We sat down with the Director of Product Development at Abrigo and a friend of the Allstacks family Krishna Patel to talk about what it takes to lead and grow a technology organization today. He shared wisdom on building trust through leadership, strengthening bonds between engineering and the business, and the impact of software engineering on the future. We’re passing on the highlights of that conversation in a three-part series to spread the wealth. The first topic is near and dear to Allstacks – building effective relationships and communication across teams

Lesson #1: Understand and nurture the symbiosis between the business and engineering

Krish has built an incredible career as a liaison between engineering and the business, which is often the missing link in effective software delivery. We wondered how he became so fluent on both sides of the equation and what insights he’s gained from straddling the two worlds. Traditionally, technology leaders are shepherded into management or leadership positions because they are good at the functional roles, not pursuing a management track. Without much formal training on “the business,” they must learn on the job.

Here’s what Krish had to say:

The day I graduated from college, I knew I wanted to be a leader in technology. Computer science came naturally to me, so I challenged myself (with encouragement from my family) to learn the industry’s business side before resting on my strengths. I set out to master communication in business – from talking to customers to dialoguing with executives – and I quickly learned that there are significant differences in how stakeholder groups view the world. Loads of untapped value exist in communicating effectively across these gaps. 

Even as the world increasingly leans into technology, communication between engineering organizations and their business counterparts remains poor. They don’t speak the same language. Translating business requirements into engineering work is the lifeblood of any product-led company. But engineering has its own measures of output (code metrics, velocity, throughput, etc.) that don’t typically align to the outcomes the business uses as a measure of success, like customer value and revenue. That’s why getting both sides of the business seamlessly working together is my primary goal. These two groups depend on each other for survival. When a strong link between engineering and stakeholders is missing, the teams are bound to disappoint one another (at best) or fail their customers (at worst). 

To illustrate, let’s consider an age-old tale: A key customer wants a new feature...ASAP. The customer’s expectations far exceed their technical knowledge of the ask, but the business is eager to keep the customer happy, so we overcommit on scope and underestimate delivery timing. When engineering can’t meet the task, everyone loses. 

This is why the heart of my job is communication. Without it, I can’t turn a vision into a practical plan, never mind a product. But with good communication hygiene, I can hold the interests of the business and a team of engineers on either hand. Keeping both happy and healthy is the name of the game.    

Stay tuned for Lesson #2 from Krish. We’ll dive into his approach to leadership, highlighting delegation, autonomy, and one of engineering’s more controversial topics, analytics. 

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