#31 - Intentional Technical Leadership

Newsletter - Saturday, 12 November 2022

Hola my friend!

Happy Saturday! 🎉

Welcome to another issue of the Intentional Technical Leadership newsletter.

How has your week been?

I've spent the week thinking about processes and how to build a culture of continuous improvement in a remote setting.

I've worked at a few companies where they felt that the role of agile process was more important than actually delivering work. Too much time was spent wrangling agile story points rather than looking at what was blocking the team.

I'm trying to find the balance of having a process that works for the team and the business without being over prescriptive. Thankfully I've got some great engineering manager peers who have shared their experiences and I'm learning a lot from them.

How do you balance process and delivery? I'd love to know!

On to this week's articles...

🔖 Interesting Reading

‘Give Away Your Legos’ and Other Commandments for Scaling Startups

This is an interesting article from Molly Graham about the challenges of scaling startups.

In it she talks about the importance of giving away your Lego, which is a metaphor for giving away your power and control, as you hire more people.

I thought this was really interesting in the context of being a technical leader. When I transitioned from a Principal Software Engineering role to becoming an Engineering Manager, I initially struggled with the idea that I was no longer the most technical person in the room.

I realised that by giving away my own Lego, I was able to focus on managing the team and helping them with their career growth. I became comfortable with not knowing everything about the codebase but I knew the best person on my team to answer the tough technical questions. Delegating that responsibility is a super power for enabling your team to do great work.

What I’ve learned from two years of managing remotely

So the new Twitter CEO has decided that nobody should be working remotely at the company and given them all less than 24 hours notice to return to the office.

I'm sure this move will go well. 🙄

This article is a good reminder that remote working is here to stay and that we need to make sure we're doing it right. I'm constantly learning what good looks like when managing remote teams and it's always useful to read about other people's experiences.

This blog post contains some useful insights into how a manager can foster a culture of positivity and flexibility for their teams whilst not being in an office with people.

Ensuring that your team has time for non-work activities is really important. Regular "coffee chats" are really helpful to build trust and empathy between team members. It's also good to try and get the team together at some point in the year to meet each other in person if you can. As part of a recent company all-hands meeting, my team all got together in person and it was an incredible bonding experience for us all.

Handling the Emotional Weight of 1:1s

Managing a team can be hard. It's a lot of responsibility and it can be emotionally draining.

This article from Lara Hogan is a good reminder that we need to take care of ourselves as managers and that we need to be aware of the emotional weight of 1:1s.

In a previous role, the team weren't happy with the lack of direction from the senior management. I was trying to fill in the gaps as best I could and also manage my own senior stakeholders to attempt to get some clarity on what we should be working on. It was a really difficult time and I was struggling to keep my own head above water. Each 1:1 with the team was filled with frustration and I was feeling emotionally drained after each one.

Lara shares some good tips for making sure you look after yourself as a manager whilst handling your team's emotions.

🌶️ Hot Take

Managers should code 20% of the time | @davidbrunelle

any technical manager should expect to manage at least 20 individual contributors, while also spending at least half their time writing code.

Wow! This is a quote from The Verge article linked by David Brunelle, a VP of engineer at Starbucks.

There's no way that an engineering manager could manage 20 individual contributors and spend 50% of their time writing code!

This will lead to them managing their team poorly with no time to develop their team and understand everyone's strengths and weaknesses and personal needs. And then the manager will write subpar code for the rest of the time which the team will have to maintain and fix!

It’s a recipe for bad managers who are continuously overworked and on the brink of burnout with a team who aren't well supported.

What could go wrong? 🤔

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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