find resourcefulness and hope in the midst of peril. A book written in ancient Greek—the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky—provides solace and mystery to these unforgettable characters.
This episode wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our incredible production team:
Patrick Gallagher - Producer & Co-Host
Jerry Li - Co-Host
Noah Olberding - Associate Producer, Audio & Video Editor https://www.linkedin.com/in/noah-olberding/
Dan Overheim - Audio Engineer, Dan’s also an avid 3D printer - https://www.bnd3d.com/
Ellie Coggins Angus - Copywriter, Check out her other work at https://elliecoggins.com/about/