As it turns out, stabilizing production systems and reducing the frequency of production incidents by more than 90 percent — well that is, indeed, as complex as it sounds.
Just ask VP of Software Engineering Muddassar Shaikh. His team at prescription discount marketplace GoodRx recently decided to do this by performing a larger system overhaul, which involved rewriting major parts of an application.
“This was more time-consuming than creating quick, ad-hoc fixes, but it was well worth the effort,” Shaikh said.
Accomplishing feats of this kind doesn’t just hinge on a strong tech stack. A collaborative, encouraging team culture plays an equally important role in fueling innovation at GoodRx.
“Team culture sets the tone and foundation for how team members collaborate with each other,” Shaikh explained.
So how is this foundation laid? For Senior VP of Data Andrew Douglas, laying the groundwork comes down to delivery.
“In this dynamic landscape, a team culture should be centered around the question of how to get things done and, more importantly, how we can empower each other to achieve those goals,” he explained.
“In this dynamic landscape, team culture should be centered around how to get things done and, more importantly, how we can empower each other to achieve those goals.”
While culture can be defined in a myriad of ways, it’s rooted in shared values, behaviors and beliefs. That’s why Senior Director of Tech Product Management Gowri Rao Krishnamurthy makes it a priority to establish standards and practices for her team.
“It’s very important to me, because it isn’t just about how we do things — it’s about why we do them,” she said.
The ‘why’ behind what tech team members do is captured in the company’s mission: “To build better ways for people to find the right care at the best price.” In order to fulfill this goal, those who join one of the company’s tech teams must have the same desire to tackle every task with an intentional, team-oriented approach.
“For anyone joining our team, this mindset is crucial,” Krishnamurthy said. “It ensures that we remain aligned with our mission, prioritize what truly matters and consistently drive value for users of GoodRx.”
Shaikh, Douglas and Krishnamurthy rely on positive, empowering cultures to drive progress on their respective teams. Read on to discover each leader’s approach to building culture, and how these cultures have enabled their teams to overcome challenges.
“Optimizing for impact.”
This motivation guides Krishnamurthy’s team, informing how they accomplish their goals.
“It’s not just about ticking off tasks on a checklist; it’s about ensuring that every effort we put forth leads to tangible user or business impact,” she explained.
Driven by this focus on intentionality, Krishnamurthy’s team revised its strategy to fuel user growth. To do this, they guided users towards their app, ensuring they immediately recognized its value and utility, and offered unique advantages exclusive to app users.
“Through these concerted efforts, we successfully drove monthly app installs in alignment with our growth goals,” Krishnamurthy said.
But optimizing for impact is not just about how Krishnamurthy’s team accomplishes work, it’s also about fostering a culture that hinges on evolution and individual empowerment. Team members engage in various rituals to help create this supportive environment, including “show and tell” sessions, during which they discuss recent projects, as well as regular retrospective sessions, which give them space to discuss what’s going well and what could be improved.
Krishnamurthy added that a focus on feedback also plays a critical role in cultivating this culture. This is accomplished through regular performance reviews, employee surveys, open Slack channels with leaders and more.
“We believe this holistic approach helps us gauge the health and dynamics of our teams and the company at large,” she said.
For Krishnamurthy, having a set of core initiatives on her team doesn’t just drive stronger collaboration and resilience; it makes employees feel more integrated, giving them a greater sense of attachment to their work.
“A positive team culture fosters a sense of belonging,” she said. “It’s the difference between waking up dreading the workday and feeling invigorated by the potential of new challenges.”
Finding the right individuals is key to cultivating the empowering culture that defines Krishnamurthy’s team, which is why she looks for several key traits in job candidates. She said those who join her team must be able to deeply understand user problems, build solutions at scale and bring product visions to fruition efficiently. Krishnamurthy said it’s also important for team members to have “the ability to guide teams effectively, coupled with an unwavering drive to achieve outstanding results.”
When Muddassar Shaikh first became a tech leader, he focused on measuring team successes through output and outcome indicators, such as velocity, defect rate and cycle time.
Then, his approach changed.
“My focus has shifted towards developer effectiveness through quality-of-life improvements,” Shaikh explained.
He believes that boosting efficiency begins with fostering honest communication, which is why he strives to create a culture grounded in listening to team members’ concerns — and acting on their needs.
“People are willing and eager to share feedback to help improve how we work together,” Shaikh said.
This commitment to transparency goes hand in hand with a focus on learning. In addition to online and in-person training sessions for managers, Shaikh said that team members often celebrate wins together and occasionally take part in hackathons to explore innovative ideas.
As GoodRx aims to onboard more mobile engineers, Shaikh seeks to hire new team members who embrace execution, collaboration and — most importantly — adaptability.
“Being able to react to a changing landscape is a superpower,” he said.
“Being able to react to a changing landscape is a superpower.”
For Andrew Douglas, being on his team is like joining a family.
“Conflicts may arise, but they’re met with a shared commitment to resolution,” he said.
While Douglas considers the pursuit of excellence to be paramount on his team, he believes embracing failure is just as important as achieving success. This growth-focused culture enables team members to make an impact on the wider organization.
“Each team member’s unique contributions play a vital role in our collective achievement,” he said.
“Each team member’s unique contributions play a vital role in our collective achievement.”
According to Douglas, this opportunity to drive influence takes many forms. Recently, team members came together to align smaller initiatives with broader strategic goals while decomposing monolithic infrastructure into concise, adaptable services. By shifting from sporadic actions to structured planning, Douglas’s team ensured alignment with overarching objectives.
“This allowed us to harness diverse expertise, facilitating informed decision making,” he said.
While culture plays a significant role in driving evolution on Douglas’ team, it also manifests on a personal level. Besides engaging during feedback sessions and meetings, team members take time to connect through a variety of social events.
“These informal gatherings help forge strong bonds, foster camaraderie and contribute to a culture where every team member feels valued not just for their contributions, but as individuals,” Douglas said.
Over the years, Douglas has learned that building a strong team culture involves many moving parts. But above all else, leaders must embrace these key values: diversity, curiosity, collaboration and a hunger to deliver.
“Encourage transparent and candid conversations and challenging assumptions, and remember that diversity of thought fuels progress and creates a culture of innovation,” Douglas said.