Building and Working with Highly Efficient Product Teams with Sarah McKenna


This article is a lightly-edited summary of the key takeaways from our speakers’ appearance on our podcast, “The Shape of Work.” If you haven’t listened to our show yet, be sure to check it out here. These speakers have an incredible stable of startup experiences to draw from, the kind of stories that are unbelievably helpful for HR/people managers to hear.

In this episode of The Shape of Work podcast, we welcome Sarah McKenna, an entrepreneur and a Venture Partner at NextGen Venture Partners.


Name of the guest: Sarah McKenna

What she does: CEO of Sequentum

Find her on LinkedIn.

Get Smart: “You learn a lot about the people on your team when you hand them a problem because you get to see what they do themselves.”


In this episode, you will receive valuable insights into:

  1. The work culture of Sequentum.
  2. When was the first HR hire made?
  3. The Key trends among people in terms of a startup.
  4. “How much of what you do is why as opposed to how?”
  5. Advice to the leaders in terms of employee well-being.
  6. Hiring tech professionals in India.


The work culture of Sequentum:

Sarah talks about her journey to being the CEO of Sequentum. She started all the operations from scratch. Sarah further explains how she was able to bring some team right away. She began with three key employees in New York and India. She credits her team for being the best startup employees- incredibly sharp, hardworking, and adaptable. They have done a lot of recruiting on their own. 

Sarah feels that a startup needs to work very intimately and intensely. Hence a startup environment allows knowing people well and developing a community that complements each other’s skills. 

When was the first HR hire made?

Sequentum’s general manager from India is responsible for HR. They hired the first HR professional when they became a team of 30 people. In the States, they use Trinet, an outsourced HR service. It looks into any HR issues to be managed.

The key trends among people in terms of a startup:

In a startup, Sarah feels that people follow a ‘sink or swim’ theory. Startups bring a lot of challenges with themselves. No one can explain how things can work there. Hence, people that succeed in startups are the ones that thrive in a fast-paced environment. They are highly creative. Hence, either people can find something that fits with their aptitude and interests, or it does not.

There are plenty of problems where employees need to offer solutions. However, even if they cannot get the entire answer, working and researching can help.

“How much of what you do is why as opposed to how?”

In Sarah’s opinion, a startup is a continuous improvement of a particular product. It keeps getting better and better. Hence, there is not much difference between the ‘why’ and ‘how’. They are intricately intertwined.

Advice to the leaders in terms of employee well-being:

Sarah talks about the period where her employees in India were willing to resume the office. Productivity concerns were raised. However, Sarah opposed it by saying that those issues can be resolved. However, the solution cannot be calling people in the offices in the middle of a pandemic.

Hiring tech professionals in India:

Sarah gives her general manager credit for greatly managing things. The company hires freshers mostly. Sarah feels that even though a fresher is not as productive as an experienced individual, it is beneficial anyway. As they are hiring and training freshers, they are incubating tech leads. Sarah appreciates how the team of India focuses on culture and celebrates it.

Dhristi Shah

Hi, this is Dhristi, Content Writer and Editor at Springworks India. I am a keen learner and am passionate about everything related to writing.

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