We are a project-based company with over 40 projects currently underway, our project teams being drawn from the 60+ members of our research and engineering team. But with no traditional hierarchy or managers, the process of matching Research Engineers to projects can seem daunting.
How do we ensure that research engineers find projects so that both project needs (like technical skills, problem domain knowledge, and team leadership) and individual needs (like interesting work and career growth opportunities) are met?
We start by turning the typical approach of centralized project-assignments on its head, and instead, enable each Research Engineer to seek out projects that interest them, so they may then make an offer to the Project Leads to perform on those projects. Everyone thus has both the opportunity and the responsibility to pursue what brings them job satisfaction.
For newcomers, the self-directed work style at Galois can initially feel just as concerning as it does exhilarating. How does one go about finding work where they might contribute? What if they can’t find projects?
Finding projects is a social process. We engage with one another to learn about current and upcoming projects, to discover opportunities to make offers, and to seek out potential contributors when we are Project Leads.
We have a number of practices that facilitate this social process:
At Galois, new projects are constantly starting while existing projects end. Sometimes, a Research Engineer may need to reduce or even stop an existing project altogether in order to facilitate beginning a new one. It’s the Research Engineer’s responsibility (not the Project Lead’s!) to explicitly renegotiate existing project commitments, working with Project Leads to find a mix that best meets the needs of all projects involved.
It would be unrealistic to expect a fully optimized system with every Project Lead having their ideal team and every Research Engineer in their ideal project roles. But for us, this approach yields better results for both the team members and their projects.