Engineering Teams and Meetings

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One unique aspect of our Engineering culture at Plastiq is our stance on meetings. Meetings, done right (i.e. with a clear purpose and agenda, attendees that are necessary for the discussion, with clear recording and assignment of action items) are an essential ingredient for getting things done at any size of company. However, over use of meetings is an issue that many of us on the Engineering team have seen occur across many companies we have worked at prior to Plastiq.

Paul Graham’s influential essay “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule” explains that the best types of schedules for people who makes things are different than the best schedules for those who manage things – http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html.

As Engineers, we need large contiguous blocks of time to build software. Just having one or two meetings spread throughout a day can really negatively impact your schedule, by dividing up your available time into smaller chunks – sometimes too small to get significant work done. At Plastiq we work on complex problems for mission-critical financial transaction processing. The context we need to load when we start working on a problem is significant – a meeting is just like throwing an exception, forcing you to lose context and completely switch away from what you were executing on.

That is why we introduced a policy of “No meetings after 12pm” – this rule states that any meetings with Engineers MUST happen before noon time, so the entire afternoon is free for building. What this means is that typically all the meetings that we as Engineers need to have with each other and with other teams occur in a narrow time band between 10am and 12pm each day (starting with our 10am Daily Checkpoint meeting). We use our 10am Daily Checkpoint meeting as the rallying point for our team. We avoid ad-hoc meetings to discuss 1 specific item because we use this daily forum to bring up items we need to discuss. If the discussion is in-depth, then the parties that it impacts can go offline and continue to discuss (upto the 12pm cutoff time).

Some things we have learned from implementing this policy:

  • We tend to have fewer meetings – by forcing any meetings to fit into a narrow time band in the morning, it helps to weed out the speculative/unnecessary meetings and forces people to use other means to communicate/address a topic (e.g. bringing it up in our 10am Daily Checkpoint meeting).
  • The meetings we do have are more focused and engaging – since we now have less meeting time, we tend to have meetings that are better prepared for, with everyone engaged and contributing to the discussion.
  • The meetings we have tend to have clearer outcomes – as we are more focused, we are making clear concise decisions that then get actioned on shortly afterwards.
  • The time of day that we have meetings (10am to 12pm) works well for concentration and focus of everyone involved in the meeting (turns out we are not alone in that).

 

At Plastiq we hold a regular “Plastiq Engineering Open House” event, where we welcome Engineers from all backgrounds to come and visit our offices, meet some of the team and talk tech over some beer/wine/pizza. If you’d like to come along, just reach out to our recruiting team and they will add you to the invite list for our next open house.

Author

Head of Technology at Plastiq

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