KPCB 12-200 Engineering Meet-Up: Lessons Learned (Part 4 of 4)

Note: This column and the associated video clips are from a panel at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB)’s 12-200 Engineering Meet-Up on October 24, 2013. At the event, Mike Abbott, Partner at KPCB, Matt Rogers, Founder and VP of Engineering at Nest Labs, Eric Feng, CTO at Flipboard and Abhi Khune, Engineering Manager – Infrastructure at Pinterest, discussed best practices and lessons learned in scaling technology platforms, recruiting top talent, and more. This is the fourth post of a four-part series.

Clip 9: Developing Leaders: When Do You Need to Add Managers to Your Engineering Team?

At some point in the life of the fast-growing startup, your engineering team is going to need a new ingredient: managers.

The question is, what’s the right time to insert full-time managers into your engineering process? This question was answered during a recent panel on building engineering teams hosted by KPCB general partner Mike Abbott at the KPCB offices in San Francisco. Participants included Abhi Khune, Engineering Manager of infrastructure at Pinterest; Flipboard CTO (and Kleiner alum) Eric Feng; and Nest founder and engineering VP Matt Rogers.

Khune says Pinterest started adding managers when the engineering team reached 40-50 people; most of those managers evolved organically from internal positions – those who showed leadership skills in their everyday work.

Still, Feng notes that managers have to understand that their primary role is in fact to manage – and not to write code.

Clip 10: Lessons Learned

At some point, we all make mistakes. When you manage a fast-growing engineering team, the key is to respond quickly.

In this video, Mike Abbott, Abhi Khune, Eric Feng and Matt Rogers discuss the lessons they’ve learned in building their companies. The errors they mentioned include: sticking too long with underperformers and creating overly complex product designs.