Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself
Stu: I started out working in payroll but found great enjoyment in learning to code in my spare time. Two years later, I managed to land my first software development role and have been progressing ever since. Prior to Cleo, I’ve worked with the rail industry, energy sector, ministry of defence and finance. I joined Cleo eight months ago as the engineering manager for our growth pillar.
I‘m based in Glasgow, so I work full remote. I always look forward to traveling down to London once a quarter to spend some face-to-face time with the rest of the team.
Murray: I’m also an EM at Cleo. I joined Cleo around four and a half years ago as a dev looking to step up into a leadership position. Since then, I’ve gone from dev → tech lead → tech lead + engineering manager → engineering manager. Before Cleo, I worked for many years in agencies and have worked for clients in media, government, publishing, charities, small startups, large established scale-ups and multinationals.
Currently, my deep focus is on our risk and payments pillar. The squads in this pillar manage everything to do with payments at Cleo. They provide infrastructure for other squads, but also focusing on optimising our internal payments processes to get the best outcomes for both our users and business.
What do you get up to as Engineering Managers?
Stu: One of my main priorities each week is ensuring I give my direct reports time for us to catch-up during our regular 121s. During these sessions we cover a whole range of topics, from things they are getting up to in their personal life, through to their career aspirations and how we can put steps in place to help them achieve their goals. No two 121s are the same between direct reports; everyone brings their own style and areas of interest which is what keeps them interesting.
Graham: We all have oversight over 2-3 squads in our assigned areas of focus. One of our main responsibilities is ensuring that our teams can learn at speed by regularly delivering valuable features to our users. We help them to do this by facilitating conversations around agile delivery metrics to help teams reflect and iterate on their processes and ways of working, and by ensuring teams have the right people and skillsets needed to fulfill their objectives.
Murray: Another major part of our week is hiring. As EMs we take part in the final interview stage for all engineers. We’re also involved in hiring for new EMs, product roles in the pillars we focus on, and other senior roles across the business. We want our hiring processes to be smooth for both sides so we also work closely with the talent team to iterate on our processes.
We also regularly meet with peers in other disciplines, like product leads, to talk about high level things like prioritisation and allocation of engineers across the pillar.
How do you all work together as an engineering management team?
Murray: We catch-up several times each week to discuss our current biggest challenges. At present, we have a keen focus on our squad’s delivery metrics. We also decide on the placement of newly hired Engineers into our ever-growing squads and performance management.
We do try to do most things in public to keep things transparent. However, we do sometimes find that direct messages are great for bouncing ideas off peers, using them as a private space for support and advice.
How do you enable your teams to deliver their best work?
Stu: We try to ensure our team members have a solid support network of cross-functional people around them to ask questions of and gain an understanding of how everyone works together.
Graham: Our job as EMs isn’t to tell people or teams what to do. Our role is to help teams have the right conversations–whether about a technical piece or domain based questions. We want our teams to continuously reflect on how they work and what they deliver.
What excites you about your role?
Stu: Bringing in new EMs that can share their experiences with us and help strategise and build out our department’s ways of working. We’ve recently hired two new EMs which brings an exciting chance to learn from others.
Graham: I’m excited by the journey we’re on at Cleo. We have so much opportunity to make life better for our users and the technical, organisational and cultural challenges we’ll face as we grow the engineering team to build solutions for these problems is very exciting for us as EMs.
Murray: Working with my reports and helping them achieve their career goals. I like the week on week mentoring and coaching I do with my reports in our 1-to-1s that helps them level up, but what really brings me joy is sponsoring them to take on a new project or role. They are often slightly scared going into it, but by the time they come out the other end they’re much more confident in their abilities. Cleo is a fast moving organisation with plenty of opportunities for people to grow as we scale and as an EM I get to help my reports take advantage of this.
What’s the top piece of advice you’d give to a new member of your team?
Stu: Spend some time getting to know people when you first join. Also, never hesitate in asking that question that you’re not too sure is a stupid one or not.
Graham: Be curious. We value curiosity at Cleo and asking good questions at the right time is considered an essential behaviour. This helps you to build context, knowledge and ultimately confidence to solve problems for the business and our users.
Murray: Look for opportunities to apply general technical knowledge. If you can separate your old domain knowledge, which is unlikely to be useful at Cleo, from your general technical expertise which is very likely to be useful at Cleo—you’ll be able to identify plenty of places to have impact. Our tech stack is pretty similar to others, and we have many of the same problems you’ll have tackled elsewhere.
If you are interested in joining us, check out our open roles.