About Engineering Leadership and How to Build a Culture of Ownership
Startup Codex

Fascinating interview with Jean-Denis Grèze, who was Director of Engineering at Dropbox and is now Head of Engineering at Plaid.

Grèze is a pragmatic manager with an atypical background. After his studies in computer science, he made a detour to Harvard where he obtained a law degree, a "four-year detour he probably didn't need" but which reinforced his pragmatism. For him, even in engineering, there is never a unique right answer but constant trade-offs.

In this discussion, he shares some valuable advice for managers with engineering responsibilities:

How to craft a bottoms-up culture of ownership from the Top?

How to motivate for tackling big problems at scale?

How to balance company goals and employee goals?

How to build teams with high humility and low egos?

How to transition to becoming a manager-of-managers?

No big deal. Just absolutely essential issues for a startup that needs to grow engineering teams.

As Plaid grew, the number of things that weren’t solving themselves bottom-up kept increasing. It took us a bit of time to recognize that this stuff used to solve itself, why is it not happening now?

[...]

The interesting root cause behind that actually comes from a lot of trust and respect for other functions. You kind of assume that the other side is doing the right thing and you trust them. But that means you haven’t built a muscle for arguing with them.