I took some time and cleaned up my writing backlog of “topics to write about” and pulling them
into this post. Let me know if any topics sound particularly helpful, or if I have any particularly
good stories that I’ve forgotten to mention here.
Stories recounting interesting times of my career or life,
although inevitably the very best stories are tricky to talk about in public,
like these previous stories:
- “From ten to 2,000 services: the Uber provisioning.”
Lightly touched on in Trunk and Branches
- “Starting Uber’s SRE organization.”
- “How increment.com was founded.”
- “Uber’s 18 hour PostgreSQL outage.” Undoubtedly the most chaotic outage I’ve been part of
- “The writing stopped.”
Why did I write five blog posts from December, 2012 to May, 2016?
Compared to 12 from August 2012 to December 2012 and 14 from May 2016 to December 2016
Topics in my writing backlog:
- “It depends: effective approaches are fact-specific.”
A lot of leaders, if you chat with them, implicitly don’t believe that the quality of their decisions matters.
My experience is that the quality of your decisions do matter a lot, and that it’s pretty easy to make reasonably good decisions
if you put effort into it and use simple tools
- “Writers who operate.”
I think the most interesting writers are operators, e.g. folks who write about the actual work they do from the perspective of doing that work.
Without the constraints of operation, it’s easy to get too overly pure or hypothetical in approach
- “Hold on to your hats.”
2022 is already a wild year to be working in the tech sector.
It’s probably going to get a lot messier, although, tbh, it might all
recover without much prolonged consequence. How do you operate in these circumstances?
- “100 simple decisions quickly and 5 hard ones: a quarter of executive work”
- “Recruiter alignment/prioritization should happen wherever headcount planning happens.”
Too many organizations try to set recruiter priorities at a different node in the organization than
where the organization they support sets hiring priorities. This doesn’t work very well.
Related to the piece on Headcount Planning I wrote
- “Avoid organizational sink holes.”
Basically, what are other tactics when you’re caught in a “hard to work with” trap
- “Avoid people who are stuck on a single idea.” And relatedly, “Avoid novelty driven development”
- “Intuitive architecture doesn’t scale.”
The intuitive approach to architecture works well in small companies and small, isolated teams,
but it doesn’t work in larger organizations with cross-team dependencies.
If you want to be a senior technical leader in a scaling organization or a large company, you
have to do structure architecture rather than intuitive architecture
- “Determining engineering compensation bands.” There’s a lot here, especially in 2022
- “Great engineering leaders tolerate uncertainty andd espite misalignment.”
- “Right people before right process.”
Good process doesn’t always generate good decisions. Excellent organizations prioritize good decisions over process
- “Learning with fewer mistakes.”
This idea reminds me a lot of a story my mother told me about starting out nursing at a teaching hospital:
it was just assumed that new doctors would kill a few folks while they figured it all out. Yikes!
Management is generally less lethal, but still a lot of room for harm, and even today I find that much of what I learn comes from understanding my mistakes.
How can we learn as managers while minimizing the negative impact on folks around us?
- “Be better in five years than in six months.”
Ramping slowing but durably into a new job, career, etc
- “Mirage metrics and headcount planning.”
A lot of headcount planning is anchored on made up, useless metrics like engineering velocity.
Probably most of these don’t matter, and are just a proxy for how much leadership trusts you
- “Match process with organizational complexity.”
The biggest cause of failed process rollout is trying to pull in something that
worked at your old, much more organizationally complex company
- “How do you measure your impact on the industry?”
I don’t actually know! But it would be interesting to have an answer here
- “Hypergrowth playbook versus bankruptcy playbook: do you have high efficiency user acquisition vehicles to drive spend into?”
- “How should you do engineering diligence in acquisitoins?”
- “How can your organizaton be inhospitable to sealions?”
- “It’s OK to make some bad decisions.”
Work decisions across rounds not within rounds.
Learning from bad decisions and learning overall is usually more important and less disruptive than
trying to reverse somewhat bad inflight decisions
- “The waiting place.” A Dr Seuss book, yes, but also a common experience for startup employees with illiquid equity
- “What are manager archetypes?” I actually have a draft of this Engineering Manager Archetypes
that I’ve never published because I don’t think it’s particularly useful
- “Why does every company hate their knowledge base?”
- “Be a change sink.” aka absorb friction from change in your organization
- “The ‘If it isn’t as good as I can do it, it’s bad’ variety of gatekeeping.”
- “What are some real-life ratios of staff-plus engineers to director-plus managers?”
- “Are you a company that specifically facilitates first-time entry to Staff roles? How and why?”
Plus an exploration of intentional and accidental title inflation
- “What are career defining roles?”
I think this is an interesting topic, basically, why are some roles specifically career creating for the individuals who have them?
- “Sabbaticals: do they work?”
- “The flying wedge.”
Why do some groups of folks join companies in a sizable group?
How does this dynamic impact the receiving company?
Is this a good or a bad thing?
- “Using nudges to drive migrations.”
- “The emperor’s unicorn cothes – conviction nd honest when everyone is afraid of losing generational wealth working at their unicorn startup.”
- “Good career ladders reflect real cultural values rather than anspirational cultural values.”