What does connection mean… to an Engineer?

With the official launch of Mystery Insights taking off, we asked some of our very own Mystery leaders for their perspective on connection: What does it mean and how does it feel to them? What value does a tool like Insights provide to someone in their position? Here’s what our VP of Engineering, Ahmed Owainati, had to say:

What does connection mean to you?

I see connection in a few different ways. Within a team, it’s about having a strong sense of trust that’s been built on shared experience—trust allows you to have healthy debates and conversations with your team to make decisions and thus be more successful. Across teams, it’s really important for building empathy with folks outside of your department, especially as an engineer. It’s easy for us to get buried into the technical details, so it’s important to remember that all the software we're building serves a purpose and solves problems for people right next door to us like the sales or marketing team, not to mention our external customers as well.

When do you feel most connected?

I feel really connected to them after we’ve had a really good team debate—whether it’s about a technical decision, defining a new process, or deciding how a product should behave. Usually there are a bunch of different solutions on the table that the team has researched, and those discussions can feel hard because we’re challenging each other’s ideas. Sometimes your ideas win and sometimes they lose, but having a strong sense of connection means we were able to come together and overcome a tough hurdle together, and that makes us even stronger.

How do you help companies understand connection?

With Mystery Insights—we’re leveraging several interesting data sources to try to model the actual network that represents connectedness with your team. When I’m talking about connectivity, I use Insights to visually show folks their network of people, how strongly or weakly connected they are, which they probably have an intuitive sense of based off obvious things: for example, people who are in the same department are probably closer, but someone who just joined the company may not be close to anyone yet. This kind of network has never been modeled in a measurable, objective way like this, where you can see how it evolves over time and weaker areas that need your attention.

How has working remotely impacted your sense of belonging?

At my previous job, the shift to working remotely had a significant impact on my sense of belonging. I felt lonely and disconnected from the teammates I used to see all the time—it felt like those relationships with the people I’d see regularly in the hallways turned into something transactional and strictly for work. Something like Mystery would’ve been huge–it would have helped us maintain that fabric that made us feel connected to each other and thus the job itself.

What’s your favorite way Mystery helps companies increase/improve connections?

It’s really underrated to simply get together with teammates and do something fun, no matter what that activity is. I used to think that every team experience had to be mind blowing and over the top, but since I’ve been at Mystery and have done all kinds of events, even the simplest ones are still as memorable. It’s not necessarily the event itself that you remember, it’s the fun you have, the inside jokes that come out of it, and the way you feel after. Sometimes when an event starts, you're not totally sure what to expect, but once it's done, you realize just how much fun it was to spend time with your teammates. And over time, you realize how those moments add up to a deep level of camaraderie.

So, to summarize, Ahmed believes connection is important for establishing trust, for generating a strong sense of belonging, and for fostering strong corporate culture in general. And for engineers specifically, tools like Insights are invaluable for providing opportunities to intentionally connect with the very people they spend their days designing products for!