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.

“We focus on three things in the metrics. Are we working efficiently? Are we working effectively? And are we working safely?

All that efficiency doesn't matter if we're not capturing value in the market.”

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 

Episode Transcript:

(Disclaimer: may contain unintentionally confusing, inaccurate and/or amusing transcription errors)
Jason Krohn: 0:00

By any objective measure of changes, of code, of anything like this, one person looks 10, 15 times more productive than the other. But it doesn't mean that that's what's happening right there is until we come up with an objective 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, on teams effectively. Right? Yeah. If anything, the, the value I find in the, the developer level metrics is where do we need more support?


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Conor Bronsdon: 1:13

Welcome back to Dev Interrupted everyone. I'm your co-host, Connor Bronston, and today we're joined by Jason Cron. Jason is the Global Head of Delivery and Digital product Engineering at Syngenta. Jason, welcome to Dev Interrupted.

Jason Krohn: 1:24

Hi. Thank you for having me.

Conor Bronsdon: 1:25

Absolutely. It's, it's fantastic to have you on. We've known each other for a year or two now, and. You've got over a decade of experience leading teams around the world. And you've also done that while scaling your teams around the world. That experience has given you a really well rounded perspective, and I think you're ahead of where a lot of other want to be as far as their engineering metrics program, your culture impact, and how you approach it. So, a couple of years ago, when we were having guests on the show, all I didn't want to talk about was that hyperscaling piece. But you've had to do it efficiently. It's not growth at all costs anymore. And you've really cared about culture throughout the entire process. About the experience your engineers are having, all while scaling from 150 to 400 developers. And so what I want to talk about is how do you scale efficiently? Considering the complexities that you faced, how do you build and grow teams while ensuring people are empowered and autonomous? What's your approach?

Jason Krohn: 2:19

You, you have to hire the right people and then empower them with the things that they care about effectively. Right? As we started small, it, it was easy to do, right? You have a small team. A small team is attached to a product. They get a thing that they can directly care about. Uh, it's very easy for them to feel engaged effectively. Right? As your teams grow, though, you start to lose a lot of this. You start to bring in a little more of the enterprise. You start to bring in a little more of the, the friction to their work totally effectively, right? And so as we've scaled, we needed to change a few of those things around, effectively, right?

Conor Bronsdon: 2:54

So, how do you identify what the right things are? What developers want, as you said?

Jason Krohn: 2:59

An important part of building and scaling a team for us, at least at Syngenta, is retention, 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 are the teams that have had people there for a while.

Conor Bronsdon: 3:15

Who understand what's going on, who understand the complexities of what they're doing, who can then sit and partner with the business to really 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 go about it, right? So they have the cultural context and kind of the depth of knowledge that you want to see to lead teams, frankly.

Jason Krohn: 3:33

And the systems knowledge, right? Agriculture is very seasonal. And so when we come in with a market opportunity, the business side is going to want a thing done. That thing may not always be feasible. But if you have a team that deeply understands the product, the context of the business, the context of our user base, we can get to how can we achieve that value. In the time frame that we have, effectively, right? Which may not be what is explicitly being asked for.

Conor Bronsdon: 4:01

Interesting. So that's how you are driving decisions that align with organizational goals, it sounds like.

Jason Krohn: 4:08

Absolutely, but you have to keep people for that, right? And for us, I'm a big believer in four pillars for people, right? So, you have to compensate people 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 four things, they will stay, for the most part. There's always some people who they want to switch domains, they want to go do something else, and that's fine. But if you give people those four things, right? One, you can stand up and say, I value you and I respect you. And you're true to your word, effectively, right? If you don't give them any of those four things, though, They will go somewhere else to find those things. And so we really try hard, as we scale, 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 what you bring to our organization and I care about you and underpay you, right? Now that doesn't mean we have to be top of the market for everything all the time, but I have to pay you fairly for what you bring, effectively, right? Um, we have to give you a pleasant place to work. And that can mean everything from your laptop can't be slow for what you do. The build processes can't be onerous, right? You can't have all these little annoyances during your day that make you not like your job effectively. But it's also our office, uh, the culture that we have, like you want coming to work to be pleasant, not something you don't like effectively. Right.

Conor Bronsdon: 5:38

That makes total sense. And. I mean, aligns to, I mean, so much research in the field, right? Of like, you know, happy teams that feel engaged, like they can make an impact, are more productive, they stay longer. I mean, this is very clearly like how you're building this organizational matrix, how you're rewiring the social circuitry of your organization to work and retain folks. But what are the kind of guidelines you put into place to make that happen?

Jason Krohn: 6:02

For the rest, for the rest of that retention? Yeah. Right. Because then there's the other two dimensions, right? Mm-Hmm. those are two. The other two is, I gotta give you work you care about. Thankfully at Syngenta, we have work people can care about, right? We're, we're all about fighting climate change, sustainable agriculture, regenerative agriculture. How do we use technology and precision agriculture machinery to help people do better, to do more? That's better for them and better for the Earth. So, it's thankfully been easy to get 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 have a lot of work there. Then it's about knowing the people, what do they want to do? What is their career path? Because the fourth pillar is, I have to give you growth. And that growth has to be visible to you. You have to know where you sit, you have to know where your next steps are, and you have to feel enough agency in how you get there. Right, it's not enough to just say 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 of there are things that the individual needs to do, but then they also need support from the organizational side to get there. And so what we find is if I can give you all those things, if you can see your future here, if you feel that you have control over that next step in your career, right? Whether a promotion to senior engineer or engineering manager or staff engineer, whatever it is, right? If you're being paid fairly, if you love what you do, if your work environment is pleasant, right, those are kind of the structures that we put in place to help with that retention and that scaling.

Conor Bronsdon: 7:36

Given the seniority of the team that you're focusing on, and the strategy you're describing, it sounds like you give your people a lot of autonomy.

Jason Krohn: 7:43

100%. I mean, we believe in full autonomy 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? And this is where we structure a lot on are we delivering value or not? If we're delivering value, then it's up to those teams to decide the most efficient ways to work to do that effectively. Now, there are a lot of challenges around that, right? If you look at introductions of technologies or frameworks, building things different ways, when do we build into a platform type model and when do we take on tech debt to build a silo, right? Where we've struggled as we've grown to proactively tackle some of those and so there's been some 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 it aligns with Shugenta's business model, right? If you look at agriculture, Agriculture in Brazil is very different than the U. S., which is different than Europe, which by the way is different in almost every country. Different from Ukraine, different from smallholders in India and Vietnam and the rest of Asia Pacific, right? So, all of these products as they're looking at their markets need to be empowered to take the decisions that are right for them in the moment to kind of seize value. So

Conor Bronsdon: 9:08

How do you figure out if you're doing that efficiently and making your team work to the best of their

Jason Krohn: 9:14

capacity? For us, this is where the metrics that we've introduced are, are helping, right? I mean, we focus on three things in the metrics. Are we working efficiently? Are we working effectively, and are we working safely? Right? So efficiently is all about for the people in, in dollars we're deploying for the effort that we're deploying. Are we using it in a way that that is valuable? Are we not sitting around waiting for things? Right? But all that efficiency doesn't matter if we're not capturing value in the market, right? Effectively. Right. And so, you know, that's where we expand on things like the DORA metrics with other things like usage and KPI metrics from products in amplitude, right? An analytics platform to understand are we having the impact in the market? 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 of things, we have to make sure that you can be fast and you can deliver value, but if you're doing it in a way that is unsafe or, or not compliant with the laws we need to be compliant with, none of it matters. And so for us, these metrics have 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 like an 80 percent reduction in cycle time this year. Wow. We've seen a 33 percent increase in planning accuracy. And this is, we've done this not from like a top down mandate, right? A big focus on all of our metrics is. Was, as we looked at the basket of metrics we were gonna bring in what actually supports those things. What supports being agile, not doing, not doing agile, right? Uh, what supports steady, sustainable future delivery, what's healthy for our teams? And paints that picture of are we effective, efficient, and safe, right? And then we gave these tools to our teams and said, Hey, look at this, right? If there's something you're unhappy with, please move the needle on it. And they were able to, and it's forced a lot of really good discussions on our side, which has been great. Uh, some of it Procedural, process wise, how do we work across the business? How do we work with stakeholders, with product, with design, to make sure that work is in a better state of ready? How do we make sure that we're reserving the right amounts of capacity for steady state, for run and maintain? So that we can be more predictable in what are we going to do? When we make a commitment, we can achieve that commitment effectively, right? And some of those things have led us to better adoption of different tooling, for example, right? As we look to decrease cycle time, like many enterprises and things, you can't go to production that often. You can't go every day. to push out and then be able to do 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 sides as we rolled this out.

Conor Bronsdon: 12:05

So what I'm hearing is you're not just leveraging the analytics side of LinearB's platform, but you're also using those analytics and the context you get with your teams through these cultural efforts you're doing to say, okay, let's identify friction points and apply workflow automation, tooling and, and other, you know, goal setting through get stream or, or through the linear B platform to actually, I mean, destroy these friction points and automate them away. Is that correct?

Jason Krohn: 12:28

Yeah, I mean, a hundred percent, right? No two teams have the exact same problems effectively, right? Yeah. And so for us it's really about how 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 that we want to go look at and re evaluate, right? So when we first rolled this out, everyone has an answer for why the metrics are what they are, right? And we pushed just a little bit on, 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 the autonomy of the teams. We're pairing this metrics work with a lot of organizational change on our side. So we have a big focus on Team Topology's framework. We're really pushing a lot on, just because we've done something in the past, And the teams are 100 percent in charge of that and free to make those changes. So for example, one of the metrics, some of the things we've started to expose to teams is investment level, finance.

Conor Bronsdon: 13:42

Oh wow, so you're showing investment metrics for what products are being worked on, which is

Jason Krohn: 13:47

a really cool part. And I get this, I was an engineer for a long time, right? They always want to try to solve the problem with what they have at hand. This is always what they're looking for, right? And by the time it would get up to leadership of, we actually need two more people for this for 90 days, whatever it is, right? It's too late, why didn't you tell me this earlier? And have that product level investment visibility down to them to understand what are our options, right? And so one of the things we're starting to expose along with these metrics, right? Is here's, here's your budget for the year. Here's your current burn rate. Here's, here's what you have. And so you can take some of those decisions to say, Hey, I want to bring on some additional resources for six months, or I want to move QA from across the globe to a newer location. What are the cost implications of that work with the, with our product and business teams to understand, hey, is this, is this a move we want to make? Right? This

Conor Bronsdon: 14:52

is so fascinating for me because most teams I talk to that are using linear B'S investment profile metrics are leveraging the board level, uh, or with their c-suite, and they're saying, oh yeah, like. Here's what we're doing, you know, let us know your feedback, or like, here's how we're delivering it. But you've taken this other approach because you've built these senior autonomous teams and the leadership within that. You're saying, hey, we're going to give you the input, like, let's make sure you feel this passion in it. And I think that that really goes back to something we talked about a bit earlier, which is the need to make people feel like their work matters and like they can make an impact and you're giving them all the tools and 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 everything across these projects. Very very granularly. Yeah. All of the people allocations, all of the cloud costs, license allocations, everything. Because as we look at an investment profile for a product, right, that product is free to spend their money to achieve their objectives. And so we're trying to put more, more of that data and more tools in the hands of the teams so that they can be, as we look at team topologies, They can be more autonomous in those changes. They know what changes they can make, and it's not only later when the pressure's really on, are they making those changes? They're starting to see some of those signals earlier. Yeah. Of where might things not be ideal, and then they're able to proactively make those changes.

Conor Bronsdon: 16:10

That's fantastic. Where are you seeing teams leverage some of those tooling, like git streams, programmable workflows, for example?

Jason Krohn: 16:15

Our usage of some of the automation stuff, like WorkerB and GitStream, have been really valuable from a cycle time standpoint for our teams, right? So, it's really interesting if you look into the cycle time, like the depth of cycle time, like code and pick up. All of the metrics, all of the thresholds, are things that all teams would agree on, right? No team would say, we want our PRs to sit for three days and nobody looks at them. And no one would say, we want our reviews to take two days, right? But often they don't know, right? And especially as we look at current working climate, right? One, we're a globally distributed company, but also everybody's really for the most part remote first now, right? Even if you're in a hybrid environment, you still spend a lot of time remote. And when someone puts a PR in, does the team know? Even if they ping somebody in Slack, you know, you get the dreaded, yes, someone will look at it. And so for us, where WorkerB and GitStream have been really valuable there, right, is one, just providing a prompt to the team so they know, hey, there's a thing that needs to be done. But also the reminder when it's approaching the threshold that they're setting effectively, right? And then for GitStream, the other big part of PR is you don't know if it's going to take three minutes or 30 minutes. You have people, they try for this flow state, they want to be productive, they don't pick it up when it comes, I'll pick it up later, effectively, right? So just the annotation of who should it go to, how much time is it going to take, how much risk is in this, our teams have found a lot of value in using those together to kind of just keep on top of some of those things around that review process.

Conor Bronsdon: 18:00

It's fantastic to hear your team's getting so much value out of that, because it's the thing that we imagined when we started this that we could help provide, so wonderful to see that. I'm also really curious, so I love that you're providing these investment benchmarks to the team and the investment metrics.'cause I, I think that your approach is fascinating and really useful where you're, you're creating self-organized teams that have goals and are excited about achieving'em and have autonomy and, and drive and seniority to do it. What are the other dashboards? What are the other analytics pieces that your teams are leveraging the most, do you think, outside of, outside of the investment profile, uh,

Jason Krohn: 18:32

piece. In LinearB, we tried to not have them 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 on the delivery piece, LinearB, those dashboards are super valuable there. So for example, when they want to dig into why is planning accuracy low? Right. And not the subjective part of why planning accuracy is low.'cause everyone has their opinions. 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 great tool for that, but when we start to evaluate, are we having the product impact, okay, now that work is all in amplitude for us, effectively, right. Are we doing it safely and securely? Okay. For us, this is all in, in sonar cloud. Are we meeting our fin obstacles against cloud costs and things like this? This is another tool that, that we run. Right. And so for us, we aggregate all that 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 the configurability piece and the need for that extensibility and how important it is whenever you're picking something for your SDLC.

Jason Krohn: 19:46

Huge. And it's been really, really valuable for us, right? Because the other thing it lets us do is create really diverse aggregations of the data effectively, right? Interesting. And so what it lets us do in this really distributed way is at the bottom level, teams can get the picture of their metrics, right? At the pure product level, or for some of our larger projects, the squad level within there, effectively, right? Are we doing well? Are we trending in the right direction? And then also the big thing for us from a BI perspective is outlier detection. The aggregate metrics may look great, but that doesn't mean there aren't teams that should be paying attention to different things, effectively. The API access and the ability to get data out and marry it against other systems data from our side, has been hugely, hugely valuable.

Conor Bronsdon: 20:46

I, I love the philosophy you're taking here too, because you, you care so much about the culture and it's such an important part of your strategy as a leader saying, we want senior teams. We want to like build up people up, retain them. And you, you've very clearly been intentional, like, we want teams. We're not gonna measure you on individual metrics, not, we're not gonna screw you over by focusing on velocity, which just focus gets people to game it. We're gonna say, how can I enable my team to deliver and feel passionate and build a unit that delivers for Syngenta?

Jason Krohn: 21:13

A hundred percent. The dangers of metrics are huge, right? Everyone's been in an organization that, whether it's intentionally or not, weaponizes, metrics against teams and people. Totally. End of story. Right? And this is, so much of our focus is on the teams. Yeah. Right? Is on how can the teams use these as tools to get better. It's why at at a higher level, we look and care about aggregates and trends. Because the risk is, is if you put any doubt into their mind that these metrics will be used for evil, you lose them, right? And this gets into, I talked a bit about it today, ownership versus compliance, right? If you get them to own it, if you get them to care about why are we looking at these metrics? How do these metrics align to the way they want to work? And how are they a benefit to them to care and look at these metrics effectively, right? You'll see movement. If you don't, you just get compliance. Velocity is a great example that you 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 bring in, oh, this one's a soft two points, so I'll bring that in to make sure that we can get the number that we need. And I just make that one a little bigger and, you know, it just, it's not, it's not a valuable tool for anyone then, effectively. Right, right. And, and that's the risk to me that any introduction to metrics brings in, and why how you use it and how you talk about it is so important.

Conor Bronsdon: 22:37

And honestly, I think this is why we at LinearB see Syngenta as a really fantastic partner. We share this philosophical belief in the value of engineering teams, and the avoidance of this over measurement of individuals saying, Uh, you know, you, you presented earlier today with Ori Kerry and our CEOA fantastic presentation on Syngenta's transformational push and how you're aligning engineering metrics and workflows and, and cutting down on blocker, which I want to get into in a minute here, But like, my biggest takeaway was how philosophically aligned, uh, we are around this perspective on how engineering orgs need to do this. Like, yes, metrics are dangerous. It's also, I mean, frankly, it's a necessity today. Mm-Hmm. like you're not gonna get away with it if you're an engineering leader. We have to be the ones that define the conversation. Otherwise, we risk, I mean the McKinsey's of the world coming in and saying, oh, focus on these individual metrics. Yeah, and it's a big reason why, like when I talked to Ori, he's like, yeah, we can talk about developer productivity. That's the phrase a lot of people use, but like, let's talk engineering efficiency. How do I create high performing teams that are more efficient?

Jason Krohn: 23:32

And that's what well and developer productivity is. it's nonsense from a metric standpoint. Yes. Yeah. And, and no matter the metric you choose, right? And it's as simple as you can have people working on incredibly complex subsystems in a team and another person who's, who's churning out controllers and APIs and things like this. And by any objective measure of changes, of code, of anything like this, one person looks 10, 15 times more productive than the other. But it doesn't mean that that's what's happening right there is until we come up with an objective 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, on teams effectively. Right? Yeah. If anything, the, the value I find in the, the developer level metrics is where do we need more support?

Conor Bronsdon: 24:17

Right? I think Martin Fowler wrote an article back on like 15 years ago, where he's like, you can't measure developer productivity. And, and I really see that today. Like we're still, people are still fighting that. They're like, well, I don't know if I take this project. I was like, no. Like, help your team succeed. Build high-performing teams. And I think it's something I really admire about the approach Syngenta has taken. And I know as you've scaled, you know, as we mentioned the start of the conversation, uh, the last, over the last two years or so, you've, you've brought your team from 150 to two 400 developers. Um, I know you've ran to a lot of blockers in that timeframe. Um, and especially as you kind of. You are in that hypergrowth, everything starts to become a blocker. Uh, what were the problems you were running into and and how did you address'em? I know we've talked about some of'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 got bigger and things like that. But eventually as we look at from code starts to to to production, right? Is at every point we started to notice. There's another handover. There's another blocker. This takes time. Whether it was development to QA. Let's ignore the whole cycle time of review and things like that, right? It has to go to QA. Now we need DevOps and we have to provision some infrastructure. Now we need a security review. And each one of these is a handoff that takes time. Sometimes days, sometimes weeks, sometimes hours, right? And as we look to measure our team of idea to production, right? Those blockers are, are killing our teams, right? So a simple one is qa, right? Yeah. We chose, we scaled QA a lot in India and for our teams, uh, in the, uh, western hemisphere. Cool. You're done with your code. You hand it off the next day someone from India has, has picked it up and they've put in a 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 the morning where everyone can be in the same meeting, which means in the US reduced collaboration, people are starting earlier than they want to in India. They're staying later than we want to, which is alsos an initial around retention and employee happiness. Right. And then you add in the DevOps and the cloud part and things like that. And so we, we really quickly identified we have to break this or we can't break these other things. Right. Right. Because the teams will say. I can't go to production faster. I'm waiting, I'm waiting, I'm waiting, I'm waiting. And as part of the team topology, 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 means we need a much bigger push into automated testing. Even simple things, like over time, we had good automated testing. You have unit testing in place, that's fine, automated integration testing. But then a manual regression would take four days. Four days. Yeah. And then they find something. Right. Cool. We need to push automation into all of that. It has to be in the build pipelines. It has to run as part of what we do. We need fast feedback on these cycles, right? Yeah. Same thing around security and compliance with things like, like sonar, cloud, same thing. DevOps. We have to move everything to infrastructures 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 of these touch points, that was kind of a manual handoff, a manual intervention of how do we move these into automated processes that we can then make either part of the build pipelines or part of APIs, right? That we can then execute VA build pipelines and things like that to turn them into non-blocking dependencies. We can build code, we can run it. We can get the feedback, we can fix it and ship it.

Conor Bronsdon: 27:50

Awesome. So, so your focus here it sounds like, is saying, okay, this is a blocking dependency, let's turned into a non blocker. Yeah. Let's, let's automate that away. Let's change it. Let's reduce the friction point a hundred percent. Yeah. This is a really fascinating approach takes I, I think it like really speaks to the core of how to improve efficiency. While you're doing all this though, how do you communicate with the rest of the org and make 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 an engineering 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 we haven't always been great about it, of why are we doing a thing? Why should anyone care about that thing? I challenge our teams a lot on this too, by the way. I've been in a lot of sprint demos 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 that we spent any time building this thing. What is the value we're bringing? Why did we do it? And I think often, from a leadership perspective, we don't do a good enough job of this. We'll have a call, we'll talk to everybody as a group, we'll have a great presentation that outlines why we're doing a thing and all this, and then we leave it. Right? And so we've been trying to work a lot more on just hitting that message more often. Helping explain the why. Building the right enablement teams internally to help spread the message, go work with the teams, help them through some of these adoption curves that you get and things like that as well.

Conor Bronsdon: 29:27

This seems like it could also be an improvement opportunity for that career laddering effort you're making as far as trying to raise up more 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 we put in early, uh, about two years ago, effectively, right? And it's a huge part of retention, right? One of the worst conversations that you have to have, if you don't have these things in place, if someone comes to you and says, I want a promotion, and you have to say to them, no. Not only no, here's why. It's like, I don't know if you watch baseball, it's like arbitration. Where the player is going to go in and say, these are all the reasons I'm worth a bunch of money, and the team goes in and says, here's all the reasons you're not. And even if it's true, it damages the relationship. Absolutely. It doesn't feel good for anybody. And so we, we built a very robust, clear career ladder for the engineering side. We're trying to do it for, for other things, right? That kind of outlines for every single position we have, right? To a junior, to a mid, to a senior, up through staff and principal or the engineering manager route. What are the roles and responsibilities there? And on in three dimensions? Mm-Hmm, right? So there's the technical and domain knowledge, which a lot of people focus on, and it's great. But it's table stakes, frankly, right? Then there's, culture and leadership, and teaching and mentorship, right? Gotcha. And as we go through all of these, what are our expectations of you at this level? Then what does success look like in this role? Right? What, so for example, like junior level roles, I expect to give you kind of story level stuff. I expect you're gonna need a little help on implementation and then you can go. All the way up through senior staff, or I'm giving you very complex problems. You break it down, you take, you look at the trade-offs of time versus value, business context, all of that. Right? And our whole goal with this is we then pair it with, um, uh, proficiency matrix that we have, which is like 18 different dimensions that we measure. We, we modified one from CircleCI, what they use because the reality is, is people are very multidimensional. No two people are the same, right? You can have people who are great leaders, but maybe they're not as good at some of the technical stuff, and vice versa. And those two people aren't better or worse, right? 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 many different places. That growth can be. We need you to learn something that growth can be, we need you to get better at something you already know. And that growth can be, we need to give you opportunities. So for example, often as we look at this, like mid to senior level developer, one of the big gaps'cause the whole matrix, everything we evaluate is things that you've done. Not things we think you can potentially do, evidence based things, right? Is system design and architecture, right? Often at a mid level, they're not getting a lot of opportunities to showcase these skills and what they've learned. 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 and we look at, okay, how do we get there, right? What is the training we need? Where do we need you to demonstrate things? And where do we need to give you opportunities to demonstrate skills that you've learned, right? So that as we go through our comp cycles, we go through the 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 I know 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 get there effectively.

Conor Bronsdon: 33:05

How do you pair this with that dimension of mentorship you mentioned? Because I feel like, to your point, you know, table stakes often becomes the technical side. But it can be a lot harder to find 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 Syngenta for this. Because as I saw through my career, what you often end up with is you have senior engineers. They get promoted to a tech leader, an engineering manager position. It's just like, throw in, go manage people. This happened to me as well in my career by the way. Go manage people. And no one tells you what that means. And for me, um, eventually I got a really great mentor. Uh, and, and, and when did, he said, you gotta send this guy to some training. And he was my, and it was fabulous. Changed how I do everything, right? And so I took a lot of that and developed this program of like, hey, here's what this means. But in concrete details as well, effectively, right? Not just, I need you to lead more. What does that mean in the context of your role, effectively, right? And so, we take people through that. Uh, Syngenta also has a very robust, uh, internal training system for, for managers and things like that.'cause it's not, for some people it comes naturally, but for others it, it does not effectively. And you have to coach it, you have to teach it,

Conor Bronsdon: 34:31

and you can still hone those skills, even if it's something that you think you're good at. There's yeah. Opportunities to hone and develop it. Um, I really appreciate the intentionality with which you approach your people and your systems design because. Uh, that social circuitry is so important and it's clearly playing a huge role in your success and the growth of your company. So, um, my hat's off to you are, are you hiring right now? Is that something we can, we can shout out on the show here?

Jason Krohn: 34:53

We're always trying to hire, right? All right. Yeah. Our biggest problem is no one knows what Syngenta is.

Conor Bronsdon: 34:57

Okay. Well, hopefully now we'll know a little 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 code anymore. I don't do anything to ship those products. Without good people and good teams, we go nowhere. All the leaders, all the management, none of it matters, effectively, right? And so this is, I think, why at Syngenta, we have such a big focus on those people.'cause they're the people who actually get the things done for you.

Conor Bronsdon: 35:26

Well, if our listeners wanna learn more about Syngenta's roles or the company itself, 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 more things there. You'll see a writeup. We're gonna do a writeup of the operational 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're interested, feel free to reach out. So,

Conor Bronsdon: 35:46

Fantastic. Jason, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. Yeah, absolute. It's been a really wonderful conversation. Pleasure to have you here. Keep, uh, collaborating with you and, and learn more about the approach. It's, it's really exciting to see, as I mentioned, that intentionality with which you've approached this and, and the success you're seeing because of it. Before we go, I just want to shout out, um, that we'll be featuring Jason on our Dev Interrupted Substack, uh, devinterrupted. substack. com. Uh, we're really excited to have you on the podcast and thanks so much for coming on.

Jason Krohn: 36:11

Awesome. Thank you.