February 9, 2021.
Over the past year, most of my writing time went into "Staff Engineer", and I’ve accumulated a long backlog of topics that I didn’t find time to write about. Staring down that list of topics, I looked for something that inspired some energy and would be quick to write. My list of topics to write about is mostly just titles, occasionally with a supporting sentence to decode my forgotten intentions.
January 2, 2021.
Have you presented to company executives about a key engineering initiative, walking into the room excited and leaving defeated? Maybe you only made it to your second slide before unrelated questions derailed the discussion. Maybe you worked through your entire presentation only to have folks say, “Great job,” and leave without any useful debate. Afterward, you’re not quite sure what happened, but you know it didn’t go well.
December 21, 2020.
One of the downsides of being a group manager is that you spend most of your time on change management, but it must be said that organiational change management is a pretty interesting topic, particularly within a fast growing company.
December 18, 2020.
The tech lead manager role is often presented as an easy on-ramp to Team Manager, but my experience is that being a tech lead manager is considerably harder to do well than Team Management, to the extent that I believe the tech lead manager role is a trap for new managers.
December 17, 2020.
Many engineering managers become obsessed with the transition to managing managers rather than managing a team directly. I’ve seen that pursuit of managerial scope become almost an obsession for some folks. That’s a shame, because group management is a very different job than team management, and is often both less rewarding and less likely to facilitate ongoing learning. In particular, I often get email from folks considering joining a hypergrowth company in pursuit of their first group management role, and my advice is, in its most concise form: Do it if you must, but be cautious.
November 27, 2020.
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.
November 19, 2020.
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.
November 14, 2020.
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.
November 7, 2020.
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.
November 7, 2020.
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.