Using Data to Uncover Hidden Talent on Engineering Teams

A conversation with Kathryn Murphy, GM at Twilio's Engage.

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About the episode

To find and reward hidden talent among your engineering team, look past the self promoters and dive instead into the data.

That’s according to guest Kathryn Murphy, who at the time of the recording was the EVP and GM of Pluralsight‘s engineering Flow. Flow uses data to help engineering leaders understand how their engineering teams collaborate.

By pulling data like code commits, ticket data and pull requests, Flow not only reveals team dynamics but individuals who contribute at a high level without announcing it over a loudspeaker. This allows leaders to recognize and reward them — a critical factor because these quiet influencers can often be from underrepresented groups.

For instance, Kathryn tells the story of an engineer who wasn’t sure she was on par with her new team after a decade-long hiatus from the workforce. But the data behind her work — again, the code commits, ticket data and pull requests — showed that she was in fact extremely talented and proficient.

The data set her free, says Kathryn, who adds: “It’s too easy to define a high-performing contributor as the person who stayed up all night, working on a production issue, or the person who’s really loud about all the new things they’re doing. We often ignore the more quiet but meaningful contributors: the people who are helping others, the people who are learning new skills, the people who are working cross-functionally.”

When you honor these less flashy but high-impact behaviors, you create a culture of trust. That’s an important lesson for every leader, whether you’re VP of engineering, a CHRO who wants to learn how engineering teams operate or any leader who seeks to reward those who contribute significantly with a below-the-radar personality.

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