Engineering · 5 min read

Innovating is a team sport

Mark Isham
Posted August 23, 2022
Innovating is a team sport

Before I joined FullStory almost 4 years ago, I was an avid customer of the product. Even then, I was truly fascinated by how this technology could even work. Wait, this isn’t a video? You actually capture the full DOM state? There’s so much you can do with this data!

Over the years, my wonder has only grown. FullStory is now much more than it was those years ago… and as the team continues to grow, the rate of innovation has only accelerated.

Recently, I was particularly proud of our release of the Network Capture capability for FullStory for Mobile Apps. Not just the capabilities of the feature (which were great), but more importantly HOW this capability came to be. This was no “top-down directive” from upper management (“Thou shall build network capture!”), nor did this come from an exhaustive 12 page feature brief written by a product manager. Simply put, Network Capture came from talented engineers tinkering with initiative for “what could be”, and then championing that idea from inception to delivery.

This story compelled me to share more. Not about the technical details (you can read those here), but about the innovation itself. This story is not unique to Network Capture - innovation is a core part of our DNA at FullStory. Ideas are welcomed and encouraged from everyone, no matter the role or the seniority. And the best ideas often come from unexpected places.

Let me explain.

Diversity of perspectives

Virtually all software companies have product managers. Product managers represent the voice of the customer. They synthesize feedback from various sources (customers, sales, executives), map that feedback to business value, and from there translate into requirements that power the process of building software. It’s a hard job to do well, and I appreciate each and every one of them.

FullStory has incredible product managers. Best in the industry. They are keenly aware of the needs of our customers and have a voracious appetite for feedback and improvement. Every day they are making the FullStory product better, and power their analysis directly from data captured by FullStory itself. True dog fooding.

However, no one person has all the answers. In fact, the best ideas often come from the least expected corners. The engineers, the designers, the QA engineers, and our Customer Experience reps all play a part. Everyone has a different and valuable perspective, and those perspectives, when given freedom and psychological safety, always lead to a better overall result.

The "holy triad"

In our product team, each project has 3 distinct leads: a product manager (PM), a product designer and an engineering leader. Each has an equal voice in the project and each is involved in every stage of the project. From discovery to delivery. There are no boundaries here - it’s not uncommon for PMs to comment on pull requests, designers to add requirements, and engineers to provide stylistic feedback. We all work together with equal voices towards the best overall result. 

Internally we often cheekily refer to this relationship as the “holy triad” - just to underscore the value and equality of this close working relationship.

This culture of collaboration pervades across the entire team. Never is a project approached with the attitude of “just tell me what to build and I'll build it”. It's a collaborative effort every step of the way. There are no “dumb questions”, and perspectives from newer members of the team are not only appreciated, but treasured due to their originality and lack of institutional bias.

The best ideas come from within

So back to the Network Capture feature. 

As mentioned above, the Network Capture functionality was not driven by upper level executives, or even our product managers. Sure, it was on a list of capabilities we’d like to have, but so were 100 other priorities.

No, this is a story of engineers who tinkered and said “we can do better”. They took initiative to better understand the problems our customers encounter, and used that understanding as an opportunity to prototype something new and valuable. The results were astounding, and immediately began a journey from idea to full fledged feature of the product. Our product managers never felt threatened or annoyed by the idea…quite the opposite, they were thrilled with the innovation and drive for improvement.

This is a part of who we are at FullStory, and not the only example. In fact, there are many other similar stories:

  • Our Detections capability is a direct descendant of a FullStory engineer theorizing that our data capture can be used to warn our customers about potential data leaks. Theory was turned into practice with a prototype, and the results led directly to a powerful new capability of the product.

  • Our Data Layer Capture capability was a direct of an engineer struggling with the toil of endless data mapping rules. There has to be a better way! Necessity is the mother of invention, and that drive led to an innovation that has become a truly indispensable tool to FullStory customers.

  • Our Private By Default capability first came to be several years ago as a result of internal engineers passionate about preserving user privacy and prototyping an approach that would “fail safe” to better protect our customers.

  • There are also numerous open source projects created by FullStory engineers who all said “there has to be a better way”, and focused that drive into something productive and useful. 

This is just how we work, and there are many more examples. Innovation is a team sport at FullStory, and a core part of our culture. The best ideas don’t dogmatically come from the “boss” or the product manager. They come from anyone and everyone.

If this environment speaks to how you work, consider joining us on your career journey. Bring your bright ideas and your drive to make a difference. Our next great innovation may someday come from you!

Want a perfect website or app? FullStory can help. Request a demo today.

Mark IshamVP, Channels Engineering

About the author

Mark Isham is a proven engineering leader at FullStory with over 25 years experience leading high performing teams in hyper-growth SaaS companies.

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