Build versus buy.

April 5, 2020. Filed under management 123

A few years ago I was working on a contract negotiation with Splunk, and we kept running into what felt like a pretty unreasonable pricing structure. They wanted some number of millions of dollars for a three year license, which felt like a high price to pay for roughly thirty-two ascii characters in a particular sequence. Beyond the license, we'd still be responsible for operating the software and paying for the capacity to run it.

Staying aligned with authority.

April 2, 2020. Filed under management 123staff-plus 24

It’s a common misconception that authority makes you powerful. Many folks aspiring towards more senior roles assume they’ll finally get to do things their way. They believe that the title inherently creates flexibility and autonomy. They believe that the friction holding them back will burst into a whirl of butterflies that scatter into the wind. The reality is a bit more nuanced.

Getting in the room.

March 28, 2020. Filed under management 123staff-plus 24

One of the most common frustrations I’ve heard from engineers is that they’re not in the room where important decisions are being made. They don’t understand the company decisions, and have important context that seems to be missing or ignored. Staff-plus engineers frequently cite access to “the room” as a major benefit of their level, and titles do increase the likelihood that you’ll be involved in decisions that impact you.

From one to two: how to start a successful distributed engineering office.

March 3, 2020. Filed under management 123

Recently it feels like companies are moving beyond the single office model earlier and earlier in the lifetime. Maybe it’s improvements in video conferencing, perhaps it’s the increasing costs of operating in Silicon Valley, perhaps it’s just a fad, but in any case, effectively supporting additional company offices is an important and increasingly core skill for engineering leaders.

Interviewing senior engineering leaders.

February 18, 2020. Filed under management 123hiring 9

A friend recently reached out for advice on interviewing and hiring senior engineering leaders. I’ve spent a good deal of time on this topic over the last couple years, starting with partnering with Laura Hilton to design Stripe’s interview loops for engineering leadership, and more recently going through a search for my own role. Leadership hiring is particularly interesting as a window into an organization’s psychology: for the highest stake decisions, do they turn to structure or to intuition?