My process involves a series of steps, all meant to establish the maturity of the engineering organization. What I am looking for is a tight collaboration between business and engineering, business savviness of the engineering leaders and a general sense of trust, orientation to perform and an effective management of low performers.
1/ General introductory call to meet the CTO / VP of engineering
The objective of this call is to establish a trusting relationship and plan the diligence process together. Some of the questions asked:
- How many developers they have?
- How do they group them? (seniority / technology)
- How do they assess seniority? What criteria they have?
- How to they deal with performance?
Recruitment and market size:
- How do they recruit their developers, what is must have, how does their recruitment test look like?
- How big is the market they are activating in? How are they positioned on the market? How many developers were they able to hire in the last year and through what channels?
- How do they train their staff, do they have a structured process for learning / partnerships with universities?
Collaboration difficulties / project challenges:
- Difficulties working in collaboration with other companies?
- Cultural alignment and possible cultural issues they had encountered? – this is very important especially for non-western companies working with / for western clients
- The main challenges they see in case of a merger – how will we align culture, what their concerns are, what would be a roadmap for the M&A
2/ Assessment of their engineering force:
Setup a series of group or individual interview with key people.
- Discuss an important project they had, that they feel proud of
- Walk through the code structure (together)
- Walk through the architecture (together)
- Walk through the release process – daily builds, prep for milestones, dev-qa, metrics they follow (if any), how they keep quality high and the project in a good shape throughout its duration
- Walk through the main challenges the project had and how did they solve it
The main items to look for are:
- How they communicate about the project and get a sense if we would be able to collaborate together.
- What they define as hard challenge (where the bar is).
- How creative were they in solving problems?
- General coding style and architectural challenges.
- Their maturity level when it comes to engineering practices,
3/ Interview with random developers: junior (2), middle (3), senior (3)
- Similar to the above, but this time from the perspective of the individual developers. We want a comprehensive 360 view of their company. We want to see to what degree what management talks about can be found at the individual contributor level.
- Assess their motivation and culture fit.
- A coding interview together, including architecture, problem solving to verify their recruitment standards
4/ Interview with engineering managers:
- Challenges they faced (difficult projects)
- Collaboration and communication skills
- Engineering management maturity
- Get a list of undesirable engineers which we might opt out of extending an offer
Additional questions for determining engineering management maturity:
- What is the process for setting up, following up objectives, if they are met and how they make them important
- What metrics do they measure for development?
- What does a great engineering manager do? What are his/her skills?
- How are engineers and engineering managers involved in projects / products?
- How do their teams learn from mistakes?
- Top 3 qualities of an excellent engineering manager?
- Top 3 qualities of an excellent engineering director?
- What is their involvement in sales / entrepreneurship? - this shows how much trust the organization puts into their engineering leadership
- What is their personal involvement in recruitment? How much they recruit for skill and how much they develop and how?
- What are they looking for when hiring a person? Some key questions?
- What have you read and impressed you in the past 2-3 months?
- Why management and not individual contributor?
- How much technology and how much people management?