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What we can learn from The Great British Bake Off

Mike Cen

Seven years into my management journey, I was ready to make the jump back into the weeds as an individual contributor (IC). In recent years, largely thanks to Charity Major's post on the Engineer/Management Pendulum, moving from management to engineering is no longer a farfetched idea. As a manager, I had some of the most fulfilling experiences of my career -- building strong team cultures and helping engineers grow. As a natural introvert, however, I needed a break.

It was a bit of serendipity when Oso reached out when I was exploring this change. Oso has that perfect combination of an unsolved problem and a small team. While authorization concepts like Role-based Access Control (RBAC) have been around since the early 1990s, every company still tackles building a bespoke (and painful) implementation. A small team presents an opportunity to have a significant impact on shaping the solution, from influencing internal processes to making architectural decisions.

I had been at early stage startups earlier in my career and recalled the grueling hours, but I was put at ease within my first few conversations. I was told that Graham, our CEO, would not be able to meet in the evening because he blocks off time to spend with his kids, with no exceptions. I've found at Oso, a group of people that prioritizes the people building the product ahead of the product itself. That is rare for a startup with under 20 people.

Some examples that highlight what makes this a special team:

  • A #tiatf (today, I am thankful for) channel full of shoutouts to people who improve our lives.
  • A humbleness in every tech spec or proposal that acknowledges there may be a better solution no matter how experienced the person is.
  • An endless amount of good vibes sent to people who must take time away from work to be present in their non-work lives.
  • A concerted focus on addressing pager noise and developer toil against the backdrop of aggressive delivery goals that startups are known for.

I continue to be impressed by the thoughtfulness of the team every day. So how is this related to the Great British Bake Off? I recently watched an old episode and the contestants that finished early rushed to help those who were not. This camaraderie and caring for each other's success and well-being reminded me of the team at Oso. If this sounds like your kind of team, we're hiring.

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