Syncari transforms tens-of-millions of records across hundreds of applications. We’ve come a long way in just two years, when my co-founders and I were drafting the first generation of the Syncari architecture wireframe.
Today we have a much deeper understanding of the data pains we’re solving, and we’ve learned so much in such a short period of time. To tackle these challenges, we’ve pulled together an all-star team of engineers with a passion for innovation grounded in a culture of comradery… despite an entirely remote workforce.
In this blog, I’ll highlight the five key aspects of our engineering team, remote work practices and company culture that allowed us to build so fast without compromising quality.
5 keys to remote start-up engineering success at Syncari
1. Pair Your Engineers Carefully
If you want to go from a slideware to a production-ready product in 9 months, having a diverse, experienced team is a must. What most people don’t consider is finding the right combination of team members. At Syncari, identifying the right frontend-backend engineer pair has been instrumental.
It’s well-known that development velocity and workstyle vary from engineer to engineer. We’ve found that by aligning frontend engineers with similar styled backend engineers, we’re able to build and iterate over features more quickly. To maintain high-levels of quality, we rotate these pairs based on the type of work required. As an example, we’ll spend a few weeks on rapid feature development and follow that up with a slower-paced bug fix/polish period.
2. Establish a Clear Product Vision
When you start building a product from a blank slate, it is easy to create chaos or choose the wrong path. To prevent this, we aligned as a team very early on our north star: building a full stack data automation platform. We also identified the four key platform pillars required to build the MVP: Data sync, Data governance, Data quality and Data access. To this day, every feature we build must align to one of those four pillars.
3. Seek Feedback Early and Often
As with any remote team, we’re constantly struggling with communication and cross-functional alignment. To ensure these challenges didn’t impact product development, from week one we embraced clearly defined development processes, quick feature iterations and regular feedback through product demos. Every week, the entire company gathers together for a show-and-tell of what each team member is working on. Marketing, Sales and Customer Success teams can all provide feedback on what they see, which reinforces our core value of results over ego.
4. Build for Speed and Scale
A key enabler of our pace of innovation is a technology decision we made early on: to make every possible component of the Syncari platform meta-data driven. We defined a protocol for the frontend that makes the process of adding new functions and actions data-driven and highly extensible for the end user. On the backend, we’ve followed the same principles and have a data catalog and dynamic data repositories that allow us to build a consistent set of interfaces to basically any end user system. We’re blending proven development frameworks with emerging approaches and technologies to ensure we create new value for our customers.
5. Evolve Processes as the Company Matures
When you’re growing fast, it’s easy to get lost in the mountain of features, customer requests, bugs, polishes and escalations. Having both the internal know-how and cross-functional relationships to balance and prioritize these activities is what makes a winning team. To achieve this at Syncari, we introduced and evolved lean processes to move the needle while keeping operational overhead to the minimum.
2 years ago, when the founding team started building the product, it was sufficient to have a simple kanban board with stories to track progress. This allowed us to rapidly develop focused features. Once we had our first few high-growth, data-deluged customers, we started tracking customer feature requests and issues. As the team grew, we needed an on-call rotation process for engineers to support our customers. We thought of using dedicated tools like pagerduty/opsgenie etc, but ended up building a simple on-call rotation automation using Syncari.
Our Best Practices, in Practice
We’ve been successful at Syncari because we work every day to ensure every remote team member understands our company vision, values and engineering culture. As a result, every sprint, feedback session or process change is an opportunity for us to execute that vision, demonstrate our values, and refine that culture to best service our customers.
In upcoming articles, we’ll deep dive into some of the technical and process related topics to demonstrate the different challenges we faced and how we handled them at Syncari.