Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

The Importance of Deliberate Attention to the Internal Deltas of a Company

Discovering the perfect company structure, and moreover the way in which departments should interact, has been a topic of debate among CEOs and researchers for years. Working for a StreetLight Data, a fast growing startup in transportation data, I had the opportunity to ask some of the founders their thoughts on the debate. One afternoon I decided to have lunch with the head engineer and member of the original group that began the company, and asked how knowledgeable should each department be of each other; should a company run in a way where separate islands of departments all put forward their piece to a puzzle, thus a more organized business structure, or consist of multi-faceted individuals, where each department deeply understands the others. The latter of course would result in a less organized company structure, yet however a more understanding overall team. The individual not only answered my question by explaining a complex balance of the two is the most beneficial, but went on to explain that at small companies, such as StreetLight Data, the ability of employees to wear multiple hats is critical to success. Furthermore however, he went on to explain that in his time growing StreetLight Data from the two person team he joined in 2011 to the 50 person team today, he found his most important lesson to be that not only is it important to always put the product first, but equally important that each department understands how each rely on each other to deliver a proper product. If sales does not communicate exactly what the customer wishes to the engineering department, regardless of how great their resulting technical work is, they are bad engineers. Similarly however, if the sales team or the legal department does not understand where the engineers have innovated, not only is there a possibility that sales under promotes the product, but legal may not be notified of a possible infraction of U.S Law. Therefore, although the macro structure of a company will forever be up for debate, as different structures are best for different industries, sizes of a company, etc., what is certain is it is absolutely critical that departments understand the overlapping responsibilities of internal workings.