#36 - Intentional Technical Leadership

Newsletter - Saturday, 17 December 2022

Hey my friend!

Happy cold and frosty Saturday folks! 🎉

I'm excited to bring you the latest edition of the Intentional Technical Leadership newsletter.

In this issue, there's a great article talking about the role of technical leadership when you need to lead through a downturn. An engineering manager's role can be tough when you have to guide your team through uncertainty about where the company is heading.

There's also a great blog post on asking for feedback as a manager. This is something that I'm sure we all struggle with, I know that I do.

So pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee, get comfortable, and let's dive in!

🔖 Interesting Reading

How to lead through an economic downturn

In case you've not been reading the news - things have changed in the tech industry in the past 3 to 6 months. Layoffs are pretty common and companies are reducing their teams to navigate the tricky economic climate.

Previously, high growth and scalability of teams was key but now it's all about efficient growth not growing at any cost. How can you achieve your team and company goals with a fewer people, a lower budget, whilst not burning you and your team out?

This blog post shares some great tips for becoming nimble and adaptable to these turbulent times.

Ensuring that your team are kept in the loop about what's happening is really important. Regularly communicating any context that you may have around changes in the organisation is really needed to try and reduce worries in your team.

Make sure you take 15 minutes to read this article. It's something we all need to think about right now.

How to get helpful, actionable feedback from your colleagues

Getting feedback about how you work is always tricky.

Being comfortable with asking for it from your team or peers is something we should all do but we know it can be difficult to do.

This fantastic post from Lara Hogan shares some great ideas for getting more actionable feedback that you can learn from.

Instead of asking a vague question like "Is there anything I can be doing differently or better?", she suggests that we should frame the question around the skill we want to build and improve.

Focusing on improving your people management, delivery skills, or strategy allows you to ask for more specific feedback of your team or engineering leadership peers.

Use this article to kickstart your new year and improve your feedback skills.

Every Achievement Has A Denominator

This is a slightly spicy article from Charity Majors, as always, but with a good underlying message.

She talks about management in a technology organisation and how value and status is often linked to the number of teams or people that you manage. While this visibility of team size can often show wider influence and impact, having a team this big comes with difficulties in the ability to move faster.

Organisation size can be a liability and comes with a cost of more engineers, managers, product owners, designers and so on. This increase in team size comes with communication issues and more process.

Instead she suggests having a "smaller denominator" - less people being managed by you.

Reducing the scope of your work and refining your process means getting outsized results with less overhead.

There are lots of interesting insights in this post so have a read.

🌶️ Hot Take

The one thing Elon Musk has gotten completely right during his Twitter takeover

Ah yes. An Elon Musk article from Business Insider with a clickbait title!

It's a spicy article which suggests that managers have stopped doing any actual work and that Musk is right in the way he's making managers code at Twitter.

Once you get into the article, it's actually less pro-Musk than its title. It suggests that managers should have a full understanding of what their teams are working on.

I do agree that engineering managers should have some technical background in order to understand what their team are working on. Learning the domain that you're managing should be part of your role so you can help to make strategic decisions.

However, I don't agree that you should be writing code as an engineering manager though.

If you're a manager of even a handful of people, from my experience you'll end up writing bad code and will manage your team badly. You can't easily devote the time to do both things well.

Your job should be to enable your team to do their best work and get blockers out of their way. Waiting for you to code review everything just won't work.

Have a read and let me know what you think.

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

👓 Read more of my technical leadership articles on my website.

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