Learn more about engineering leadership at Deliveroo with Stephanie Siaw, Engineering Manager.
Stephanie, thanks for taking the time to share your story at Deliveroo. It would be great if you could start by introducing yourself and your role.
Hi, I’m Stephanie, I’m an Engineering Manager here at Deliveroo. I’ve just moved to the Grocery group, which is our new product area focusing on building out our grocery proposition. Specifically, the team I help lead now is called Grocery Shopping Experience where our mission is to create an on-demand shopping experience so good, it makes Deliveroo the go-to place to get your groceries. We’re growing quite quickly. The current team size is 15 engineers alongside product, design and data science teammates, and we have plans to grow the team even further in the coming months.
Before I moved to the Grocery space, I had been part of the Pricing and Promotions teams in the Consumer group, at times working with up to 24 engineers spread across 4 teams.
What does your usual day to day look like?
I would categorise my job into three aspects.
One part of my job is the people management side, particularly the growth of the engineers that I work with. I’m here to support engineers in their careers and progression at Deliveroo and also to be a sounding board for them on the teams. For me, rather than “managing” people, it’s really about creating a system where people have the autonomy and freedom to do their best work. This is something that I heard at my previous company that has stayed with me.
Another part of my job is helping figure out what we should be building and how we should approach it, and for this I work very closely with our product managers, engineers, designers, data scientists and others in our wider team - which are cross-disciplinary. We’re focused on understanding what the best thing to build for our users is, how we can measure success, and how to maximise impact. We try to be as data-driven as possible.
The third part of my job is looking at how to improve the way we work. That could be from a team standpoint, looking at ways for the team to be more productive or healthier, or from an organisational standpoint across the Tech Org. For example, I helped to start a Staff Retention Working Group. It’s made up of other EMs and HR representatives, and we have recently run an initiative called Stay Interviews where we interview engineers (hopefully) long before they exit to help us understand why employees stay at Deliveroo, and what might cause them to leave. There are things on the learning and development side that many other EMs are working on as well. For example, how should we onboard people and help them learn new skills and grow as engineers? How do we set up our testing and staging environments? How do we do code freezes? We always try to find champions within the engineering teams who will drive these forward as well.
What are the most interesting/exciting projects that you & the team are currently working on?
One of the things we’re doing at the moment is improving the menu page. We’ve completely rebuilt our menu page, which is really exciting. It’s not only a lot faster and more performant, but we’re also experimenting with improvements to the user experience of our grocery menus by adding features like a quick add button and shop by category to help people navigate long menus. One of the main challenges when you’re grocery shopping is that there are thousands of items to browse, and we’d like to make it easier for customers to find what they need.
After we’ve launched the new menu for restaurants and grocers, we will then be making even more Grocery-specific improvements. Your needs when you’re grocery shopping are very different from browsing restaurants, so we’re thinking about more ways to make Deliveroo your go-to-place for grocery shopping. One of our grocery-specific challenges is, for example, out of stock items. Items may go out of stock quicker than in restaurants, which are not immediately reflected on menus. This is one of the problems we’re currently trying to solve across the Grocery group - how you can be sure you will get the items that you want, when you need them.
How much has the organization changed since you joined?
I joined almost 3 years ago, which was pre-pandemic and pre-IPO. While we’ve grown a lot - and I’ve found that since the beginning, the only constant at Deliveroo is change as it’s a fast-paced place to work and we’re often looking for ways to improve - in a lot of ways, it’s actually still quite similar.
One of the things that I really like about Deliveroo and why I decided to join was the scale of our work, but also the fact that teams are free to decide how they want to work. There is still a level of flexibility present where rather than dictating particular ways of working, teams are able to figure out and decide what works best for them. Although we are finding that we do need to have more structure and share best practices as we grow, I hope that level of freedom doesn’t change.
The organisation has grown though. We have a lot more people now than when I first joined, and the way we organize teams has changed multiple times. I myself started off in Delivery, then moved to Consumer and now I’m in Grocery, which only just formed a couple months ago.
How has your own career evolved since starting here? How did you progress at the company?
I joined Deliveroo as a senior web engineer on the Rider Onboarding team where we were building an in-house onboarding platform called RAPID (which is unfortunately not being used anymore). After about 6 months at the company, I was looking for other ways to grow. I had worked as an engineer for many years before coming to Deliveroo, and was looking to develop a different skill set. I actually started exploring the product manager role to start with, especially as there was a need for it on my team, and then I was asked to consider becoming an engineering manager, which was a better fit for my experiences so far. As an EM, you get involved in a lot of things that help make a tech company successful like growing engineers, hiring, and building teams, in addition to working with product and helping shape strategy, which aligned with what I was looking for.
The path to EM wasn’t an immediate one. I first spoke to other EMs to understand what the role was about. My manager at that time was also mentoring me, and shared helpful learning resources. When I made the move, I was able to shadow other colleagues for a while, particularly during the performance review process, and also attended our manager training workshop, which I enjoyed and found useful.
You have a Software Engineering background & you’ve been an Engineer yourself. How important or useful is it to have this experience while taking on/transitioning to an EM role?
I think it’s really helpful. Almost all of our EMs at Deliveroo have been engineers in the past themselves. I think that’s because you’re there to be a voice for engineering, and having been an engineer yourself, you know what to look for and how to advocate for other engineers, having personally felt the pains they might feel! Part of my job is helping identify what the risks are and what might become a problem in the future, and having that technical background helps me to do so. On the other hand, I myself didn’t study engineering in university, and one of the reasons I love the tech industry is that I feel like it’s accessible to everyone as long as they put the time and effort into learning and growing - so I think even more important than having an extensive engineering background is having this growth mindset, and ‘knowing what you don’t know’ as they say.
It’s no secret we’re hiring at the moment. What in your opinion, does it take to be a successful EM at Deliveroo?
The top thing for me is having the attitude of guiding rather than dictating, and the other side of it is being data- and impact-driven. We try not to make changes, particularly on our customer-facing apps, without understanding the impact of them, and almost everything that can be is run as an experiment. Having a data-driven mindset, and thinking about how to measure success whether that’s from a product, team or organisational standpoint is important.
I also think that having this growth mindset that I mentioned earlier, and being proactive in terms of spotting opportunities and driving things forward is what makes you successful here.
The interview process will focus on your experience, particularly any great outcomes you’ve driven, how you manage conflict or how you’ve grown engineers. It’ll also look at how you approach problems, and your technical abilities in terms of understanding and building systems at scale.