Third Space Learning: building a scalable product engineering structure
After experiencing rapid growth in 2021, Third Space Learning needed to scale their product, design and engineering team - fast.
Here’s how we helped them transition from one team to four individual squads, plus bring on new skillsets to accelerate their growth even further.
What is Third Space Learning?
Third Space Learning’s goal is for every student to be able to access great quality online tuition to help them succeed in, and love, their learning.
To achieve this, they have built a global community of online tutors, such that they can deliver high-quality tuition, at low cost, to pupils in schools and homes around the world.
The TSL platform integrates with school timetables and home learning - as well as third-party platforms - allowing them to blend the value of live one-to-one tuition with the scalability and engagement of online solutions, helping students around the world succeed in their learning.
What did Third Space Learning need?
In the second half of 2021, Third Space Learning (TSL) was growing rapidly. Partly due to their connection with the government’s National Tutoring Programme, TSL’s user sessions had doubled to 20,000 per week in under a year. These sessions were likely to almost double again by the end of 2022.
At that point product, design and engineering were still all one team. The CTO needed to split that team into smaller squads to allow greater focus on specific product areas, as well as create a scalable structure with the next layer of leadership.
The plan was to transition to four squads over a period of six to nine months. These small, agile squads would consist of a Product Manager, Product Designer, Team Lead and two to three Engineers.
TSL also wanted to bring in specialist skillsets such as a dedicated DevOps Engineer and Data Engineer to build out those functions.
What roles were they hiring for?
To make this plan a reality, we needed to help them make the following Design, Software, Data and DevOps hires. There were several stakeholders to keep in the loop, including their Chief Product Officer and CTO.
How we helped Third Space Learning
Having worked with TSL since 2018, we already had a long-term relationship with their team and a good understanding of the business. Here’s a step-by-step guide to how we tackled this project with them.
Senior Product Designer hiring:
We knew from the outset that the budget was on the low end of the Senior market. What we were initially looking for was closer to a Lead level; someone to manage two reports and coordinate with the team in Sri Lanka.
We managed to find someone who fit that profile but after two weeks of waiting for a decision on the offer, they decided to accept another position.
We spoke to the CPO about the challenges of hiring for a Lead level person on a low Senior salary and presented three options:
Increase the salary
Open the role up to UK-wide/remote workers
Remove the line management responsibilities so we can approach Mid-Senior candidates
- The CPO opted for the last option and within four weeks the hire was made.
Contract vs Permanent Senior Data Engineer:
This was the first hire of this type within the business, so we spent some time working with the CTO on the profile of the person they wanted versus what was available.
We made the hire within six weeks due to delays on both sides during the interview process. However, the candidate had a three-month notice period and TSL needed someone to start sooner.
We agreed with the CTO to bring in an interim consultant to set up version one of the data infrastructure. We sourced the candidate within two weeks for a 3-month contract.
The consultant then provided a handover to the permanent hire once they started.
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