Spotlight on the Leadership of FireHydrant
FireHydrant is proud of our leadership and we want to highlight our engineering managers in a blog post series so you can get to know all of them. Meet Jouhné Scott!
Would you be so kind as to introduce yourself?
Hi! I'm Jouhné Scott (she/her). I live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started working at FireHydrant in June 2021; previously, I was an engineering manager at Healthx, a healthcare IT company in Indianapolis. I like to read, travel with my family, friends, and sometimes Purdue. I also enjoy playing RPG games (D&D, Traveller, Diablo) and live music.
Let’s go ahead and start with the biggest question. Why did you join FireHydrant?
Initially, the job post drew me in; the requirements for Engineering Manager were all the areas I wanted to focus on more as an Engineering Manager. Growing, coaching, and mentoring team members are all things I want to do more.
However, after I had a call with fellow EM Maggie and they explained the culture at FireHydrant, I was hooked and excited to move on in the process. One aspect of the culture that I valued/value is FireHydrant's commitment to practices that do not lead to pay inequality. For example, FireHydrant has the same base compensation for engineers of the same title. Having experienced pay inequality before, I appreciated FireHydrant’s open communication and upfront approach toward not perpetuating pay inequality at FireHydrant.
What do you think are the most important things when building out a team?
It is essential that the people we bring into our team have a real opportunity to grow in their careers, in addition to contributing to the growth of the company. Therefore, one of the questions I ask myself when speaking with a candidate is, "Will this person grow and be successful in this role?" If not, what can I do as an EM to help that candidate? I was able to do this at FireHydrant by creating a Mentor program for early-career candidates.
How would you describe the culture you like to foster in engineering departments?
My approach as a leader is to be empathetic to my team, partner with them in their career growth, ensure that I am setting clear performance expectations, and be a relentless source of support.
My ultimate goal is to create high trust teams that work collaboratively, provide consistent support to one another, and communicate openly and frequently. I define a high trust team as follows: we share information easily, we extend support to one another, take up challenging tasks required by the group, and we are not worried about our team members letting us down.
One way I try to model high trust is by avoiding automatically removing responsibilities in an attempt to help. As leaders, we may assess a situation and determine that if a person did not have a specific task or responsibility, they would dedicate more time and focus to the task at hand. Before doing this, I like to confirm with my team members that they want that responsibility or job removed while working on more pressing matters. I never want an attempt to help to be viewed as doubt in their ability to deliver work.
What brought you into engineering leadership?
I came into engineering leadership as a team lead with HR responsibilities. In addition to delivering on my projects, I also led a team and had people management responsibilities. It was not an easy adjustment pivoting to managing my peers. At the time, I had more questions than I had answers. As a result, I read a lot of books about leadership and engineering leadership. I also joined the Rands Leadership Slack and learned how other engineering leaders addressed challenges and grew as leaders. The above, combined with internal book club discussions focused on engineering leadership, allowed me to understand what my team needed and what I needed from leadership to grow as a leader myself.
I learned that it is vital for individuals to have the support structures to feel confident and grow within their roles. It is the main reason why I take the approach that I do when building out a team.
What are the things that keep you in engineering leadership?
I enjoy the people part of engineering leadership. I enjoy the discussions and work around figuring out what my team members are passionate about and then creating opportunities to work on those things.
Another aspect of engineering leadership that I enjoy is allowing work to happen. By that, I mean doing the work to remove roadblocks, limit outside distractions, and let my team deliver on our sprint goals.
What's your favorite thing you've accomplished in your career so far?
An example of one of my favorite things that come with eng leadership is the accomplishment I am most proud of so far. It was moving my team's workflow from fly-in SalesForce cases to planned Jira tickets. Achieving this involved the team defining our "definition of ready to work,” communicating that to outside stakeholders, and through ceremonies making sure we understood the work requested. As a result, my team had more autonomy in their day-to-day. For example, we communicated when a ticket did not meet our DOR (definition of ready to work) and we would not begin working on it until it did. The process also allowed the team to produce better work as individuals and as a team by introducing a quality review process (in addition to the code review).
How do you like to give feedback, both to your direct reports and peers?
I like to give timely feedback in the manner that each individual prefers to receive feedback. Giving positive feedback is easy, and we all love to do that. Where I have, and others may struggle, is offering “negative” or corrective feedback. My approach to corrective feedback is to make sure the feedback is specific, non-judgmental, and actionable. I like to highlight what is going well, where improvement is needed, and how we can work together to make those improvements. For example, I had an engineer who struggled with written communication. I communicated that I appreciated that they were taking the initiative in sharing. However, their writing style was hard to parse and was causing more confusion. I suggested they read The Workplace Writer's Process: A Guide to Getting the Job Done and begin applying the practices recommended in the book. Through frequent check-ins and an open feedback loop, they were able to craft clearer written communication.
What do you think FireHydrant will be able to accomplish in the next five years?
In the next five years, I would like FireHydrant to be synonymous with the phrase "software reliability.” Our product is widely used and at the top of any company's shortlist when looking for tools that improve reliability.
What's your favorite thing about FireHydrant since you started working here?
This is my first time working for a company that is sincerely building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. In addition to the work, FireHydrant is doing in promoting pay equality and transparency. We also have a couple of ERGs (Employee Resource Group) for underrepresented individuals and a JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) slack channel to create a more inclusive workplace for everyone.
As a manager what do you value most?
I value honesty, transparency, and teamwork. It is important that anyone who works with me understands that they can give me honest feedback or information without any fear of reprisal. Transparency is essential because it provides me with a clear lay of the land. Finally, teamwork, executing on shared goals collaboratively via respect, trust, and helping each other, allows us to grow individually and collectively.
Thanks so much, Jouhné!