Building a team from a reorganisation by Leonor Frias

Automatic Summary

Turn Challenges into Opportunities: How to Efficiently Scale a Tech Team

In the ever-evolving business world, scaling operations and aligning with business goals are prominent challenges for companies, especially for tech teams within the e-commerce sector. In this article, we'll share how an engineer and team leader from Tocalo Technology, navigated through these challenges, taking inspiration from his personal journey and experiences. We will also discuss the transforming culture and ways of working in this sector.

Becoming a Leader in the Tech World

Our protagonist, Leo, found himself in the challenging position of leading a team whilst the company was under reorganization. He was tasked with not only managing the technological aspects but also had to handle the reorganization changes around the company. His experience provides invaluable insights into how one can navigate through such changes, especially when new to the role.

The Journey of Reorganization

One of Tocalo Technology's most significant products is the Ocado Smart Platform, a unique end-to-end e-commerce retail platform. The platform deals with efficiently managing product orders and delivering them. As the company decided to switch the organization from being more technical to a business flow-oriented approach, Leo and his team had to adapt to the new transition period. This period involved moving things, making new connections, self-growth, and dealing with many human and technical domain changes.

Setting the Grounds

During the early phases, Leo focused on utilizing the transition period for self-development and building knowledge about the domain. He also stressed the importance of having a clear vision from the start, setting clear goals and expectations, and implementing effective ways of team working.

Building Team and Stakeholder Relationships

As Leo’s team began taking shape, he emphasized communication and connection with the team's stakeholders. He instituted regular catch-ups with key stakeholders and shared experiences with other team leads. He also encouraged each team member's personal development, focusing on their career progressions.

Implementing Leadership Learnings

Leo also highlighted the importance of aligning business goals with the team. To do this, he signed up for a management course, which not only educated him on how to manage teams, but also provided insights on aligning business goals with the daily tasks of the team. Post-course, Leo put the lessons into action by defining his team's mission and goals in alignment with the company's high-level goals.

Future Development

As the team grew and become stable, Leo ensured a balance between future development and technical debt. A key aspect of this development was ensuring short feedback loops within the team, iterating on the ways of working, and maintaining regular face-to-face meetings as the pandemic situation allowed.


Through this journey, Leo emphasizes the importance of learning fast and adapting to shifting priorities, strategic thinking, maintaining clear relationships, and helping others to grow. Moreover, he underlines the necessity of giving back to the community, showing that even in the face of challenges, there are always opportunities for growth and learning.

Video Transcription

OK, I think we are um already in time. So I will start um kicking off. Um OK. First of all, thank you everyone for, for joining today. I'm really happy to be having this chance again.Uh I'm uh Leo and I'm engineer, team leader at Tocalo Technology for those who you might not know SOCA technology is a leading tech, tech uh company in the online uh grocery retail. And um in order to be able to, to uh to scale uh the business and, and align with the business world, it was decided that uh uh the Ecommerce Department where I work on to go through our uh organization. And uh this meant for instance, because this is what actually not to grow, not that building teams were created, not part of other effects. And one of these teams, it's a team I landed and actually where I started my first uh full time position as a team lead. No, so you can imagine. No. So if building a team is already not uh not building the culture of the D ray challenge being new to the role, it's also challenge. So if you put together this in the context of more, let's say changes around the organization also about no ways of working. No, because now we have at that moment it uh well, now it starts to be more hybrid but it was remote work.

So if you put all together, this is I would say quite challenging. So what I wanted to do today is a bit to share my experience on how to navigate those challenges. And I hope you will find it useful if you find it uh yourself in a similar situation. And especially as me, if you are new to the rule. OK. So um just OK, let me changes light. OK? Now it changes. OK. So let's just speak. Uh Before I explain you a bit more about this reorganization, let's uh put you a bit of content, that's who I am. So I would say as always, I say, I don't have, let's say um the most linear path ever, but I would say no, as they say that not always the shortest path is the best path. So I, I would say I'm an example of that. I always try to do what uh really like and leave me fashion. So I don't think it's just right or wrong. Just at each moment I choose a bit and a bit like my career as you can see Espana, a bit across academia that it was more at the start. And then little by little, I have uh more come to more practical and to the industry.

So my journey in Ocado technology um started in 2018 as a software engineer uh later, um I had the opportunity because this was something I had already some time in mind uh to try a leadership position, uh uh an assignment uh as a G team leader. So this was in 2020 actually last year presentation that I did, it was about not this, this experience that I had on the, on that short period. This is what I was saying that this is kind of the second chapter. Um So, yeah, so I had this opportunity. I really like it and I really wanted to try it for real. So last year, um in the context of this organization, last July, I started uh there were, there was uh I, I win this uh position on the G team leader full time. So now, since almost now it will be near a year. So I'm doing uh this position uh at food. So this is a bit about me. So how this connects now with the topic of the, as I saw as I told you. No. So my, my role was created as part of this growth of the company uh due to this organization. Uh So let me explain a bit. Uh how is uh how, what it fits as I told you this was in the commerce department. So, one of the main products of Ocado technology is the Ocado smart platform, which is a unique and to end ecommerce which is taken fulfillment platform. No.

So the um fulfillment, as you can see here, the robot is the mo is mostly uh concerns about actually not putting together all the products of order in an efficient way. And this is why for instance, no Ooao has a Ocado technology has all the technology about the the robots to make this efficient. And it is a part of the logistics that concerns more about how to deliver uh efficiently this other. And then uh the commerce uh which you can see here. No, what you see as a user is a web uh page or like your mobile, but there is much more behind. No, what's the, the the aim. So it's building shopping experience for our retailer, customers, providing the tools to run the best possible retail operation across any shop. So that's the um purpose of um my my stream. So this is uh this stream is, is quite big. And as I told you, no. So it was decided uh to go through this organization to be able to scale uh analyze better with the business before this organization, uh this uh stream was organized more, let's say according to tech stacks, uh or if you want the architectural layers. So more technically and it was decided that instead of this, uh we will change uh to rather business flow in order that the inside the department that will be the full ownership of the business flows.

No, and also to meet to minimize the number of dependencies when developing and in future with, with other departments. So that was a bit the the idea of this organization. Um So part of part of this. So now no, the the departments are more related to the business. So one of the departments is customer where I am in and uh the customer departments to give you some examples. So deal with things uh from customer details, account protection, segmentation, uh delivery pass. So it's things that related to the what who the customer is, what are their options. So regarding to the customer. So uh so now, you know, a bit better where I work, what was the aim of this organization? So um apart from creating new teams, no, so you have to put people there. So it is not like uh the new teams were filled with new people. It was more rather um there were some people moving around also, of course, there were new people hired, but it was a bit of a combination of the two things also. No, you can imagine that due to this organization also technically no, the domains and um and then um let's say the the goals of each of the teams changes and things uh needed to, to move around. However, now you can imagine we are talking about the scales.

No, we have uh like about 50 teams, 50 teams in, in e commerce and we have hundreds of people. So you can imagine that is there is not like uh your magic button, you push the button and done. No, this doesn't, unfortunately, it doesn't work like this. Um So um it, it takes a bit of time. No. So there is, let's say a transition period nowhere. OK. We know where we want to go, but we are still not yet. No, we are transitioning. No. And this is uh a bit actually, this comes to my first slide talking now more about um my team about the first phase of my team. No. So when I started, we were in this transition indeed, um what happened in this first phase. So in this first phase, actually, uh the composition of my team was uh very dynamic also my stakeholders. So there I had to let's say no adapt to this or maybe there were missing some stakeholders at some point. No. So I had no, there was someone taking care but was not really the final person. So this, this was quite um quite challenging. Also my team uh itself. Uh So the people that were already in the company, they were uh still working for the old mission, there were some critical development to be delivered. And so they were actually uh not formally not part of my team. So they were still working in the old mission.

So as a result, and as you can see, for instance, in the photo, so there is not much uh not without team, you cannot develop much, but it was a good time. Let's say I had this time more for myself to let's say, set it in the ground. No. So what are the, the main challenges uh here? No. So in terms as I told you about the future development and the stakeholders, so I took the opportunity of this time to start uh not building knowledge about the the domain. I already, I mean, as I was working in the company and actually, let's say in the same department, I had some knowledge about the domain but not about everything. So I use this time to build knowledge also to, to make the connections with the stakeholders, with future stakeholders.

And also because of this uh changing. And also my, let's say my, my knowledge uh already on the on the domain and on some of the difficulties, I, I also let's say took the opportunity of, of for self development. I was leading also with, of um uh share a share rota support uh initiative in inside uh between something because we were the things were forming. So there were not many people who would able to do this out of office. So I um took the lead of coordinating this. So this was an action I took let's say, to solve a problem. But also it was good for self development. No, because it was a cross team initiative. And is this? No, you had all this problem. But I was new. My role. I, I it was important for me to not forget about this. No, to, to learn. So I, I decided that it would be important for me to sign up for, uh uh let's say a management course for the um topics looks very promising that it was um a course. Actually, it was six week course of a four hour more or less education per week. But it was really indeed uh useful. I would talk to you more on the next slide about it. But I made that, that commitment and I'm really happy about that.

And also I continued. So I was already when I started in the role, I was part of a mentorship initiative and I continued mentoring uh some uh software engineer uh with regard to the team cohesion. So the team was forming. So what I try is to be very clear from, from the start, this is something also I learned no, from when I was doing this assignment. So being clear, being explicit. So I try to set clear also, I uh take care also. So the product manager uh was new to the company. Um And, and so I, I help her because um in uh in technology, we work in leadership. So the person, like the problem is more um responsible for what is respect to the business. But for, let's say uh optimal result, you really work together. And actually, I think this is being very effective. No. So we each of us working on their craft, but we really work together into aligning to on, on the delivery and also with respect to the ways of working on the team. So the idea was OK, some of the team is already working in the company, they are already in a team. Let's start for, for what they are used to. And then let's no. So that was a bit. OK. So these were the first month.

So finally, uh the team uh the people delivered like the there was the delivery uh successful, we could start as a team and actually Bravos is the name we chose was for actually, um you might think this is not important, but actually finding a name, I think it's uh this was an activity we did all together.

Uh It is um also it's something to bring cohesion and not through its identity. So actually, we did, we did this together and thought why we would choose this or that. So in that phase, the team was uh still uh it was small, but at least it was stable. Um And they also know about the service ownership. Um I didn't explain that much. No, but that at the other slide still there was no, it was decided. But everything was very mixed here, things were progressing. No. So there were handovers takeover. So things were taking uh they find a home, of course, while doing that, there were some unexpected relationships or, or things discovered. But let's say things were moving and separated and, and moving more clearly to the target state and very importantly, no, because at the end, it's very nice to create the team. But at the end, it's a business you need to deliver. So we actually, during this period, uh just as we started as a team, there was a high pressure of a new feature to be delivered and we started developing this. And this was very interesting because it was a feature which actually where you could see the benefit of taking this end and I will talk a bit later about this. So um more about the team itself.

So on the future uh development as the team was small uh on, on, especially on, on some of this period. As there was one person on, on paternity, on paternity leave, I was uh myself a bit more hands on with the, with the team and we also get uh some uh contractor help. Uh It's not like me, I was coding, but I was maybe providing some reviews or being more involved on the technical discussion as uh the team remaining was more uh junior. Um And then uh with respect to the stakeholders. I think it's very important as I have been not to have a fluid relationship. So I try to have regular catch ups with who I, especially not with the product manager but also with other key stakeholders. Also, I think it's important to even if you don't work directly with them, it's it's important to share uh your, your experiences with others. So I look for other team leads uh that, that I need to, to have uh like a dance or a current meeting to talk about. No, what, how are we doing and between each other like a support group.

And then uh for more as a development, as I told you, I signed in on this course, which was I have to tell you, it was really um intense in qu in not to find the space. But for me, it was really um very, really, really useful because I have done other courses before. But from this, for me, what was more important that it, that was filling a gap that other courses for me were not including, which is more the business perspective. No, because the other courses were more um to know how to manage in terms of the people know their expectation or how I don't know how to give feedback. This course was included. But on this course, uh there was also high emphasis about not aligning the business goals with the team and making the, the the team aware of it in order also to connect better. And this for me was very game changing. And actually, I wanted not to really bring this to the team. And this is why um as some um action that I did after this course, uh and also not, let's say aligned with the information, we define our mission, we try to define our goals. No. So I try to explain them what were the high level goals of the company? OK. Let's try to find together how this, how this relates with what you are doing every day. And the team really valued this.

Um So I'm really not uh grateful to this course because it really gave me this perspective. It was coming also to other topics. But for me, that's the the most important also as we know, had to our team, uh the team is uh the people in the team really wanted to, to iterate on the ways of working. So actually, this was something coming and we actually had like uh at some point for several months, we had a weekly ways of uh working meeting where we will be defining our ways of working. So this was something that the team really wanted to define. So we invested and I think it was really, really useful. And also as the situation of from the pandemic permitted, we also started to have um more meetings face to face. Uh sometimes it was not something regular, but a lot which I think also no, um it was important especially for the people new to the company, not to create uh this personal relations. But apart from this, because I think it's important you care about the team, but you cannot forget also about people, individuals about the career progressions.

And uh unfortunately, I know with some of them that were maybe in a good position uh during this three or uh maybe their progress or their uh promotions were kind of stopped or, or could not be evaluated. So I really, once the situation was stable, I really took care of this. And actually, on that period, there were two promotion processes of my team uh which is quite relevant because my team is uh five members. So it's a high percentage. OK. So apart from this, um there was uh as I told you, no, we, we need with the team, but we also need to do stuff. So actually, um this will be a talk by itself. Uh But just I wanted to give you like some overview, very high overview to, to just, you know, make, make explicit that of course, we are also doing, we need to do stuff. Um And there was this feature uh which uh for, for us, it was very interesting because the team was not used to work like this to work with other craft, not from UX, from 10 analytics. And, and this was highly valued uh for from my team. Of course, as this was the first time we were doing this, there were things to improve. But we try also, again, not to, to iterate also we didn't have. So this is involved some new domains for the teams. We didn't have time to learn, let's say deeply.

So we learn a bit more by doing. But at the end, so you learn and iterate. I think the good thing about this, what I liked from the project. No. And um that I think it was a very good opportunity for development is was for the junior members because let's say no one from the team really knew about the topic or had experience before the most junior members. They were not having this impression. Oh, the other people know more. So they were more uh let's say proactive into not lead, having a more draw. So actually, I think this was very good opportunity for the more uh junior members to, to, to shine. No, and to, to make the step. So that was uh also interesting. Um So as part of this future at the end, we did some retrospective and decided that whenever we will do our next future again, we actually should shorten the the feedback loop. No. So, but in general, people uh valued uh the experience good still with some pro but yeah, that's the first one. So uh moving back to more, let's say the the main topic of, of, of the talk uh because also my time is going. Um So the first phase uh it was uh yeah, we are already a team. We have built the team, we have uh now all, all the team members of this, well, not all but like more stable.

And uh also the domain ownership starts to be more clear, not still, there are these uh bits and pieces, but it's much more clear. And uh given that this future, we could finalize, not cleaning a bit our house, not to, to set out at our identity, um that I will go very, very quickly because I just realized I give all my time. Um But anyway, here it, it's come the less challenging. So um so that there were uh on this uh phase. No, now we focus on finishing everything which is uh setting up our entities also and getting off as we are now more people getting full ownership of the out of office rota support as I had myself for some more time as the team is bigger, coming back to maybe initiatives at the center level or doing this kind of talks.

And also we develop a number of activities. No, as we now can also meet more in person in the team uh rather than um the days at the office hack days. Also, again, not, not forgetting about the personal development of each of the team members, encouraging them to expose themselves to cross teams. So uh let's say this is getting going. So what will be the future, the future will be, you know, that now we have the team form, it's clear ownership and we are having a good balance between future development and uh tech debt uh takeaways. So as you can see, uh the it's very important to learn fast. So it's uh is it uh the alternative process with shift in priorities? There were always things that you don't expect but you have to adapt. Don't forget as I told you about your personal development and strategic thinking. For me, it was a lot of effort in time, but it was really useful to do this management course and to have this small business perspective, which I lack myself coming more from the technical part, also important to keep the house clean both in the more technical uh perspective and not of the debt, but also from relationship, both with the stakeholders and your team caring about them individually, but also as a team and also uh last but not least uh help others to grow uh like by doing these talks or mentoring.

I think it's very important not to, to give uh uh back to the the community. And after all of this, I think I cannot uh say anymore that I'm a newbie. So probably also taking the title of the slide. Probably I'm also now a grown up team leader and sorry for the delay. Uh But that's all. Uh if you want to join our teams, you can uh scan our Q QR or uh look at our page about the many opportunities you have if you have any question. And I'm really sorry for the time, I really don't realize. Um So hope it was useful. So if so, I hope if and also please, if you want to connect, of course, in linkedin, uh look for my name. You are also very welcome. If you want to ask me some questions uh later, it's also very welcome. Uh So, OK, ni nice to hear Patricia that it was uh useful. So yeah, please uh contact if you want more details or something happy to, to connect and, and help. Um So, so yeah, uh any, I don't know if you have any question, it looks no. So, but at least I'm happy that at least it's not like I, I left you, you have questions and I left you without time for it. Uh I really didn't realize about the time. Um So yeah, so I think it's, it's fine. So well. Uh thanks again uh everyone. Um I was super happy to be here and uh yeah, I hope to see you also in other talks.

Um in case someone is from uh lives in Barcelona tomorrow, I will be in the on site event in Barcelona. So if uh someone it's there, we'll be happy to meet in person. So see you all. Bye.