Introduction to systems thinking.

September 4, 2018. Filed under management 127systems-thinking 6

Many effective leaders I've worked with have the uncanny knack for working on leverage problems. In some problem domains, the product management skillset is extraordinarily effective for identifying useful problems, but systems thinking is the most universally useful toolkit I've found.

Designing interview loops.

September 2, 2018. Filed under management 127hiring 9

Anyone who has flipped through Cracking the Coding Interview knows that evaluating folks for a new role is a coarse science. Most interviewers are skeptical of the accuracy of their interviews, and it's hardly the rare interview retrospective where folks aren't sure they got enough signal on a candidate to hire with confidence.

Communities of learning.

September 1, 2018. Filed under management 127

I've always preferred learning in private. Got something difficult? Sure, leave me alone for a few hours and I can probably figure it out. If you want be to figure it out with you watching, in that case I'm not even sure how to start. This is partly introversion, but altogether I'm pretty uncomfortable making mistakes in public. Like a lot of folks, my brain still helpfully reminds me of public errors I made decades ago, and they still bother me.

Time management: the leadership meta-problem.

August 27, 2018. Filed under management 127

When you sit down for coffee with a manager, you can probably guess the biggest challenge on their mind: time management. Sure, time management isn't _always_ everyone's biggest challenge, but once the crises of the day recede, it comes to the fore.

Problem exploration, selection and validation.

August 20, 2018. Filed under management 127product 5

Most engineering organizations separate engineering and product leadership into distinct roles. This is usually ideal, not only because these roles benefit on distinct skills, but also because they thrive from different perspectives and priorities. It's quite hard to do both well at the same time. This post takes a look at my high-level approach to product management for when you do happen to find yourself wearing both hats.

Introducing SREs, TPMs and other specialized roles.

August 13, 2018. Filed under management 127

Folks are sometimes surprised to learn that I started out working as a frontend engineer. I'd like to imagine it's because I'm so terribly knowledgeable about infrastructure, but I suspect it's mostly grounded in my unconscionably poor design aesthetic. Something that has stuck with me from that experience was feeling treated as a second-tier engineer: folks were unwilling to do any frontend work, but were careful to categorize it as trivial.

Career levels, designation momentum, etc.

August 11, 2018. Filed under management 127

Building on the framework in "Designations, levels and calibrations", I wanted to discuss a number of special topics related to designing and running performance systems. These topics are particularly interesting to me because they tend to be the emergent, accidental properties that emerge from common performance management systems and behaviors. Because they're accidental, they surprise many managers early in their careers, and surprise is the cardinal sin of performance management.

Designations, levels and calibrations.

August 10, 2018. Filed under management 127

One of the core responsibilities of management is selecting who to elevate as a role model, who to recognize as excellent, and who to ask to leave. At smaller companies, these decisions tend to be fairly ad-hoc, and over time they solidify into a formal performance management system. Many managers try to engage with these systems as little as possible, which I think is a shame. If you want to shape your company's culture, inclusion or performance, this is your most valuable entry point.

Make your peers your first team.

August 8, 2018. Filed under management 127

Long term, I believe that your career will be largely defined by getting lucky and the rate at which you learn. I have no advice about luck, but to speed up learning I have two suggestions: work at a rapidly expanding company, and make your peers your first team.

Presenting to executives.

August 6, 2018. Filed under management 127

Recently I've had the chance to work with folks who are just starting to present to executives. Giving a presentation to senior leadership is a bit of a dark art: it takes a while to master, and most folks who do it well can't quite articulate how they do it. Worse yet, many folks who are excellent rely on advantages that resist replication: charisma, quick wit, deep subject matter expertise, or years of experience.