In his book Drive, Daniel Pink looks at the concept of ‘flow’. When you’re in a state of flow, there’s a perfect balance between what you have to do and what you can do. Your work is so engaging and enjoyable that you push yourself just a little bit further, until “… the effort itself is the most delicious reward.”
I manage the Tech Support team at New Relic. Each day we get to learn new things, help our customers and get to play. We hire smart, creative, relentlessly geeky support engineers who happen to love fixing things. And we make a point of seeking out engineers who are very smart, seriously curious and value the positive impact of good communication. Our department provides an environment where our engineers are truly engaged and often reach this state of flow.
Solving Hard Problems
If you’re reading the blog, you probably already know how much value New Relic brings to measuring the performance of your mission critical web apps and providing the actionable information you need to make performance improvements. Delivering this service involves significant technical complexity behind the scenes and across multiple language contexts and configurations (e.g. Ruby, PHP, Python, etc.) for both server and (soon-to-be) mobile environments. It also means we tend to receive very complicated cases. And this is the challenging context around which our world-class support engineers solve your problems with tenacity and the contentment of a dog chewing a bone. It’s both challenging and immensely satisfying.
Yes, to be clear, there is ‘work’ involved. Trying to replicate and get to the root cause of some very tricky problems can occasionally be frustrating. We’re aided in this effort through the use of a fundamentally sound and systematic approach to troubleshooting. The approach involves verifying the problem, analyzing and reproducing the problem, challenging assumptions, narrowing down the possibilities and sharing information until we identify a fix. However, even this classical approach to troubleshooting depends first on having the right attitude. We put ourselves in our customers’ shoes first and try to understand what they experience. The right attitude also involves enjoying the challenge of working on some very complex problems. Of course, having a really interesting product to work with also helps – a product we all fervently believe in because of the tremendous value it provides to our customers and to New Relic, directly.
Building the Team
While we spend most of our working hours solving our customers’ problems, we also spend time as a team doing other things like eating lunches, biking, volunteering, choir recitals, ping pong tourneys and geeky meetups. In other words, we also make time to be social, letting the kind of natural knowledge transfer that happens over lunch or a beer, happen … naturally. This social aspect contributes to a significant increase in team cohesion.
None of us is as smart as all of us. And together we are redefining what a support organization can be. A highly interactive, collaborative, effective and engaging place to work, one with a deep appreciation for technical breadth, depth, and a genuine desire to learn and share our information to help solve our customers’ problems.