3 keys to boosting your engineering culture

To inspire your engineers to do their best work every day, you must offer a shared mission, build careers using a community-focused approach, and provide a clear growth path.
September 10, 2023

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Companies large and small are focused on attracting and retaining top talent. Achieving this goal is an evergreen priority for any business, but taking this idea from vision to action and execution is what separates good companies from great ones.

Bridging the gap between vision and execution in the effort to create a robust, engaged engineering workforce depends heavily — though not solely — on culture.

So, how do you continuously improve corporate culture — and, in this case, an engineering culture — that inspires people to do their best work every day? I see three ways: offer a clear, shared mission, take a community-focused approach to building careers, and provide a clear growth path for your engineers.

Offer a clear, shared mission

Culture begins with a shared mission: a complete and pervasive understanding of the organization’s vision, and an agreement that this is, indeed, a worthy and practical aim.

At Discover® Financial Services, everything starts with our shared behaviors. We get better every day. We succeed together. We play to win. Every single engineer at Discover understands these behaviors, and they are ingrained in every step of the product delivery lifecycle, from design thinking to the retrospective after a sprint.

The behaviors give us a shared set of values, from which we can set organizational objectives and key results for each team. We ensure a robust dialog around our objectives as a technology organization so that everyone participates in defining and meeting those objectives. Teams can access updated metrics to easily ascertain how they are measuring against their team goals.

This provides purpose while tying vision to action and action to measurable outcomes.

Take a community-focused approach to building careers

Creating a robust engineering culture happens best in community. At Discover, this happens through the Discover Technology Academy (DTA).

The internal DTA is a web platform that offers in-person and digital engagements to help Discover product teams connect with one another about common problems, shared skills, and interest areas. This connection happens through various events, hands-on training dojos, and online forums and discussions.

In addition to internal community, we encourage participation in open source communities like The Linux Foundation and the FinTech Open Source Foundation (FINOS), both of which Discover recently joined. This allows our engineers to work side-by-side with fellow technologists in the community to help improve some of the world’s most ubiquitous open source projects. When we do this, we create positive energy, we develop ourselves, and we shape the technologies that we use to build our products.

Provide a clear growth path

As engineers we want to do more than work on exciting projects. They want opportunities to build their careers. At Discover, our goal is to ensure that our people understand their career trajectory and take a vested interest in progressing here.

One of our primary goals for the DTA is to help Discover engineers grow their careers. To that end, we offer self-paced learning paths that are directly related to the skills—and skill levels—that engineers need to do their jobs well.

Our Talent Hub community clearly defines expectations, tools, templates, and support that engineers should complete to advance in their careers to the next level, with full-fledged paths for Distinguished Engineers and Expert-level engineers.

Externally, we provide our engineers the chance to gain visibility through the Discover External Eminence Program (DEEP). This program identifies opportunities for our people to share their craft with the world through speaking and publishing opportunities and gives them the training and support they need to do it well.

Building careers in meaningful ways

We offer our people a path to find their voice. We offer access to industry-leading tools to build their products. We offer a chance to be part of a movement, to share their knowledge internally and externally, and to build their career in meaningful ways.

It is said that a rising tide lifts all boats, which is why we want to share the way we work. When engineers get better, no matter where they work, our profession is better for it. We build better products, we further the work and accomplishments of our predecessors, and we inspire tomorrow’s technologists.

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