Keynote: What Google Learned about Creating Effective Teams


Day of the Week:

What You’ll Learn

  • Understand some of the practical research Google has done around building effective teams.
  • Learn small changes and techniques that can make your teams better and more psychologically safe.
  • Hear personal narratives from stories at Google and other tech companies about building effective teams.


Over the years, researchers have conducted numerous studies on team dynamics. At Google, our People Analytics sought to identify those attributes that set effective teams apart from ineffective ones. The driver was that while so much of work at Google is done on teams, Googlers are rated individually; there was a gap. We felt that if we could distinguish the good from the bad, we could embark on a program to improve.

We made some surprising discoveries; many of our "common sense" initial assumptions were unfounded. We also learned that team dynamics can be surprisingly elusive to implement, even when one knows what the success criteria are. This talk addresses not only the research, but the insights of a manager who worked with his own team and others, to instill the findings and principles in the real world, along with key insights from the Pilot program at Google.


QCon: What is the focus of your work today?

Matt: I run two different SRE teams that support the Android phones and Google Play store. On a volunteer basis outside of that, I teach classes such as Managing for Diversity and Inclusion, Coaching Conversations, Fundamentals of Presentation Skills, Unconscious Bias Busting, and also consult with other teams at Google to improve their team effectiveness based on the gTeams research I'll be talking about at QCON NYC.

QCon: What’s the motivation for your talk?

Matt: According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, we spend 8.8 hours per day working. More than sleeping (7.8 hours). More than leisure and sports (2.6 hours). Even more than caring for others (1.2 hours). My motivation for my talk is that we as leaders in the field, can make a large, material difference in the lives of the people we work with on a day to day basis, by being informed and creating an effective, inclusive environment that allows our people to thrive.

QCon: How you you describe the persona of the target audience of this talk?

Matt: There really is no target demographic. Anyone with an interest in learning more about Google's team research and how to apply it to their workplace will get something out of it. Anyone can be a thought leader in this space, regardless of title or level.

QCon: How would you rate the level of this talk?

Matt: This talk is very down to earth with relatable examples from my own life. I'm not an engineer by trade, so I can guarantee there is no technical jargon or prerequisites.

QCon: QCon targets advanced architects and sr development leads, what do you feel will be the actionable that type of persona will walk away from your talk with?

Matt: Leaders will be able to identify simple, effective actions that can change team dynamics and improve their leadership skills, their work relationships, and team productivity and morale. People that invest time in building up these team attributes will see results.

QCon: What do you feel is the most important thing/practice/tech/technique for a developer/leader in your space to be focused on today?

Matt: Be intentional, every day, on improving the psychological safety of your teams. Make sure everyone feels they have a voice, are trusted, and feel included.

Speaker: Matt Sakaguchi

Site Reliability Manager @Google

Matt leads a Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) team of 10 in San Francisco. Matt's team is one of many in Corporate Engineering SRE whose mission is to enable all Google employees to be the most effective workforce in the world, by providing robust infrastructure, scalable services, and seamless access to all the tools they need to be productive. Previously, he was the Technical Lead (TL) for Postini-SRE for several years. Prior to Google, Matt was a Systems Administrator, Network Operations Center (NOC) Manager, and Site Operations Manager for and other Tech companies. Before joining the Tech Industry, Matt was a full time police officer for 8 years; duties included: patrol, detectives, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), Firearms Instructor, SWAT team, and Special Investigations team (evidence collection).

Find Matt Sakaguchi at


Monday, 26 June

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Conference for Professional Software Developers