Mailbag: Advice for someone five years into their tech career?

November 23, 2020. Filed under career 20mailbag 3

I recently got an email asking for some perspective that was general enough that I thought it might make more sense to answer as another mailbag post. The lightly edited core of the email was: What advice would you give someone who is five years in their tech career? What should someone focus on in the world of fast-evolving tech? How did you find the right mentors in the course of your career/

Notes on compliance tools.

November 22, 2020. Filed under compliance 1notes 1

Recently I’ve been chatting more with Chris Stobie, Calm’s Engineering Director of Infrastructure, about how we can get more value from our compliance work and I tweeted out curious if folks thought highly of the various related compliance tools and platforms out there. Here are some notes.

Interviewing for Staff-plus roles.

November 20, 2020. Filed under staff-plus 26

When you decide to interview for a Senior engineer role, you roughly know what to expect. You’ll refresh your resume, work through Cracking the Coding Interview, and do some research on the company to prepare questions. When you go into the interview, you know it’s going to be five-ish interviews composed of a few programming exercises, something about technical architecture, and some cultural, behavioral, or career questions.

Finding your Staff sponsor.

November 19, 2020. Filed under management 127staff-plus 26

As I’ve spoken with more folks trying to reach their first Staff-plus role, most folks run into similar challenges. Many have miscalibrated their own impact, and simply haven’t done the work yet to operate at that level: a Staff Engiener isn’t just a faster Senior Engineer. However, there’s a large cohort who have done the work--they’re visible across their organization and have pulled together a strong promotion packet--but are still struggling to have that work recognized.

My skepticism towards current developer meta-productivity tools.

November 18, 2020. Filed under productivity 3

It’s hard to write about engineering leadership in 2020 and not mention the research from Accelerate and DORA. They provide a data-driven perspective on how to increase developer productivity, which is a pretty magical thing. Why aren’t they being used more widely?

Renegotiating your first vendor contract.

November 14, 2020. Filed under management 127

A while back I wrote Build versus buy, which discussed evaluating vendor tools against building in-house solutions. A short summary of that piece is that I think most companies should use more vendor tooling. That said, I think rather than advice on how to select vendor tools, for most engineers an even more helpful topic is renegotiating an expiring contracts their organization already has.

Speaking and podcasts in 2020.

November 13, 2020. Filed under speaking 6podcast 6talks 4

Before attempting to document what an engineering strategy ought to be, it’s useful to sharpen a related problem statement: why do engineering teams decide to write an engineering strategy?

Engineering strategy every org should write.

November 7, 2020. Filed under management 127strategy 7

Writing my recent article on Engineering strategy was one of the most challenging pieces of writing I’ve done in the past few years because I had far more ideas than I could fit into a coherent narrative. I extracted a number of those into semi-edited snippets filed under the strategy tag, and here is the last one in that vein.

Surplus rules of engineering strategy.

November 7, 2020. Filed under management 127strategy 7

While sharing my advice for writing an engineering strategy, my second draft had an extended section of “rules for writing engineering strategies.” I think these were all _useful_, but it was a piece that suffered for too many ideas, and I ended up removing most of them.

Care and feeding for your engineering strategy.

November 7, 2020. Filed under management 127strategy 7

If by some act of perseverance and skill you write an engineering strategy that’s well-received by your organization, then you’re faced with the next challenge. How do you keep this living document alive past that initial burst of excitement?