#27 - Intentional Technical Leadership

Newsletter - Saturday, 15 October 2022

Hey my friend!

Happy Saturday! πŸŽ‰

Welcome to another issue of the Intentional Technical Leadership newsletter.


Note to self: Make sure I proof read the title of this email! Sorry about the typo and email address in last week's email subject line.


So how are you doing?

It's been a hectic week in the Littlemore house with lots going on at home. After my daughter's birthday on Wednesday, I now have 2 teenagers in the house so we're going to be celebrating at the weekend with a trip to London. It's our first weekend away in London since before the pandemic so we're excited to go and watch some more theatre in the West End. It's always great to disconnect for a while and enjoy some quality time with the family.

I've also had a great week at work and really feel like I'm getting embedded into my new role.

People often think that it's easy to start a new job in engineering management and sometimes have an expectation that they can hit the ground running. I find you have to slow down to move faster. I always like to spend some time observing and understanding my teams and the company culture before starting to find areas I can impact or changes I can help to make.

I feel like I finally understand what's happening and how I can help to make changes for the better. Fingers crossed it works out! 🀞

Here are a few great reads from this week's collection. Let me know if anything resonates with you.

πŸ”– Interesting Reading

Staying on the path to high performing teams.

This is an interesting blog post which shares a framework for improving teams at different stages of their performance.

I don't always like too much process around team culture but this article does a good job of explaining some strategies for team improvements if they're needed. Ideally you want your teams to be performing and innovating but sometimes you need to help them get there.

The idea of applying different strategies depending on the team's maturity and performance is a good one. I think it's important to remember that you can't necessarily apply the same strategies to every team so it's good to read about different approaches.

How Individuals Advance at Buffer, Without Becoming Managers

I love reading about other companies and how they structure their role progression for the people who work there. I'm also always surprised when companies don't have them.

πŸ‘€ I'm looking at you - telecommunications company I worked at that was amazed that engineers weren't happy when there was no obvious career progression and no easy way to get promoted! πŸ‘€

Buffer has always been a company I admired - one of the earliest remote-first companies that shared their thinking openly and transparently. I'm glad to see they're still doing that in sharing their career framework in the link above.

In the article you'll find interesting insights into their two-path framework for both makers (individual contributors) and managers. I particularly like the way they've structured the career progression for makers. It's a great example of how you can have a career progression framework that doesn't require people to become managers when they become more senior.

Why deadlines are pointless and what to do instead

Hands up if you like deadlines... πŸ‘Ž

In the words of the fantastic author Douglas Adams:

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."

Deadlines don't make teams work faster. They often just cause them longer hours and add more stress.

If you're lucky, deadlines become a forcing function that helps the company to focus on the most important features and cut scope for the work. Sadly, this doesn't always happen.

This article is an interesting read on why deadlines are useless and what we should use instead. It suggests replacing deadlines with "preemption points".

For the geeks like me - it comes from CPU preemption where execution is interrupted to allow another process to run. πŸ€“

Instead of arbitrarily setting a deadline for each task, we create synchronous, deterministic feedback by regularly checking the task’s status. This allows you to regularly look for impediments and make changes, cut the scope, or even stop doing the task altogether.

It's an interesting idea. Would you try this with your teams?

🌢️ Hot Take

Dare Obasanjo on Twitter

"Choosing the right manager is almost always more impactful to your career than choosing the right job."

I'm not sure this is really a spicy hot-take but it's something I 100% agree with.

I've worked with some terrible managers in the past. They were not engaged with myself or the rest of the team. They just wanted to move the business metrics and further their own careers. They weren't going to help me to grow in my own role.

Finding a manager who will engage in your career is a super power. They'll open their networks for you. They'll suggest areas of work which will improve your skills. They'll be your sponsor and cheerleader and ensure you and your work gets the visibility it needs.

If you find a manager like this. Follow them! I know I did!

And if you're not a manager who properly engages with your team. Become one!

I hope you enjoyed this week's selection of intentional technical leadership articles.

Hit reply and let me know what you think.

Feel free to send me any interesting articles or podcasts you've found as I love hearing from my readers.

Have an amazing week and be excellent to each other!

Speak to you soon,

Senior Engineering Manager @ Netlify

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