Global Tech Culture: What’s Out, What’s In, and What’s Next?

Engineering, People & Culture, Technology Intuit India Development Center

Nearly a decade ago, I was tasked with building Intuit’s global development center in India. As our engineering family grew by nearly 10X, so did the leadership team from 3 to 30. Along the way, Intuit India evolved from being a remote development center to a true microcosm of Intuit and a hub of innovation for growth markets around the world. Our India blueprint inspired us to replicate our success in Israel and in my role as the Global Development Centers leader, is now helping unlock the engineering potential of our sites elsewhere. This journey has given me a unique vantage point to observe the evolution of engineering culture and practices within Intuit and beyond, and the role of tech centers outside the US within an increasingly borderless tech ecosystem.

So, what have been some significant shifts over the last decade? What will the upcoming decade to 2030 look like? Here’s a look at what is out, what is in, and what is coming next in the realm of engineering culture for today’s global tech companies.

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1. Expectations

  • Out – Deliver outcomes
  • In – Drive business outcomes
  • Next – Big scale and growth

Early on,  Intuit India played a transformational role in driving the best ever Net Promoter Scores for our Intuit Quickbooks Desktop Ecosystem, and winning the hearts and minds of our customers in the US and Canada. Building on that foundation, the team expanded the addressable market with an enterprise version to serve high-value customers. More recently, the team took on the challenge of creating a cloud-based mid-market offering from the ground up that is now a significant growth driver for Intuit. 

What can your organization do? Today, driving end-to-end ownership of business outcomes is table stakes. Set bold goals to inspire, don’t just provide incremental challenges to teams. Global teams of the future won’t just deliver on customer metrics. They will also scale the business through high-value creation in unprecedented ways.

2. Mindset

  • Out – Task order-taking
  • In – Customer obsession
  • Next – Anticipate trends, lead the future

Engineers at Intuit have long been grounded in Customer Driven Innovation (CDI)  and Design for Delight (D4D) methodologies. 

By listening to and answering customer calls, Intuit India developers are able to apply a data-driven approach through rapid experimentation of solutions in the hands of customers. Their customer obsession enables them to anticipate new trends around mobile, data and AI to create breakthrough experiences for our consumers with Mint and TurboTax and for small businesses with Quickbooks. 

By 2030, the lives of Intuit customers will be different in ways we can’t yet imagine. They’ll expect instant, always-on, incredible experiences that combine personalization with privacy. The more open-minded we can be, the better we can understand and respond to the needs of tomorrow.

What can your organization do? Gone are the days when regional teams relied on their US counterparts to relay customer feedback and define their work priorities. Empower them to become experts in the customer problem: transcend time zones to interact directly. Stay inextricably connected, so they understand customer pain points and have a sense of ownership for solving them. And, consider applying CDI and D4D principles with your product development teams.

3. How we work

  • Out – Outsourcing
  • In – Ownership and Mastery
  • Next – Purpose and Autonomy

In the 2000s, terms such as “offshoring” were used to refer to the process of handing tasks to remote, general-purpose engineering teams that then threw code back over the wall for acceptance testing. Today, they take pride in diligently mastering deep technology domains and bringing them to bear to solve hard customer problems. Over the last decade, Intuit engineers have leveraged their co-location advantage to collaborate across teams in our India microcosm, sharing their mastery to grow business segments across the company. Looking ahead, Intuit India is inspired by our company’s uber purpose of powering prosperity around the world, and continuing to unlock our unique potential for driving strategic growth for the company from here. 

What can your organization do? Evidence suggests that the most successful teams are driven by intrinsic motivation. Find the overarching purpose for your team and give them the autonomy to bring it to fruition. Operationalize autonomy with a platform mindset where teams build, reuse and own capabilities to drive business outcomes greater than the sum of its parts.

4. Organizational structure

  • Out – Vertical silos, hierarchies, and team extensions
  • InLocal leadership
  • NextEcosystem leadership

Back in the day, organizations planned and executed in silos.  And, dedicated developers, testers, and deployers all worked independently.  The need for secrecy was taken for granted. DevOps and Open Source changed all that. Today, we share everything — code, APIs, tools — not just with our company, but across the industry. A one ecosystem approach has helped Intuit ride new trends, from desktop to the web, mobile, cloud and AI, and embrace our journey to becoming an AI-driven expert platform.  

In the future, companies will deepen this collaboration and co-innovate in larger numbers across the ecosystem rather than competing with each other. Information asymmetry will be dramatically reduced, and free access to skills and education will allow anyone to learn from the best and make a contribution—whether they’re part of the organization or developers beyond.

What can your organization do: Create platforms that others can build on and contribute to. Embrace ecosystem leadership to go where no one has been before.

5. Market focus

  • Out – U.S- centric
  • In – Global first
  • Next – Global leadership through local ecosystem partnerships

As global development centers grow their capacity to execute at the scale of the U.S. market, they need to remain focused on opportunities elsewhere in the world — especially in developing countries with fast-growing economies. In India alone, we might see hundreds of millions of consumers enter the middle class over the next decade. 

What can your organization do: Understanding and meeting local customer needs — rather than simply shipping them a U.S.-centric product —will be a key mission. That mission will, in turn, help attract great talent from emerging global hotspots, where they can make an impact by innovating where they live.

6. Capability development

  • Out – Backroom coders
  • In – Purpose-driven solvers
  • Next – 360-degree leaders

There was a time when outsourcing meant hiring cheap talent in bulk. As we grew our India site, we found that millennials brought tremendous energy to our organization—mission-driven and always thinking about customer impact. We constantly try to challenge them with hard problems to solve and a purpose to fulfill. A good example of this is a grassroots initiative that I am privileged to sponsor—the Intuit Tech Culture Champions Community where engineers as change agents are empowered to go beyond their day jobs, solve challenges that get in the way of our engineering teams and evangelise a world-class tech culture at Intuit.

In a talent-first future, we’ll see less command and control, and more fluidity in career paths. Leadership will still matter, but it won’t be hierarchical. In the best organizations, you’ll find influential and inspiring people at every level of the org chart.

What can your organization do? To build a strong culture that nurtures 360-degree leaders, embrace diversity across dimensions and servant leadership. Diversity lets great ideas rise to the top and makes teams better problem solvers. Servant leadership inspires extraordinary accountability and ownership. As leaders, ask what you can do to help.

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As workforce dynamics and demographics evolve, companies with the strongest culture will win—places where people feel they can make a real difference in the world. Today, it’s a nice-to-have. Tomorrow, it will be a definitive business differentiator.

Are you nurturing and evolving the right kind of tech culture at your company? What more can you do—can we all do—to help engineering organizations thrive for the good of the global community?

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