• Engineering,  Leadership

    Back in the Engineering Saddle Again

    A little over two years ago, fresh off the heels of helping ready my company’s part of the Internet for the GDPR, I offered to again take up the leadership of a small team I had led before – this time to launch another SaaS offering – this time in payments. The opportunity aligned well with my personal goal of leveling up my leadership skills with what was then an eye on a director of engineering role, and it also aligned with a engineering roadmap I had set forth nearly five years ago to get hardware related work (specifically integrating our software with mobile payments and point of sale hardware)…

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  • Engineering,  Leadership

    The Engineer/Manager Pendulum

    I am so happy I tapped on Episode 27 of the POPCAST this morning. And so glad Dan interviewed Charity and especially the focus of the podcast: her post about the “Engineer/Manager Pendulum“ I quote: The best frontline eng managers in the world are the ones that are never more than 2-3 years removed from hands-on work, full time down in the trenches. The best individual contributors are the ones who have done time in management. and And the best technical leaders in the world are often the ones who do both. Back and forth.  Like a pendulum. and That’s one of the only ways you can achieve the temporary glory of…

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  • Engineering,  Leadership

    Engineering “Smell”

    In software development, a phrase that gets used frequently is “code smell” – referring to an “odor” that code has or develops due to poor initial design or inattention to refactoring during continued development or maintenance.  Hallmarks of “code smell” include things like copying and pasting blocks of code instead of refactoring into callable functions, classes that have or develop multiple responsibilities, overly broad interfaces, and so on. I think engineering departments can have smell too. Hallmarks of engineering smell include: teams that develop processes, tools and frameworks with no expectation of coordinating efforts with other teams; effort is duplicated and uneven; autonomy and flexibility are valued much more highly…

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  • Career,  Engineering,  Leadership

    How to go from Developer to CTO

    An (overly) ambitious title for the post notwithstanding, Simon Dowling offers a fair number of actionable insights on this quick read on the Venturi Group blog, including this: As a CTO you are not there just to further your own agenda, not to just ‘look good’, but to drive the company forward as a whole. You are the single person others look to for decisions on short-term, tactical matters as well as plans for long-term, strategic goals. Nobody is perfect. And trying to be perfect is not your job. Your job is to make informed decisions using the information at hand. Or in cases where there isn’t enough information, to set about collecting more…

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  • Career,  Leadership

    Don’t let the dangerously innocuous pandas maul your career

    A firm warning about career blind spots from the Harvard Business Review couched in an amusing metaphor. Having assessed over 2,000 CEOs and over 18,000 C-suite leaders since 1995, we are struck by how often careers of talented executives stall or even derail because of seemingly trivial issues, many of which are utterly fixable. We call these types of issues “pandas.” Pandas look innocent, but their powerful jaws deliver a bite stronger than a jaguars’. Pandas can be painfully costly to individuals whose careers stall for reasons unbeknownst to them and to organizations and managers unable to develop talented leaders to their full potential. Elena Lytkina Botelho and Katie Semmer Creagh

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  • Leadership

    Why Being Nice as a Leader Backfires

    Valuable advice from the folks at Know Your Team: Ultimately, being nice as a leader is selfish. It doesn’t serve the team. It serves your ego. The team is looking to you to help them achieve a goal. And instead, you’re looking to have your decisions, actions, and yourself perceived as positive by them. Claire Lew

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  • Engineering,  Leadership

    Always Be Clarifying What Success Looks Like

    By the end of the project, we had done more than we probably needed to. Honestly, _far_ more than we needed to. The requirement had come down to build “Service X”, and the team rallied and pulled it off. But, in hindsight, I think we might have been able to deliver sooner – if I had put more effort into clarifying what success looked like for our stakeholders, and been more ruthless about stripping down the service to the bare essentials to meet that yardstick. In a way, it is like that part of The Martian (a great book and a good movie) where the main character, marooned astronaut Mark…

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  • Books,  Leadership

    Thoughts on “The Manager’s Path” by Camille Fournier

    It’s a quick read, focusing on some of the unique challenges of leadership at technology companies, and the progressive structure (e.g. team lead to manager to manager of managers) makes it easy to jump in at whether level you find yourself at on the ladder (and to see what you missed and should have picked up on a lower rung… or what to expect on the next rungs.). Here are a few things that especially resonated with me as I reflected on past lead and manager roles I’ve been in. Creating a 30/60/90-day plan “Another approach that many experienced managers use is to help their reports create a 30/60/90-day plan.…

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