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Technical leaders are facing an unprecedented confluence of challenges: business and market forces are putting pressure on us to build ever better products with greater velocity. And technological forces (yes, I’m especially talking about AI here) are completely disrupting the way we build those products.
What is a technical leader to do? We can’t solve what we don’t understand, so I wanted to help my fellow engineers and technical leaders see the perfect storm of challenges in front of us—and most helpfully, the way that these challenges can also be approached as clear opportunities.
Note this isn’t just my opinion. In my job as founder, CEO, chief sales person, customer support, and many other roles at Byteboard – I speak with technical leaders at world class engineering companies like Lyft, Figma, and Webflow.
Here’s what we see coming, how technical leaders can turn these potential challenges into opportunities, and how we’ve evolved our product to help software teams make the biggest impact in this new reality.
The painful and widespread layoffs of 2023 saw many world class technology companies cutting deeply, impacting technical teams in unprecedented numbers. For the first time in the careers of many technical and talent leaders, it’s a buyer’s market for technical talent.
But this market inversion brings many challenges along with its opportunities. For the very reason that the top of the funnel is easier to fill, it has also never been harder to sort, interview, and select the right candidates. With legacy interviewing processes, talent and hiring teams spend dozens of hours screening candidates and the more candidates are screened, the less time engineering teams have for building products that will win in a more competitive market.
As the engineer market offers more talented candidates, the expectations from company leadership rise accordingly. Engineering leaders need to keep pace, hiring excellent talent, often with fewer resources of their own, which is hard given the increased pressure on their primary focus: building a product that still wins when customer budgets might be shrinking.
Which leads me to the second factor for technical team success in 2024:
Teams need to achieve greater impact with fewer resources, and one of the critical ways engineering teams are achieving this is through AI-assistance tools like ChatGPT and Github Copilot. A recent Stack Overflow survey of 90,000 developers showed that half of developers are already using Github Copilot, and over 80% are using ChatGPT. While these tools allow engineers to produce code and content at an unprecedented speed, this efficiency comes with a caveat – the challenge of ensuring the trustworthiness of AI-generated work.
AI-assistance tools, in their current state, serve as a speed hack for engineers, enabling them to jumpstart projects and codebases. Yet, the onus lies on the engineer to possess the expertise to identify and address the often subtle flaws within AI-generated outputs.
The integration of AI-assistance tools heralds a transformation in the way engineers approach their work and in 2024 engineering teams will have to incorporate AI deeply—but thoughtfully. Engineering leaders must solve for three key disruptions to the way their teams do work.
First, engineers can accomplish certain aspects of their work more rapidly, allowing them to focus on broader product and systems design. The AI tools act as accelerators for answering the 'how' questions, enabling engineers to dedicate more time to the critical 'what' and 'why' aspects of software engineering.
Second, the balance between code generation and code review is shifting. Engineers, now armed with AI-assistance, spend more time scrutinizing and rectifying AI-generated code rather than creating it from scratch. This shift underscores the increasing importance of attention-to-detail, emphasizing the need for engineers to understand and navigate subtle intricacies hidden within lines and lines of code.
Third, organizations must be meticulous in hiring engineers with the right skills. The ability to discern between flawed and correct code is becoming a pivotal skill, coupled with the necessity for engineers who can contribute effectively to product and systems design. Moreover, teams are hiring for more senior levels than in the past, because, when AI-enabled, those staffers will be even more productive, faster.
That leads us to our third factor for technical team success in 2024:
With the advent of AI-assistance tools, the traditional methods of assessing technical skills in software engineering are undergoing a radical transformation. Coding challenges, once the cornerstone of technical assessments, now face challenges themselves in evaluating a candidate's abilities.
The rise of AI introduces a new variable in the hiring equation. Questions designed for strict prompt-based coding challenges align closely with the capabilities of AI tools like ChatGPT. Organizations relying on such assessments must adopt stringent anti-cheating measures, often at the expense of the candidate's ability to showcase their true talent.
Alternatively, the path forward involves injecting complexity into assessments. Real-world problems, laden with contextual nuances, become a formidable challenge for AI tools. This complexity mirrors the intricacies engineers encounter in their day-to-day work, making it a more accurate measure of a candidate's capability.
In 2024 technical leaders need to refocus their limited time on building out their roadmap vs building out a team, and talent leaders need to reimagine hiring processes to be more time-efficient with even better outcomes. Sadly, some teams are now half or even a quarter of the size of what they were at the start of 2023, so every engineer—and engineering hour—counts more than ever before.
For technical teams, the theme of 2024 is building with focus. For us this means giving engineering teams less distractions and higher quality results they can trust without a lot of the hoopla.
That’s why we’ve made the biggest-ever expansion to our product: Byteboard is now an all-in-one technical hiring platform. From staff-level hiring assessments to new assessment offerings, all the way to a comprehensive live coding for on-site interviews, we give technical leaders hundreds of hours back to build software, while reducing the risk of mis-hires and optimizing for candidates with real world skills for the current era. And talent leaders can now reinvent their hiring process to be faster and more effective while managing fewer tools, processes, and back-and-forths.
This expanded platform has already had an outsized impact on our early customers. Byteboard customer Webflow now reports that using Byteboard saves them over 120 hours per month—regaining the equivalent of nearly a full-time engineer. Byteboard helps you build great software. Both by hiring the right technical talent, faster, and by saving your engineering org hundreds of hours every quarter. Now, as an end-to-end platform, we’re able to support engineering orgs even better. Not only do we cover more languages and roles than ever before, we help you manage an efficient hiring process all the way through to on-site interviews that candidates love. In 2024 each step of the hiring loop will be impacted by AI skills and AI-assisted tools, and we’re excited to offer a technical hiring platform that is purpose-built for this new era of technical hiring.