Engineering culture

Developments in engineering are forcing teams to look more closely at their values and how they impact on delivery. Spotify's Kevin Goldsmith and BBC's Tom Cartwright share their advice and observations

Spotify’s director of engineering, Kevin Goldsmith, examines what makes a great engineering culture and why it’s important. Culture is a pattern of shared basic assumptions, or shared values – such as ‘We ship often,’ or ‘We have a strong quality consensus.’ It is key that everyone agrees with the values and works to them, he specifies. At Spotify their work is more than just a software project – it’s a mission.

BBC senior product manager, Tom Cartwright describes how many of the themes around effectiveness have been in engineering for over 50 years (for example, Deming and waste), but they’re just starting to be rediscovered and the BBC needs to keep up with the start-ups adopting them.

Nic Ford, product owner in the BBC Pre-deploy Development Tools team, believes that a good engineering culture is comprised of intelligent, creative individuals and effective communication.

"You can be Einstein but if you can't communicate Relativity, you're gonna be stuck in a patent office"- Nic Ford

Umesh Telang, principal engineer in BBC Platform Services, believes having a clear culture can provide predictability around how a team operates, the expectations around the work they’re doing, how they do it and what gets delivered. He agrees that developers within a team that share a culture are ultimately more effective.

Kevin Goldsmith describes how Spotify operates in a lean way, following many lean start-up principles, taking a very data driven approach to product development. Ideas are put to work as quickly as possible and then the data is analysed to gauge its success. He believes that if you set bright, creative people on the right path and let them go, they’ll deliver something better than you could ever have imagined.