22 Jan 2024

Inside Talon.One’s RnD department: How we build & scale our teams

Trevor Holdcroft Talon.One

Trevor Holdcroft

Engineering Manager at Talon.One


5 minutes to read

If Talon.One's goal is to provide the most adaptable and expandable infrastructure for our clients, then RnD is the place where ideas are born, tested, refined, and ultimately translated into real-world solutions for our valued customers.

Usually, Product Management and Engineering are seen as two independent functions that work together or closely. At Talon.One, however, it was born as a single cohesive unit called RnD.

Our RnD team has grown from 13 since 2017 to 70 by the end of 2023 and has undergone several iterations regarding principles and team structure. This post outlines our approach to RnD, and the structures we have in place to ensure we scale efficiently. 

Like what you hear below? If you’re keen to join a company that prioritises sustainable growth and boasts a unique product proposition, then Talon.One might be the place for you. Check out our current openings here

TL;DR: Talon.One’s RnD principles:

  • Ownership of a product or feature’s success sits with a Product Trio, consisting of a Product Manager, Product Designer and Tech Lead (Engineer).

  • RnD team members belong to Squads and Guilds simultaneously, providing them with a strong sense of ownership of both product and technology hygiene.

  • Guilds have a strong existence and autonomy to drive initiatives and maintain technical standards. Engineering Managers play a facilitating role for all the guilds.

Two pillars of RnD: Product & Engineering

  • The Product Team is focused on high-value delivery and rapid business advancement through continuous refinement of existing offerings and the addition of new capabilities. Regular customer engagement, comprehensive research, and team power are a few favorite weapons in their arsenal.

  • The Engineering Team brings the Product team's vision to life. By delivering software solutions, they release incremental improvements every Sprint and ensure that Talon.One's product is maintainable, scalable and performant.

At Talon.One the Product Trio comprises a Product Manager, a Product Designer, and a Tech Lead (Engineer).

Even though each member of the Product Trio has a defined set of responsibilities within their field, they work together and share ownership of their squad's success. None of them will claim "this is not my responsibility", opting to tackle challenges together as a unified team.

Squads and Guilds

1. Squads

A squad is a small, cross-functional vertical team typically composed of a Product Manager, Engineers including the Tech Lead, a Product Designer, and a QA Engineer.

Together, they own the delivery of product increments with quality in a timely manner.

Focus: A dedicated Product Vertical

R&D at Talon.One

How squads are structured at Talon.One

Image source

2. Guilds

A guild is a horizontal group dedicated to a specific technology skillset, e.g., Frontend, Backend, QE, DevOps, and Technical Writing. Every guild has a Guild Lead.

Every guild is responsible for maintaining technical hygiene in their respective area, promoting best engineering practices to ensure rich developer experience, facilitating knowledge sharing, and skillset improvement.

Talon.One Guilds enjoy two Tech-Debt Fridays every Sprint to maintain technical sanity.

Focus: Technical hygiene and Knowledge sharing

R&D at Talon.One

How Guilds are structured at Talon.One

Image source

Rn&D team members belong to Squads and Guilds simultaneously, giving them a strong sense of ownership of both the product and the technology.

R&D at Talon.One

Guild and Squad structure at Talon.One

Image source

Roles in RnD

1. Tech Leads
Every Squad has a Tech Lead as the strongest bridge between the product and technology worlds. They provide regular proactive inputs to the respective Product Manager with a primary responsibility to facilitate timely technical decision-making and engineering execution with quality.

2. Guild Leads
The Guild Lead is the horizontal equivalent of the Tech Lead - where a Tech Lead is the facilitator for their squad, the Guild Lead is the facilitator for the guild-based work. As guilds are larger, more technically specialized, and aren't-product facing, the Guild Lead is responsible for coordinating (not executing, or even directing) their guild's efforts.

3. Product Managers
Product Managers provide business vision to a single squad, roadmap planning, backlog prioritisation, requirement documentation, refinement discussions, and ensuring on-time quality delivery for all product increments by being an integrated member of the development team. They also ensure the customers are supported well with their present and future product demands.

4. Engineering Managers
Engineering Managers ensure the smooth operation and optimal efficiency of the whole RnD Department. They are responsible for the motivation and growth of their individual reports (Engineers), the health of each team (squads and guilds), engineering and development processes, and overall collaboration.

At Talon.One, Engineering Managers are uniquely positioned to have cross-squad and cross-guild reports. This allows them to maintain consistency in engineering processes and management style.

R&D at Talon.One

Where Engineering Managers sit in our Guilds and Squads structure

Image source

As Talon.One evolves, how we scale our team has an enormous impact on our culture, productivity and employee engagement. While these practices have helped us scale thus far, we’ll continue iterating and develop new ones as we grow. 

Looking to learn more about RnD at Talon.One? On our GitHub page, you’ll find more details on our tech stack, our repositories and a look into our documentation.

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