2020 in review.

December 10, 2020. Filed under career 20blog 14

I'm returning to work from parental leave this week, and felt like taking the moment to to write my 2020 review now rather than waiting for the end of the month. It's been a wild year, with a lot of very good things personally, and a lot of very bad things nationally and globally.

Weak and strong team concepts.

December 5, 2020. Filed under staff-plus 26

Engineers are often frustrated that their management “treats us like fungible resources when we’re unique humans.” On the other hand, engineers usually view individual ownership as a managerial failure, “critical systems need to be owned by teams not by individuals.” At a certain remove, these seem like contradicting beliefs—they’re not—and thinking about how both can be true brings us to an idea I’ve been reflecting on a lot recently: weak team concepts and strong team concepts.

What do Staff engineers actually do?

December 3, 2020. Filed under staff-plus 26

Anyone who has been cornered by relatives at a party and asked to explain what software engineers _actually do_ knows that explaining the work can be a challenge. Over time you may have created a compelling answer for your relatives, but many folks’ minds go blank when their coworker leans over and asks, “What’s a Staff engineer do?”

Managing Staff-plus engineers.

November 27, 2020. Filed under management 127staff-plus 26

While getting feedback on StaffEng,one request was for more content on managing Staff-plus engineers. It doesn’t quite fit the theme--that effort is focused on the Staff Engineer themselves rather the company or the manager--but it’s an interesting topic and a worthy appendix.

Write five, then synthesize: good engineering strategy is boring.

November 26, 2020. Filed under staff-plus 26strategy 7

Few companies understand their engineering strategy and vision. One consequence of this uncertainty is the industry belief that these documents are difficult to write. In some conversations it can feel like you’re talking about something mystical, but these are just mundane documents. The reality is that good engineering strategy is boring, and that it’s _easier_ to write an effective strategy than a bad one.

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?