How Twitter Manages Talent Via An Internal 'Free Market'

Chris-FryTwitterTwitter’s SVP of Engineering Chris Fry

Chris Fry, the senior vice president of engineering at Twitter, is one of the most valued and influential employees at the company. He oversees its vitally important tech side and earned almost as much as CEO Dick Costolo last year.

Mike Isaac at Re/Code, the new site from the former writers and editors of AllThingsD, recently did a great interview with Fry about how he runs engineering at the company.

Interestingly, he says Twitter stands out from tech companies like Yahoo that have long used “stack,” or forced, rankings to motivate employees. While those systems focus on managers evaluating employees in a rigid hierarchy, Twitter aims instead to be more democratic.

“Autonomy is interesting,” Fry told Isaac. “You want it at the team and individual levels. On the individual level, every quarter, employees can basically go out and, if they find a role inside engineering where the team would like them to join, we’ll let them make that move.”

It’s one of the things that helps the company retain talent in an intensely competitive market where skilled engineers are incredibly valuable.

“I think of it as creating a free market for talent inside the company,” Fry says. “Because if you think of the sort of free-market environment for talent in the Valley that we’re in right now, everybody is [constantly] recruiting engineers. [Our engineers will] probably get five emails from other companies every day. So you want to give people inside the company the same advantage by reaching out to people and giving them new opportunities.”

That “free market” process extends even to promotions, which are largely based on peer feedback and evaluated by a team of engineers.

The ability to manage a large group of engineers and lead them through significant changes — Twitter’s IPO and transition to profitability — is one of the reasons Fry is such a valuable employee, and why he was pried away from Salesforce, his former employer.

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