To lead, you have to follow.

May 25, 2020. Filed under management 111

Years ago, the company I was working with hired a new Director of Engineering, and the CTO was talking about why the new Director was an amazing hire. The new Director’s clinching accomplishment? The best ever explanation of the distinction between leadership and management. This turned out not to be a particularly effective way to evaluate hires, but it is an interesting topic.

The rush to "show value."

May 5, 2020. Filed under management 111

Some years back I had the strangest meeting in my career. Andrew (not real name) was my new manager, it was his first day on the job, and we were having the standard “get to know you” one-on-one meeting. My outgoing manager and I had been heavily involved in assessing and hiring Andrew, his interview performance was excellent, and I was legitimately excited to work together. So I was surprised when Andrew sat down, cradled his head in his hands, and lamented how much he regretted taking the job, how inept _his_ new manager was, and how terrible our engineering team was relative to his previous experience. What?!

Staff engineer archetypes.

April 9, 2020. Filed under management 111staff-plus 10

Most career ladders define a single, uniform set of expectations for Staff Engineers. These career ladders attempt to identify the commonalities across many folks performing similar roles in their organization, but in the end these ladders are a tool that apply better against populations than people. In the case of Staff-plus engineers, career ladders paper over a number of distinct roles clustered under a single moniker.

Build versus buy.

April 5, 2020. Filed under management 111

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 111staff-plus 10

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.