What makes a team member an ideal match for a company project: technical chops, the ability to seamlessly gel with colleagues — or a combination of the two?
Making that call is a negotiation of how an individuals’ proficiencies fit into the organization’s broader business goals and priorities, and one that Anupama Gunupudi tackles regularly as the senior manager of engineering resource planning at artificial intelligence company Beyond Limits.
“I aim to drive project execution efficiently and productively for every software team that I have,” Gunupudi said. “That means understanding each team, developing their skills and talents to build them up, and ensuring that they’re successful in their role and career.”
According to Gunupudi, strategically allocating talent and building up teams is foundational for the Glendale-based company — which recently announced a $133 million Series C funding — to efficiently scale. But identifying those interlocking pieces isn’t as straightforward as simply checking off a list of skills. Beyond identifying a colleague’s technical savvy, Gunupudi must also consider intangibles like team chemistry.
“This role is very people-oriented,” she said. “There’s a certain skill set for building strong teams. Every team is very different, and understanding each person is what takes time.”
By weighing their domain expertise, skills and other factors, Gunupudi tries to put colleagues in the position to deepen their skill sets, round out existing proficiencies and excel in their careers.
By The Numbers
- 2014: The year that Beyond Limits launched.
- 45: The number of technologies implemented from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory that the company claims fuels its proprietary AI, which seeks to replicate human inference behaviors.
- 125+: The number of Beyond Limits team employees.
- $158.5 million: The company’s total funding, according to Crunchbase.
You help determine what talent is best-suited for projects at hand and build teams accordingly. How does the resource allocation process unfold?
The key is to understand the business needs, my team’s dynamic and their individual and collective talents. Through their skill sets, it’s important to determine what they’re capable of doing so that I have a comprehensive understanding of each member in the organization and how they fit into the overall project structure.
We place a lot of importance on building talent, developing that talent and honing skill sets. We have to understand how all this works in conjunction with the entire organization. Additionally, we have to have an understanding of what's going on in other departments and gather insights into all current and potential projects.
It’s critical for us to help our engineers grow and develop their skills, while also encouraging them to learn something new and be creative.”
After we understand our talent pool, we gather the information to look at a project roadmap for the next six, 12 or even 18 months. As we account for both the current and potential projects in the pipeline, we have to balance the cross-functional needs across the organization and align that with the budgets to ensure that we’re prioritizing the big picture needs of the company. Once this is done, we can determine how to place individuals in the most ideal positions to facilitate that process.
It’s critical for us to help our engineers grow and develop their skills, while also encouraging them to learn something new and be creative even if they don’t know the answer right away. The task is really to utilize the team you do have and grow it to fill that need. Upskilling talent is key to filling all those gaps.
The Tech Culture at Beyond Limits
Technical skills aside, what variables do you weigh when it comes to making resource allocations?
If a project opens up that’s a bit of a stretch role, but that person has a proactive mentality to fit in that place, I’m inclined to put them in there and partner them with a senior employee that can help guide them. We also have to see if it's a good culture fit — I don’t want to put two people together that can’t get along.
It’s like a matching game: You want to get the right talent and skill set. There’s a lot of talking to employees and seeing how they feel but also seeing the business needs. Sometimes things go really well, and it’s a great team. Other times, things aren’t so great, and they need to move around. If it’s a mismatch, how do we help that person do well or do something different?
Given the industries Beyond Limits is operating within, what’s the importance of a function like yours?
We need to really understand every team member. We want to put people in the right roles and help them — and the company — succeed in any vertical that we’re in. For example, in the oil and energy space, we want talent that has that domain expertise who also integrates well with software or data science people. Once you understand the full expertise of everyone in your organization, it’s easy to figure out which people go into different projects.
How does filing roles with individuals who desire professional challenge inform a culture of innovation?
Our employees should not be afraid to try something. We want employees to feel like they have the flexibility to do that. I tell my team: Try something out; if it fails, it’s OK. We’ll find a new approach. If something’s behind schedule, that’s OK, too. If it wasn’t the right path for this particular effort, we try something else. Leaders are here to help people grow, learn and ensure that they are providing valuable contributions to the success of the organization.