Meetings with the Engineering Team: When and How to Meet

Are your engineers distracted by constant meetings? Here's how we make decisions about when to meet so deep work remains protected.

When and How to meet with the engineering team

Long, uninterrupted deep work sessions are absolutely necessary to produce high-quality software. Our job as engineering team leaders is to ensure such sessions are possible and protected from a flurry of unnecessary and poorly timed meetings.

The wrong time and lack of a clear goal in meetings will defocus the team, which is detrimental to productivity, especially for engineers.

Engineers need time to get into a flow and be in it, so scheduling ‘a quick check in’ in the middle of that flow comes at a high price.

At Hera, we view engineering meetings as a highly effective but super costly way to align and brainstorm. In this blog, I break down how we approach it:

📅 Manager’s schedule vs Maker’s schedule

Setting up a meeting with your engineering team is not the same as setting up a meeting with your co-founder or a fellow head of department.

Unlike managers or founders, who are jumping from one call to the next for most of the day, engineers spend most of their day in deep work.

Paul Graham brilliantly describes this difference with the concept of the Manager’s schedule and the Maker’s schedule.

The Manager's schedule is split into one-hour intervals throughout the day. By default, as a manager, you change what you're doing every hour, and if need be, you can set aside several hours for a single task. When you meet with someone who is on a Manager's schedule, it becomes merely a practical issue: find an open slot in the schedule, book it, and you're good to go.

The Maker’s schedule on the other hand uses time in a different way. Maker, in this case, applies to anyone who directly makes things – engineers, writers, illustrators, and so on. Makers prefer to work at least half a day at a time to be able to do deep work. Writing, programming, illustrating and such can't be done effectively in an hour.

Manager schedule vs. Maker schedule

⌛ When to meet? Outside deep work hours!

Keeping Manager’s schedule vs Maker’s schedule in mind, at Hera, we meet with engineers without interrupting their deep work. This way they don’t have to switch focus, they can begin a big task without having to put it on pause for a meeting.

In addition to being before or after deep work sessions, our meetings are almost always within the boundaries of a workday (11am, 2pm, 5pm). This, of course, is easier to accomplish when a team is within similar time zones, like in our case.

If you're scheduling a meeting with a team located in highly different time zones, rather than favoring one particular time zone, make sure you are suggesting various time slots, and be open to rotating the time of that meeting so no one is at a consistent disadvantage.

💡 Check out our blog for more tips on how to schedule meetings across time zones.

🧑‍💻 Make the most out of async communication

Our async communication tools and daily practices help us avoid the dreaded "meetings that could have emails".

👉 Notion

In 9 cases out of 10, we first start with a Notion document. It includes:

  • Description of the issue
  • What decisions need to be made
  • What we need to act on
  • A proposal

Every team member leaves comments, and often we reach an agreement within this Notion document. If that is the case, we don't even need to meet face to face.

It's only if we can’t find an agreement, then we meet for an informed and effective session.

👉 Slack

We also have systematic touchpoints on Slack at the end of the morning and end of the day. This allows everyone in the team the chance to raise a hand if they need help.

It’s important to remember that not every issue or concern needs a face-to-face meeting. A great deal can be sorted using your existing async communication tools.

🤸 Keep it flexible

At Hera, our communication culture is very open. We value honest feedback so it’s very much OK for engineers to say “I really need to focus to get XYZ done, can we move the meeting to a bit later?”. Oftentimes, the meeting can be moved and we just make it work.

Having this flexibility allows us to prioritize: sometimes, finishing up an important task will be a lot more valuable than a scheduled meeting but sometimes that is not the case. As leaders of engineering teams, it’s our job to balance the priorities and the needs of the team as a whole.

We wouldn't be able to build great products if we were constantly interrupting our engineers. That's why it's crucial to always be thinking about when and how to meet with them in order to protect their deep work time.

As much as possible, solve issues asynchronously, and schedule meetings before or after deep work.

It’s not always easy to juggle this approach, especially when engineering teams are growing and spreading across multiple time zones. But the more you implement the suggestions of this article, the sooner you will notice the results of a focused, efficient engineering team. At least we did!

Are you interested in joining Hera's engineering team? We’re hiring a Full-Stack Engineer!

Thanks for reading! 👋