Building high performing engineering teams with Yaniv Bernstein, former Head of Engineering at Google and Airtasker

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“Time is a valuable commodity and taking too long to make any sort of decision comes at a really significant but invisible cost” are the wise words Yaniv Bernstein would tell himself if he could turn back time. In the latest podcast episode of “The Spotlight Series – Don’t Just Survive, Thrive”, Yaniv advises that you should act early, act quickly, be courageous and don’t look back!

Yaniv Bernstein has extensive experience as a Software Engineering Manager working for Google twice both in Switzerland and then Sydney. Until recently, he was VP Engineering and then Chief Operating Officer at Airtasker.

We talk about his time at Google and how the company has changed over time. Yaniv worked in different parts of the company including Google Search, YouTube and Google Maps. One of the highlights was working on a system for managing copyright in YouTube which detected copyrighted material before it went live on the site. Today, he feels that Google has somewhat lost its way with increasing distance between leadership and the people working on the ground.

We discuss how the transition from working at Google to startups was a bit of shock. Having spent 10 years with Google, he was somewhat institutionalised. Google has a reputation for having very high hiring standards. In a start-up, it was his job to make the team perform to the high level of Google whilst being involved in the entire interview process, hiring decisions, salary negotiations etc. We talk about his transition to COO at Airtasker where he was tasked with creating a high performance cross functional organisation spanning from engineering to customer support and HR.

Yaniv’s advice to grow teams where individuals can really grow, thrive and deliver massive value is for individuals to really understand THE WHY. When he is growing high performance teams, Yaniv looks for the following:

⭐ Intellectual curiosity – i.e. individuals who really need to understand and get to the bottom of things rather than blindly following instructions

⭐ A great mindset

⭐ Hiring for both technical talent and attitude is equally as important

He keeps team members engaged and committed by giving them a sense of purpose so they really understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. It is important to create an environment where there is genuine recognition for the value they provide.

We also talk about his newsletter – People Engineering. His initial purpose for the publication was because very few people really understood what a COO actually was - it was a mysterious role! It quickly developed to a broader discussion on leadership, organisational design and organisational purpose.

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