The Reston Exec Tech Conversations series was created to give those leaders a forum to connect with their peers. The format encourages peer-to-peer conversation and discussion between executives about issues that impact them every day.
Reston is the tech center for the greater DC area, with a rich history of innovation in the public and private sectors. Established, global players are relocating operations to the region, new entrants are being created, and the needs of the public sector drive significant tech investment. That means the area is full of technology executives from multiple disciplines, including CTOs, CIOs, CMOs, Product Owners, CEOs. Everyone faces new challenges and new opportunities as digital technologies change the world like never before.
The first event took place on February 21 and was hosted by Modus. Thanks to more than 30 technologists who participated, the first session in the series was a big success. Attendees engaged in over an hour of conversation on successful approaches for building high-performing teams in the DC market. As part of the unique format, facilitators sat with each group of executives to share their own experiences and drive the conversation. Those facilitators were:
- Ed Barrientos, CEO at Brazen
- Antonio Piraino, CTO at Sciencelogic
- Bobby Tahir, CTO at Hobsons
- Pat Sheridan, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Modus Create
Attendees discussed a number of different topics related to teams: talent acquisition and interview, defining and building company culture, supporting teams’ productivity, talent retention, and much more.
Below are some of the high-level takeaways from the conversation.
- Team development is hard. Testing and screening for the characteristics that make a good employee is very difficult. Soft skills are key to identifying the right candidates.
- Ensuring team productivity understandably differs for remote and co-located teams, but two ideas greatly help:
- Communication facilitated with modern tools. The most productive engineering teams talk amongst themselves constantly. This results in shared understanding of what coworkers are focusing on and creates a platform for peer review.
- Customer service. Customer centricity was a central idea in this conversation. Bringing engineers closer to the customer gives a broader perspective on the work and makes sure that everyone on the team is building the right thing.
- New platforms for acquisition were discussed. The concept of “online watering holes” where technical talent congregates was discussed. Everyone faces challenges hiring great technical team members. Companies must be more strategic in their presences on these channels: adopting an employee branding approach to marketing themselves to new potential candidates.
- Young generations of employees have changed the retention game. A packaged experience is a huge selling point, and companies need to be conscious of that during the recruitment process and after an employee is on board. Several executives shared topics that come up frequently in their experience, including remote work, incentivizing professional development, and unlimited time off.
- The role of leadership in teams was also discussed. The executive’s job with engineering teams is to steer the team in the right direction. Working together can be tough with many different styles, existing relationships, and opinions. Leaders manage the things their teams can debate and restrict the things they cannot debate to limit churn and in-fighting. Leaders also manage the tradeoff of “what can we get done” and “what do we need to get done.”
Modus Create was excited to be able to host the first event in the Reston Exec Tech Conversations series. The feedback during and after the event was resoundingly positive and attendees left with new connections and inspiration for their own challenges. Stay tuned for more information from Reston Exec Tech Conversations, including the next event, which is happening in April.