All Episodes

February 27, 2024 36 mins

On this week’s episode, host Conor Bronsdon is joined by Jason Krohn, Global Head of Delivery at Syngenta. Jason delves into how his teams at Syngenta leverage software engineering intelligence to achieve predictable delivery at scale.

Jason also explores how aligning work with employees' passions contributes to success and retention at Syngenta. He discusses the challenges and solutions in implementing efficient DevOps processes and ensuring organizational buy-in for the vision. Additionally, Jason highlights the importance of empowering teams with autonomy and providing the necessary tools for proactive decision-making.

Whether you're leading a small team or managing an enterprise, Jason's insights offer valuable lessons on driving efficiency, scaling effectively, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Episode Highlights:

1:46 Scaling teams that are empowered and autonomous
4:01: The four pillars for retaining talent in tech teams.
12:51 Tackling organizational change
18:41 Using metrics to achieve predictable delivery
21:45 Why your engineering teams' need to care about metrics, not just be compliant
26:20 Addressing production delays and DevOps integration
28:55 Leadership's role in communicating the 'why’
33:05 The Importance of Coaching When Mentoring

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Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Jason Krohn (00:00):
By any objective measure of changes, of code, of

(00:02):
anything like this, one personlooks 10, 15 times more
productive than the other.
But it doesn't mean that that'swhat's happening right there is
until we come up with anobjective measure of value
delivered somehow.
Right?
Yeah.
You know, there's no real,there's no real way, and that's
why we focus so heavily on, onteams effectively.
Right?
Yeah.
If anything, the, the value Ifind in the, the developer level

(00:24):
metrics is where do we need moresupport?
Is your engineering team focusedon efficiency, but struggling
with inaccessible or costly Dorametrics.
Insights into the health of yourengineering team, don't have to
be complicated or expensive.
That's why LinearB isintroducing free door metrics
for all.
Say goodbye to spreadsheets andmanual tracking or paying for

(00:46):
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Comprehensive Dora dashboardpack the central insights,
including all Forkey Dorametrics tailored to your team's
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Industry standard benchmarks forgauging performance and setting
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Plus additional leading metrics,including emerge, frequency, and
pull request size.
Empower your team with themetrics they deserve.

(01:06):
Sign up for your free Doradashboard today at LinearB dot
IO slash Dora.
Or follow the link in the shownotes.

Conor Bronsdon (01:13):
Welcome back to Dev Interrupted everyone.
I'm your co-host, ConnorBronston, and today we're joined
by Jason Cron.
Jason is the Global Head ofDelivery and Digital product
Engineering at Syngenta.
Jason, welcome to DevInterrupted.

Jason Krohn (01:24):
Hi.
Thank you for having me.

Conor Bronsdon (01:25):
Absolutely.
It's, it's fantastic to have youon.
We've known each other for ayear or two now, and.
You've got over a decade ofexperience leading teams around
the world.
And you've also done that whilescaling your teams around the
world.
That experience has given you areally well rounded perspective,
and I think you're ahead ofwhere a lot of other want to be
as far as their engineeringmetrics program, your culture

(01:45):
impact, and how you approach it.
So, a couple of years ago, whenwe were having guests on the
show, all I didn't want to talkabout was that hyperscaling
piece.
But you've had to do itefficiently.
It's not growth at all costsanymore.
And you've really cared aboutculture throughout the entire
process.
About the experience yourengineers are having, all while
scaling from 150 to 400developers.

(02:06):
And so what I want to talk aboutis how do you scale efficiently?
Considering the complexitiesthat you faced, how do you build
and grow teams while ensuringpeople are empowered and
autonomous?
What's your approach?

Jason Krohn (02:19):
You, you have to hire the right people and then
empower them with the thingsthat they care about
effectively.
Right?
As we started small, it, it waseasy to do, right?
You have a small team.
A small team is attached to aproduct.
They get a thing that they candirectly care about.
Uh, it's very easy for them tofeel engaged effectively.
Right?

(02:39):
As your teams grow, though, youstart to lose a lot of this.
You start to bring in a littlemore of the enterprise.
You start to bring in a littlemore of the, the friction to
their work totally effectively,right?
And so as we've scaled, weneeded to change a few of those
things around, effectively,right?

Conor Bronsdon (02:54):
So, how do you identify what the right things
are?
What developers want, as yousaid?

Jason Krohn (02:59):
An important part of building and scaling a team
for us, at least at Syngenta, isretention, right?
We want to hire good people.
We want to get out of their way,but then we want to keep them.
Your most impactful teams arethe teams that have had people
there for a while.

Conor Bronsdon (03:15):
Who understand what's going on, who understand
the complexities of what they'redoing, who can then sit and
partner with the business toreally understand, hey, we have
an opportunity, can we seize it,what does it take, how do we do
it, what's the right way to goabout it, right?
So they have the culturalcontext and kind of the depth of
knowledge that you want to seeto lead teams, frankly.

Jason Krohn (03:33):
And the systems knowledge, right?
Agriculture is very seasonal.
And so when we come in with amarket opportunity, the business
side is going to want a thingdone.
That thing may not always befeasible.
But if you have a team thatdeeply understands the product,
the context of the business, thecontext of our user base, we can
get to how can we achieve thatvalue.

(03:55):
In the time frame that we have,effectively, right?
Which may not be what isexplicitly being asked for.

Conor Bronsdon (04:01):
Interesting.
So that's how you are drivingdecisions that align with
organizational goals, it soundslike.

Jason Krohn (04:08):
Absolutely, but you have to keep people for that,
right?
And for us, I'm a big believerin four pillars for people,
right?
So, you have to compensatepeople fairly, you have to give
them a pleasant place to work,give them work they care about,
and give them growth.
If you give them those fourthings, they will stay, for the

(04:29):
most part.
There's always some people whothey want to switch domains,
they want to go do somethingelse, and that's fine.
But if you give people thosefour things, right?
One, you can stand up and say, Ivalue you and I respect you.
And you're true to your word,effectively, right?
If you don't give them any ofthose four things, though, They
will go somewhere else to findthose things.

(04:50):
And so we really try hard, as wescale, to always keep those
things in mind, right?
To, from a salary perspective,we need to be competitive.
I can't say that I value whatyou bring to our organization
and I care about you andunderpay you, right?
Now that doesn't mean we have tobe top of the market for
everything all the time, but Ihave to pay you fairly for what
you bring, effectively, right?

(05:12):
Um, we have to give you apleasant place to work.
And that can mean everythingfrom your laptop can't be slow
for what you do.
The build processes can't beonerous, right?
You can't have all these littleannoyances during your day that
make you not like your jobeffectively.
But it's also our office, uh,the culture that we have, like

(05:33):
you want coming to work to bepleasant, not something you
don't like effectively.
Right.

Conor Bronsdon (05:38):
That makes total sense.
And.
I mean, aligns to, I mean, somuch research in the field,
right?
Of like, you know, happy teamsthat feel engaged, like they can
make an impact, are moreproductive, they stay longer.
I mean, this is very clearlylike how you're building this
organizational matrix, howyou're rewiring the social
circuitry of your organizationto work and retain folks.
But what are the kind ofguidelines you put into place to

(06:00):
make that happen?

Jason Krohn (06:02):
For the rest, for the rest of that retention?
Yeah.
Right.
Because then there's the othertwo dimensions, right?
Mm-Hmm.
those are two.
The other two is, I gotta giveyou work you care about.
Thankfully at Syngenta, we havework people can care about,
right?
We're, we're all about fightingclimate change, sustainable
agriculture, regenerativeagriculture.
How do we use technology andprecision agriculture machinery

(06:22):
to help people do better, to domore?
That's better for them andbetter for the Earth.
So, it's thankfully been easy toget people on board.
And the things around that,there's data science around
that, there's systems work,there's web work.
So we have mobile work, we havea lot of work there.
Then it's about knowing thepeople, what do they want to do?
What is their career path?
Because the fourth pillar is, Ihave to give you growth.

(06:44):
And that growth has to bevisible to you.
You have to know where you sit,you have to know where your next
steps are, and you have to feelenough agency in how you get
there.
Right, it's not enough to justsay In my opinion, here's where
you are.
This is the next level.
Please go do it, right?
Like it's a, it's a balance ofthere are things that the

(07:07):
individual needs to do, but thenthey also need support from the
organizational side to getthere.
And so what we find is if I cangive you all those things, if
you can see your future here, ifyou feel that you have control
over that next step in yourcareer, right?
Whether a promotion to seniorengineer or engineering manager
or staff engineer, whatever itis, right?
If you're being paid fairly, ifyou love what you do, if your

(07:29):
work environment is pleasant,right, those are kind of the
structures that we put in placeto help with that retention and
that scaling.

Conor Bronsdon (07:36):
Given the seniority of the team that
you're focusing on, and thestrategy you're describing, it
sounds like you give your peoplea lot of autonomy.

Jason Krohn (07:43):
100%.
I mean, we believe in fullautonomy for our teams, right?
They know what needs to be done.
Now there's a challenge there,right?
But at the end of the day,whether it's from a process
perspective, what do they run?
Do they run Scrum?
Do they run Kanban?
What's a program increment size?
How do they deal with things?
They know the answers, right?

(08:03):
And this is where we structure alot on are we delivering value
or not?
If we're delivering value, thenit's up to those teams to decide
the most efficient ways to workto do that effectively.
Now, there are a lot ofchallenges around that, right?
If you look at introductions oftechnologies or frameworks,
building things different ways,when do we build into a platform

(08:24):
type model and when do we takeon tech debt to build a silo,
right?
Where we've struggled as we'vegrown to proactively tackle some
of those and so there's beensome things we've had to go back
and kind of redo.
Um, but at the heart of it is,is autonomy.
It really allows us, and italigns with Shugenta's business
model, right?
If you look at agriculture,Agriculture in Brazil is very

(08:47):
different than the U.
S., which is different thanEurope, which by the way is
different in almost everycountry.
Different from Ukraine,different from smallholders in
India and Vietnam and the restof Asia Pacific, right?
So, all of these products asthey're looking at their markets
need to be empowered to take thedecisions that are right for
them in the moment to kind ofseize value.

(09:07):
So

Conor Bronsdon (09:08):
How do you figure out if you're doing that
efficiently and making your teamwork to the best of their

Jason Krohn (09:14):
capacity?
For us, this is where themetrics that we've introduced
are, are helping, right?
I mean, we focus on three thingsin the metrics.
Are we working efficiently?
Are we working effectively, andare we working safely?
Right?
So efficiently is all about forthe people in, in dollars we're
deploying for the effort thatwe're deploying.
Are we using it in a way thatthat is valuable?

(09:35):
Are we not sitting aroundwaiting for things?
Right?
But all that efficiency doesn'tmatter if we're not capturing
value in the market, right?
Effectively.
Right.
And so, you know, that's wherewe expand on things like the
DORA metrics with other thingslike usage and KPI metrics from
products in amplitude, right?
An analytics platform tounderstand are we having the
impact in the market?

(09:56):
And then the last one's safety.
Our industry, like many others,deals with a lot of user data, a
lot of, a lot of grower data.
And so as you look at privacy,as you look at regulatory, as
you look at those sorts ofthings, we have to make sure
that you can be fast and you candeliver value, but if you're
doing it in a way that is unsafeor, or not compliant with the

(10:16):
laws we need to be compliantwith, none of it matters.
And so for us, these metricshave really given us those
dimensions across it.

Conor Bronsdon (10:23):
What kind of results have you seen?

Jason Krohn (10:25):
It's been great.
You know, we've seen things likean 80 percent reduction in cycle
time this year.
Wow.
We've seen a 33 percent increasein planning accuracy.
And this is, we've done this notfrom like a top down mandate,
right?
A big focus on all of ourmetrics is.
Was, as we looked at the basketof metrics we were gonna bring
in what actually supports thosethings.

(10:46):
What supports being agile, notdoing, not doing agile, right?
Uh, what supports steady,sustainable future delivery,
what's healthy for our teams?
And paints that picture of arewe effective, efficient, and
safe, right?
And then we gave these tools toour teams and said, Hey, look at
this, right?
If there's something you'reunhappy with, please move the

(11:08):
needle on it.
And they were able to, and it'sforced a lot of really good
discussions on our side, whichhas been great.
Uh, some of it Procedural,process wise, how do we work
across the business?
How do we work withstakeholders, with product, with
design, to make sure that workis in a better state of ready?
How do we make sure that we'rereserving the right amounts of
capacity for steady state, forrun and maintain?

(11:29):
So that we can be morepredictable in what are we going
to do?
When we make a commitment, wecan achieve that commitment
effectively, right?
And some of those things haveled us to better adoption of
different tooling, for example,right?
As we look to decrease cycletime, like many enterprises and
things, you can't go toproduction that often.
You can't go every day.

(11:54):
to push out and then be able todo a controlled rollout to our
different user groups, you know,as we do that, that promotion
through production effectively,right?
So it's been good on both sidesas we rolled this out.

Conor Bronsdon (12:05):
So what I'm hearing is you're not just
leveraging the analytics side ofLinearB's platform, but you're
also using those analytics andthe context you get with your
teams through these culturalefforts you're doing to say,
okay, let's identify frictionpoints and apply workflow
automation, tooling and, andother, you know, goal setting
through get stream or, orthrough the linear B platform to
actually, I mean, destroy thesefriction points and automate

(12:26):
them away.
Is that correct?

Jason Krohn (12:28):
Yeah, I mean, a hundred percent, right?
No two teams have the exact sameproblems effectively, right?
Yeah.
And so for us it's really abouthow do we, how do we paint the
picture for the teams?
How do we help them understand?
Where is there smoke?
Where might there be things thatwe want to go look at and re
evaluate, right?
So when we first rolled thisout, everyone has an answer for
why the metrics are what theyare, right?

(12:51):
And we pushed just a little biton, let's go re evaluate some of
these things.
Some of these we can't, right?
So for example, simple things,like cycle time's long, QA's on
a different continent.
This introduces a big delay.
Okay, let's change it.
And this gets down into theautonomy of the teams.
We're pairing this metrics workwith a lot of organizational

(13:14):
change on our side.
So we have a big focus on TeamTopology's framework.
We're really pushing a lot on,just because we've done
something in the past, And theteams are 100 percent in charge
of that and free to make thosechanges.

(13:34):
So for example, one of themetrics, some of the things
we've started to expose to teamsis investment level, finance.

Conor Bronsdon (13:42):
Oh wow, so you're showing investment
metrics for what products arebeing worked on, which is

Jason Krohn (13:47):
a really cool part.
And I get this, I was anengineer for a long time, right?
They always want to try to solvethe problem with what they have
at hand.
This is always what they'relooking for, right?
And by the time it would get upto leadership of, we actually
need two more people for thisfor 90 days, whatever it is,

(14:08):
right?
It's too late, why didn't youtell me this earlier?
And have that product levelinvestment visibility down to
them to understand what are ouroptions, right?
And so one of the things we'restarting to expose along with
these metrics, right?
Is here's, here's your budgetfor the year.

(14:30):
Here's your current burn rate.
Here's, here's what you have.
And so you can take some ofthose decisions to say, Hey, I
want to bring on some additionalresources for six months, or I
want to move QA from across theglobe to a newer location.
What are the cost implicationsof that work with the, with our
product and business teams tounderstand, hey, is this, is
this a move we want to make?

(14:51):
Right?
This

Conor Bronsdon (14:52):
is so fascinating for me because most
teams I talk to that are usinglinear B'S investment profile
metrics are leveraging the boardlevel, uh, or with their
c-suite, and they're saying, ohyeah, like.
Here's what we're doing, youknow, let us know your feedback,
or like, here's how we'redelivering it.
But you've taken this otherapproach because you've built
these senior autonomous teamsand the leadership within that.
You're saying, hey, we're goingto give you the input, like,

(15:13):
let's make sure you feel thispassion in it.
And I think that that reallygoes back to something we talked
about a bit earlier, which isthe need to make people feel
like their work matters and likethey can make an impact and
you're giving them all the toolsand information to do that,
which is a, a really cool,bottoms up agile

Jason Krohn (15:26):
approach.
A hundred percent.
And we, we track everythingacross these projects.
Very very granularly.
Yeah.
All of the people allocations,all of the cloud costs, license
allocations, everything.
Because as we look at aninvestment profile for a
product, right, that product isfree to spend their money to
achieve their objectives.
And so we're trying to put more,more of that data and more tools

(15:49):
in the hands of the teams sothat they can be, as we look at
team topologies, They can bemore autonomous in those
changes.
They know what changes they canmake, and it's not only later
when the pressure's really on,are they making those changes?
They're starting to see some ofthose signals earlier.
Yeah.
Of where might things not beideal, and then they're able to
proactively make those changes.

Conor Bronsdon (16:10):
That's fantastic.
Where are you seeing teamsleverage some of those tooling,
like git streams, programmableworkflows, for example?

Jason Krohn (16:15):
Our usage of some of the automation stuff, like
WorkerB and GitStream, have beenreally valuable from a cycle
time standpoint for our teams,right?
So, it's really interesting ifyou look into the cycle time,
like the depth of cycle time,like code and pick up.
All of the metrics, all of thethresholds, are things that all

(16:36):
teams would agree on, right?
No team would say, we want ourPRs to sit for three days and
nobody looks at them.
And no one would say, we wantour reviews to take two days,
right?
But often they don't know,right?
And especially as we look atcurrent working climate, right?
One, we're a globallydistributed company, but also

(16:58):
everybody's really for the mostpart remote first now, right?
Even if you're in a hybridenvironment, you still spend a
lot of time remote.
And when someone puts a PR in,does the team know?
Even if they ping somebody inSlack, you know, you get the
dreaded, yes, someone will lookat it.
And so for us, where WorkerB andGitStream have been really

(17:19):
valuable there, right, is one,just providing a prompt to the
team so they know, hey, there'sa thing that needs to be done.
But also the reminder when it'sapproaching the threshold that
they're setting effectively,right?
And then for GitStream, theother big part of PR is you
don't know if it's going to takethree minutes or 30 minutes.
You have people, they try forthis flow state, they want to be

(17:42):
productive, they don't pick itup when it comes, I'll pick it
up later, effectively, right?
So just the annotation of whoshould it go to, how much time
is it going to take, how muchrisk is in this, our teams have
found a lot of value in usingthose together to kind of just
keep on top of some of thosethings around that review
process.

Conor Bronsdon (18:00):
It's fantastic to hear your team's getting so
much value out of that, becauseit's the thing that we imagined
when we started this that wecould help provide, so wonderful
to see that.
I'm also really curious, so Ilove that you're providing these
investment benchmarks to theteam and the investment metrics.
'cause I, I think that yourapproach is fascinating and
really useful where you're,you're creating self-organized
teams that have goals and areexcited about achieving'em and

(18:21):
have autonomy and, and drive andseniority to do it.
What are the other dashboards?
What are the other analyticspieces that your teams are
leveraging the most, do youthink, outside of, outside of
the investment profile, uh,

Jason Krohn (18:32):
piece.
In LinearB, we tried to not havethem in there.

Conor Bronsdon (18:38):
So this is where you're leveraging your other
dashboarding.

Jason Krohn (18:41):
And the reason that we find is that it paints a
piece of the picture.
So when they want to focus onthe delivery piece, LinearB,
those dashboards are supervaluable there.
So for example, when they wantto dig into why is planning
accuracy low?
Right.
And not the subjective part ofwhy planning accuracy is low.

(19:04):
'cause everyone has theiropinions.
Yeah.
When they wanna understand,okay, what didn't we get done?
What came in that wasn't there?
Like what, it's a, it's a greattool for that, but when we start
to evaluate, are we having theproduct impact, okay, now that
work is all in amplitude for us,effectively, right.
Are we doing it safely andsecurely?
Okay.
For us, this is all in, in sonarcloud.

(19:24):
Are we meeting our fin obstaclesagainst cloud costs and things
like this?
This is another tool that, thatwe run.
Right.
And so for us, we aggregate allthat together into high level
dashboards with Power BI,utilizing the APIs that all
these platforms have,

Conor Bronsdon (19:38):
right?
And this speaks to theconfigurability piece and the
need for that extensibility andhow important it is whenever
you're picking something foryour SDLC.

Jason Krohn (19:46):
Huge.
And it's been really, reallyvaluable for us, right?
Because the other thing it letsus do is create really diverse
aggregations of the dataeffectively, right?
Interesting.
And so what it lets us do inthis really distributed way is
at the bottom level, teams canget the picture of their
metrics, right?

(20:06):
At the pure product level, orfor some of our larger projects,
the squad level within there,effectively, right?
Are we doing well?
Are we trending in the rightdirection?
And then also the big thing forus from a BI perspective is

(20:26):
outlier detection.
The aggregate metrics may lookgreat, but that doesn't mean
there aren't teams that shouldbe paying attention to different
things, effectively.
The API access and the abilityto get data out and marry it
against other systems data fromour side, has been hugely,
hugely valuable.

Conor Bronsdon (20:46):
I, I love the philosophy you're taking here
too, because you, you care somuch about the culture and it's
such an important part of yourstrategy as a leader saying, we
want senior teams.
We want to like build up peopleup, retain them.
And you, you've very clearlybeen intentional, like, we want
teams.
We're not gonna measure you onindividual metrics, not, we're
not gonna screw you over byfocusing on velocity, which just
focus gets people to game it.
We're gonna say, how can Ienable my team to deliver and

(21:09):
feel passionate and build a unitthat delivers for Syngenta?

Jason Krohn (21:13):
A hundred percent.
The dangers of metrics are huge,right?
Everyone's been in anorganization that, whether it's
intentionally or not,weaponizes, metrics against
teams and people.
Totally.
End of story.
Right?
And this is, so much of ourfocus is on the teams.
Yeah.
Right?
Is on how can the teams usethese as tools to get better.
It's why at at a higher level,we look and care about

(21:36):
aggregates and trends.
Because the risk is, is if youput any doubt into their mind
that these metrics will be usedfor evil, you lose them, right?
And this gets into, I talked abit about it today, ownership
versus compliance, right?
If you get them to own it, ifyou get them to care about why
are we looking at these metrics?
How do these metrics align tothe way they want to work?

(21:58):
And how are they a benefit tothem to care and look at these
metrics effectively, right?
You'll see movement.
If you don't, you just getcompliance.
Velocity is a great example thatyou brought up.
Yeah.
Right.
Of everywhere.
People just game velocity.

Conor Bronsdon (22:13):
It's a dangerous metric.

Jason Krohn (22:13):
They just, make the points work.
Uh, we've all heard, I'll bringin, oh, this one's a soft two
points, so I'll bring that in tomake sure that we can get the
number that we need.
And I just make that one alittle bigger and, you know, it
just, it's not, it's not avaluable tool for anyone then,
effectively.
Right, right.
And, and that's the risk to methat any introduction to metrics
brings in, and why how you useit and how you talk about it is

(22:36):
so important.

Conor Bronsdon (22:37):
And honestly, I think this is why we at LinearB
see Syngenta as a reallyfantastic partner.
We share this philosophicalbelief in the value of
engineering teams, and theavoidance of this over
measurement of individualssaying, Uh, you know, you, you
presented earlier today with OriKerry and our CEOA fantastic
presentation on Syngenta'stransformational push and how
you're aligning engineeringmetrics and workflows and, and

(22:59):
cutting down on blocker, which Iwant to get into in a minute
here, But like, my biggesttakeaway was how philosophically
aligned, uh, we are around thisperspective on how engineering
orgs need to do this.
Like, yes, metrics aredangerous.
It's also, I mean, frankly, it'sa necessity today.
Mm-Hmm.
like you're not gonna get awaywith it if you're an engineering
leader.
We have to be the ones thatdefine the conversation.
Otherwise, we risk, I mean theMcKinsey's of the world coming
in and saying, oh, focus onthese individual metrics.

(23:21):
Yeah, and it's a big reason why,like when I talked to Ori, he's
like, yeah, we can talk aboutdeveloper productivity.
That's the phrase a lot ofpeople use, but like, let's talk
engineering efficiency.
How do I create high performingteams that are more efficient?

Jason Krohn (23:32):
And that's what well and developer productivity
is.
it's nonsense from a metricstandpoint.
Yes.
Yeah.
And, and no matter the metricyou choose, right?
And it's as simple as you canhave people working on
incredibly complex subsystems ina team and another person who's,
who's churning out controllersand APIs and things like this.
And by any objective measure ofchanges, of code, of anything

(23:53):
like this, one person looks 10,15 times more productive than
the other.
But it doesn't mean that that'swhat's happening right there is
until we come up with anobjective measure of value
delivered somehow.
Right?
Yeah.
You know, there's no real,there's no real way, and that's
why we focus so heavily on, onteams effectively.
Right?
Yeah.
If anything, the, the value Ifind in the, the developer level

(24:14):
metrics is where do we need moresupport?

Conor Bronsdon (24:17):
Right?
I think Martin Fowler wrote anarticle back on like 15 years
ago, where he's like, you can'tmeasure developer productivity.
And, and I really see thattoday.
Like we're still, people arestill fighting that.
They're like, well, I don't knowif I take this project.
I was like, no.
Like, help your team succeed.
Build high-performing teams.
And I think it's something Ireally admire about the approach
Syngenta has taken.
And I know as you've scaled, youknow, as we mentioned the start

(24:38):
of the conversation, uh, thelast, over the last two years or
so, you've, you've brought yourteam from 150 to two 400
developers.
Um, I know you've ran to a lotof blockers in that timeframe.
Um, and especially as you kindof.
You are in that hypergrowth,everything starts to become a
blocker.
Uh, what were the problems youwere running into and and how
did you address'em?
I know we've talked about someof'em already.

Jason Krohn (24:58):
So for us, right, it is the evolution of, of small
to big, right?
Yeah.
Especially as our products gotbigger and things like that.
But eventually as we look atfrom code starts to to to
production, right?
Is at every point we started tonotice.
There's another handover.
There's another blocker.
This takes time.
Whether it was development toQA.

(25:19):
Let's ignore the whole cycletime of review and things like
that, right?
It has to go to QA.
Now we need DevOps and we haveto provision some
infrastructure.
Now we need a security review.
And each one of these is ahandoff that takes time.
Sometimes days, sometimes weeks,sometimes hours, right?
And as we look to measure ourteam of idea to production,

(25:40):
right?
Those blockers are, are killingour teams, right?
So a simple one is qa, right?
Yeah.
We chose, we scaled QA a lot inIndia and for our teams, uh, in
the, uh, western hemisphere.
Cool.
You're done with your code.
You hand it off the next daysomeone from India has, has
picked it up and they've put ina defect.
Now you gotta fix it.
This churn is, is brutal, right?

Conor Bronsdon (26:02):
So much context switching you're creating there.

Jason Krohn (26:05):
Uh, and even then it.
A little bit of overlap.
You got three hours in themorning where everyone can be in
the same meeting, which means inthe US reduced collaboration,
people are starting earlier thanthey want to in India.
They're staying later than wewant to, which is alsos an
initial around retention andemployee happiness.
Right.
And then you add in the DevOpsand the cloud part and things
like that.
And so we, we really quicklyidentified we have to break this

(26:27):
or we can't break these otherthings.
Right.
Right.
Because the teams will say.
I can't go to production faster.
I'm waiting, I'm waiting, I'mwaiting, I'm waiting.
And as part of the teamtopology, a big part is all
those things where I'm waiting,we have to turn those into I'm
not waiting, effectively.
From a QA standpoint, this meanswe need a much bigger push into
automated testing.

(26:48):
Even simple things, like overtime, we had good automated
testing.
You have unit testing in place,that's fine, automated
integration testing.
But then a manual regressionwould take four days.
Four days.
Yeah.
And then they find something.
Right.
Cool.
We need to push automation intoall of that.
It has to be in the buildpipelines.
It has to run as part of what wedo.

(27:09):
We need fast feedback on thesecycles, right?
Yeah.
Same thing around security andcompliance with things like,
like sonar, cloud, same thing.
DevOps.
We have to move everything toinfrastructures code.
We need repeat.
Safe deployments.
Right?
And so over the last year or so,we've been working really,
really hard on, for each ofthese touch points, that was
kind of a manual handoff, amanual intervention of how do we

(27:31):
move these into automatedprocesses that we can then make
either part of the buildpipelines or part of APIs,
right?
That we can then execute VAbuild pipelines and things like
that to turn them intonon-blocking dependencies.
We can build code, we can runit.
We can get the feedback, we canfix it and ship it.

Conor Bronsdon (27:50):
Awesome.
So, so your focus here it soundslike, is saying, okay, this is a
blocking dependency, let'sturned into a non blocker.
Yeah.
Let's, let's automate that away.
Let's change it.
Let's reduce the friction pointa hundred percent.
Yeah.
This is a really fascinatingapproach takes I, I think it
like really speaks to the coreof how to improve efficiency.
While you're doing all thisthough, how do you communicate

(28:10):
with the rest of the org andmake sure they're bought in to
the vision.

Jason Krohn (28:13):
So everyone has to buy in.
Yeah.
Right.
And so even, even from anengineering standpoint, we have
to get their buy in totally.
To do all of these things.
And, and a big thing for us is,is the why, right?
We have to communicate, and wehaven't always been great about
it, of why are we doing a thing?
Why should anyone care aboutthat thing?

(28:34):
I challenge our teams a lot onthis too, by the way.
I've been in a lot of sprintdemos and things like that where
they show what they've built.
And I ask one question, so what?
Don't show me what you built.
Tell me why I should care thatwe spent any time building this
thing.
What is the value we'rebringing?

(28:55):
Why did we do it?
And I think often, from aleadership perspective, we don't
do a good enough job of this.
We'll have a call, we'll talk toeverybody as a group, we'll have
a great presentation thatoutlines why we're doing a thing
and all this, and then we leaveit.
Right?
And so we've been trying to worka lot more on just hitting that

(29:15):
message more often.
Helping explain the why.
Building the right enablementteams internally to help spread
the message, go work with theteams, help them through some of
these adoption curves that youget and things like that as
well.

Conor Bronsdon (29:27):
This seems like it could also be an improvement
opportunity for that careerladdering effort you're making
as far as trying to raise upmore leaders and, and help
educate the org.

Jason Krohn (29:35):
The career ladder is huge for us.
It's, it's one of the things weput in early, uh, about two
years ago, effectively, right?
And it's a huge part ofretention, right?
One of the worst conversationsthat you have to have, if you
don't have these things inplace, if someone comes to you
and says, I want a promotion,and you have to say to them, no.

(29:56):
Not only no, here's why.
It's like, I don't know if youwatch baseball, it's like
arbitration.
Where the player is going to goin and say, these are all the
reasons I'm worth a bunch ofmoney, and the team goes in and
says, here's all the reasonsyou're not.
And even if it's true, itdamages the relationship.
Absolutely.
It doesn't feel good foranybody.

(30:16):
And so we, we built a veryrobust, clear career ladder for
the engineering side.
We're trying to do it for, forother things, right?
That kind of outlines for everysingle position we have, right?
To a junior, to a mid, to asenior, up through staff and
principal or the engineeringmanager route.
What are the roles andresponsibilities there?
And on in three dimensions?

(30:36):
Mm-Hmm, right?
So there's the technical anddomain knowledge, which a lot of
people focus on, and it's great.
But it's table stakes, frankly,right?
Then there's, culture andleadership, and teaching and
mentorship, right?
Gotcha.
And as we go through all ofthese, what are our expectations
of you at this level?
Then what does success look likein this role?
Right?
What, so for example, likejunior level roles, I expect to

(30:59):
give you kind of story levelstuff.
I expect you're gonna need alittle help on implementation
and then you can go.
All the way up through seniorstaff, or I'm giving you very
complex problems.
You break it down, you take, youlook at the trade-offs of time
versus value, business context,all of that.
Right?
And our whole goal with this iswe then pair it with, um, uh,
proficiency matrix that we have,which is like 18 different

(31:20):
dimensions that we measure.
We, we modified one fromCircleCI, what they use because
the reality is, is people arevery multidimensional.
No two people are the same,right?
You can have people who aregreat leaders, but maybe they're
not as good at some of thetechnical stuff, and vice versa.
And those two people aren'tbetter or worse, right?

(31:41):
They carry different things.
And so we do that twice a year,and we look at where you're at.
Where are you strong?
Where are you weak?
And where do we need growth?
And that growth can be in manydifferent places.
That growth can be.
We need you to learn somethingthat growth can be, we need you
to get better at something youalready know.
And that growth can be, we needto give you opportunities.

(32:02):
So for example, often as we lookat this, like mid to senior
level developer, one of the biggaps'cause the whole matrix,
everything we evaluate is thingsthat you've done.
Not things we think you canpotentially do, evidence based
things, right?
Is system design andarchitecture, right?
Often at a mid level, they'renot getting a lot of
opportunities to showcase theseskills and what they've learned.

(32:25):
So as we go through this matrix,we then pair that with our
career ladder and say, Okay,here's where you are.
Here's the next level.
We look at the capabilities andwe look at, okay, how do we get
there, right?
What is the training we need?
Where do we need you todemonstrate things?
And where do we need to give youopportunities to demonstrate
skills that you've learned,right?
So that as we go through ourcomp cycles, we go through the

(32:46):
promotion cycle every year,everyone's on the same page.
We don't have any surprises.
We're having those talks.
It lets you feel, I mean, like Iknow how to get to the next
level, I know what I need to do,I know what the company needs to
do, and I can see how I getthere effectively.

Conor Bronsdon (33:05):
How do you pair this with that dimension of
mentorship you mentioned?
Because I feel like, to yourpoint, you know, table stakes
often becomes the technicalside.
But it can be a lot harder tofind engineers who are really
strong mentors.

Jason Krohn (33:20):
We coach them.

Conor Bronsdon (33:21):
Okay, let's talk about that approach.

Jason Krohn (33:23):
You have to.
So I think one of the things,and we developed kind of an
internal training at Syngentafor this.
Because as I saw through mycareer, what you often end up
with is you have seniorengineers.
They get promoted to a techleader, an engineering manager
position.

(33:44):
It's just like, throw in, gomanage people.
This happened to me as well inmy career by the way.
Go manage people.
And no one tells you what thatmeans.
And for me, um, eventually I gota really great mentor.
Uh, and, and, and when did, hesaid, you gotta send this guy to
some training.
And he was my, and it wasfabulous.
Changed how I do everything,right?
And so I took a lot of that anddeveloped this program of like,

(34:06):
hey, here's what this means.
But in concrete details as well,effectively, right?
Not just, I need you to leadmore.
What does that mean in thecontext of your role,
effectively, right?
And so, we take people throughthat.
Uh, Syngenta also has a veryrobust, uh, internal training
system for, for managers andthings like that.
'cause it's not, for some peopleit comes naturally, but for

(34:26):
others it, it does noteffectively.
And you have to coach it, youhave to teach it,

Conor Bronsdon (34:31):
and you can still hone those skills, even if
it's something that you thinkyou're good at.
There's yeah.
Opportunities to hone anddevelop it.
Um, I really appreciate theintentionality with which you
approach your people and yoursystems design because.
Uh, that social circuitry is soimportant and it's clearly
playing a huge role in yoursuccess and the growth of your
company.
So, um, my hat's off to you are,are you hiring right now?

(34:51):
Is that something we can, we canshout out on the show here?

Jason Krohn (34:53):
We're always trying to hire, right?
All right.
Yeah.
Our biggest problem is no oneknows what Syngenta is.

Conor Bronsdon (34:57):
Okay.
Well, hopefully now we'll know alittle more.

Jason Krohn (34:59):
Yeah, but no, I mean, it, it's intentional for a
reason.
I don't do anything.
I'm not writing any codeanymore.
I don't do anything to shipthose products.
Without good people and goodteams, we go nowhere.
All the leaders, all themanagement, none of it matters,
effectively, right?
And so this is, I think, why atSyngenta, we have such a big

(35:20):
focus on those people.
'cause they're the people whoactually get the things done for
you.

Conor Bronsdon (35:26):
Well, if our listeners wanna learn more about
Syngenta's roles or the companyitself, where can they go find
more information?

Jason Krohn (35:30):
Yeah, so we just put out a blog, Syngenta Digital
on on medium.
We're gonna post some morethings there.
You'll see a writeup.
We're gonna do a writeup of theoperational thing.

Conor Bronsdon (35:39):
We'll link it right to the notes, then let's
do it.

Jason Krohn (35:40):
And yeah, otherwise, Syngenta digital, uh,
we have a website as well.
But yeah, if, if you'reinterested, feel free to reach
out.
So,

Conor Bronsdon (35:46):
Fantastic.
Jason, thanks so much for comingon the podcast.
Yeah, absolute.
It's been a really wonderfulconversation.
Pleasure to have you here.
Keep, uh, collaborating with youand, and learn more about the
approach.
It's, it's really exciting tosee, as I mentioned, that
intentionality with which you'veapproached this and, and the
success you're seeing because ofit.
Before we go, I just want toshout out, um, that we'll be
featuring Jason on our DevInterrupted Substack, uh,

(36:07):
devinterrupted.
substack.
com.
Uh, we're really excited to haveyou on the podcast and thanks so
much for coming on.

Jason Krohn (36:11):
Awesome.
Thank you.
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