Design System Team Models: How to Hire a Frontend Infrastructure Engineer

February 21, 2021

team structurehiring

This is the third essay in my series about design systems team models. If you missed them, you can find essay #1 and essay #2 on my blog.

Quick Refresher

You can start with just two engineers on your design systems team: the “frontend-of-the-frontend” engineer, and the frontend infrastructure engineer. Last week, we talked about the five things you need to know about a “frontend-of-the-frontend” engineering candidate before you hire them.

This week, I’m sharing a list of five questions (in no particular order) that you should be able to answer about a frontend infrastructure engineer after an interview.

1. What is their preferred approach to versioning and publishing?

Asking a frontend infrastructure engineer how they think about versioning and publishing will give them a lot to talk with you about. This hire should be an expert on the subject.

Once you ask this question, you can dive into some interesting discussions around how they’d think about your component library’s release strategy. This is a critical part of your design systems product offering.

And if you don’t think your component library doesn’t need versioning, think again. There are very few cases where this is true, and you’ll thank yourself for getting it in sooner rather than later.

2. Are they good at writing?

The work that this engineer is going to do will be very unfamiliar to most of your stakeholders and team members. You want to make sure that they are a competent writer, and they can propose and document their work.

You can kill two birds with one stone, and give them a take-home challenge where they write a proposal for how they’d configure versioning and publishing in a system of their choice. Then, they’ll be prepared for your question about versioning and publishing during the onsite interview!

3. Are they comfortable working with CI/CD pipelines?

A frontend infrastructure engineer is going to spend a lot of time configuring CI to run the appropriate commands at the appropriate times. You’ll want to check in with them that they’ve done this type of work before.

Luckily for you, the versioning and publishing question will probably give you the answer to this as well, but if it doesn’t, make sure that you get the answer to this question.

4. Do they know about the bundler ecosystem?

Ask them about a time that they worked with a bundler in the past. If they never have, that’s a red flag. You’re looking for someone who can tell you what bundler they used, what they used it for, and any obstacles they overcame while using it. The amount of detail in their answer should let you know how experienced they are in this area of frontend infrastructure engineering.

5. Do they have ideas for design systems processes they can automate and can they talk about one or more of those ideas in depth?

Because so many of the team’s members won’t be that familiar with the infrastructure side of frontend development, this engineer could be a great idea factory! Since they know the ins-and-outs of how to automate processes, it’s wonderful if they are willing to share those ideas.

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