Opening Doors: 2 Engineering Leaders Share Their Approach to Alignment, Feedback and High Performance

Built In Boston caught up with some experienced engineering managers to hear about the methods they rely on to keep their teams working together.

Written by Conlan Carter
Published on Jun. 05, 2024
Opening Doors: 2 Engineering Leaders Share Their Approach to Alignment, Feedback and High Performance
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For RapDev’s Director of Engineering, Jay Barker, leading an engineering team is all about open doors.

“I find I can lead most successfully when everyone is as much a part of the process as possible — and has opportunities to provide feedback to me,” said Barker.

By encouraging transparency and feedback, Barker provides his team with several indirect benefits, like overall team agility, motivation and productivity, according to research from Gallup. 

Additionally, when leadership offers a dependable space for employees to voice their concerns, the positive impact can be measured in revenue. In one study on feedback policy, a national restaurant chain with over 7,500 employees saved over $1.6 million annually and reduced turnover by 32 percent, according to research from Organization Science.

Similar to Barker’s enjoyment of feedback and team alignment, Mark McClure, CTO and executive vice president at STR believes that the best way to lead teams is to stay visibility active and model the behavior you want to see from your team. To get a full introduction to the leadership approach and backgrounds of these two engineers, Built In Boston sat down with Barker and McClure for a short, informative conversation.
 

 

Jay Barker
Director of Engineering Salutation • RapDev

RapDev is an engineering development services company that helps customers deploy code faster and upscale operations.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your professional background, and why were you brought on to lead this team?

After working at Curry College for a few years post-grad, I joined the Wayfair team in their early days. I got pulled in to start what has since become the operations center there. 

After spending 11 years building and managing that, I decided to join RapDev and have been here for a little over a year. Tameem, RapDev’s principal engineer, and I had worked together for several years in the operations center, and we decided to join forces again to bring my experience in the Datadog and site reliability engineering space into RapDev.
 

The RapDev team poses for a group photo holding giant prop crayons on a volunteer outing at Cradles to Crayons
RapDev

 

How would you describe your approach to leadership, and how do you plan on building team culture?

I try my best to be very open and honest with people. I love aligning people to understand the vision and direction of what’s needed and allowing them to forge their path to get there rather than dictating how something should be done.

There are a lot of things that build culture, like making sure the team has events and times we can get together to solve technical problems and have fun. Another important tool is providing rapid feedback: if there is any type of misalignment with your team, make sure to address that quickly. Above all, make it clear to the team that we are here to help each other out and ask questions. There’s a strong focus on cultural fit in our hiring process, and we use that to assess not just whether this person will fit our culture, but also if they will amplify it.
 

“Above all, make it clear to the team that we are here to help each other out and ask questions.”

 

What project or initiative are you most excited to tackle, and why? What impact does it have on the company or its customers?

As we speak, we’re working on a new offering that will allow for better management and guidance to our customers around their Datadog footprint. I can’t say too much, because we’re still actively working on it, but we’re very excited, and we expect it to be released at the Datadog DASH conference. This offering will allow our customers to lean into our expertise which will, in turn, enable them to have better governance and consistency in their Datadog environment. Taking recent asks from both customers and Datadog, we’ve been able to go to market extremely quickly and meet their needs. I think that embodies how we operate here at RapDev — we see room for improvement and act as quickly and efficiently as possible.

 

 

Mark McClure
Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President Salutation • STR

STR develops technology solutions to help solve national security challenges.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your professional background, and why were you brought on to lead this team?

I’ve been working in the national security technology sector my entire career. My work has been mostly in the area of radio frequency sensors, processing systems and component technologies. I’ve had the opportunity to play multiple roles in different kinds of organizations. I’ve worked at large companies like Raytheon as an engineer, and I led project teams while at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. I created and led government-sponsored programs while at DARPA, and I’ve grown and led our organization at STR.

Each of these roles has been both rewarding and career-expanding for me. In my current role as CTO of STR, I have the pleasure of working with a talented team doing innovative and important work for our nation.
 

How would you describe your approach to leadership, and how do you plan on building team culture?

I think the best way to lead innovative high-performing teams is to play an active role in the work and to model the behaviors you expect from your team by employing them yourself. At STR, we have adopted the mastery, autonomy and purpose, or MAP, taxonomy to evaluate our team’s work experience. As leaders, we need to provide direction that not only leads to program success but also maximizes employee MAP.

 

“The best way to lead innovative high-performing teams is to play an active role in the work and to model the behaviors you expect from your team.”

 

What project or initiative are you most excited to tackle, and why? What impact does it have on the company or its customers?

In my role as STR’s CTO, I have the opportunity to get involved in many initiatives. We have over 100 active programs, so it’s difficult to devote my time to any one thing. Recently, I’ve been working to advance STR’s hardware-based products and products that provide capabilities as a service.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Shutterstock and listed companies

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