Serverless architectures have been trending the past few years, and many people see them as the future of backend infrastructure. Let’s talk about WTF serverless means and why your engineers might be talking about it. (Psst… I recommend reading my article on tech stacks before proceeding with this article.)

A bit of history

To understand serverless, you first need to understand the alternatives. While serverless is a huge shift in the way we manage infrastructure, in some ways it’s closer to how many non-technical people think the web works. …


You’ve probably heard your engineers talking about git, Github, or source control. It may have been in the context of “let me pull the latest changes from git” or “Github is down; let’s go grab a beer.” So wtf is git?

To set the stage, let’s start with an analogy. Let’s say you’re working on drafting a newsletter in collaboration with several colleagues. What are some problems that you may face? …


Net neutrality has been in the news a lot lately, and for good reason. Your engineers might be making a stink about it, but it’s hard to know if this is one of the alarms that will actually affect you or your business. You have probably heard everything from “this is end of the Internet” to “this is the same as before 2015” and everything in between. So which is it?

This is not a political blog, and I try to keep these posts as factual and unopinionated as possible, as I’ll try to do here. However, this is a…


If you don’t live and breathe tech, you probably don’t realize how much time is spent preventing and fixing bugs versus the amount of time spent building new features. Junior engineers may also not realize this, which is one reason that engineers are bad at estimation.

In my experience, first-time entrepreneurs without an engineering background are often dissatisfied with the first engineer or dev shop they hire. In some cases they might be right; there are some mediocre engineers and agencies out there, and without having the engineering skills to evaluate them upfront, you’re more likely to end up with…


Estimating engineering tasks is hard. It’s a skill that can be improved with practice, but even experienced engineers are often way off base. Let’s look at some of the reasons why and discuss some options for dealing with this inevitability in your company.

The requirements were not fully spec’ed

This is probably the most common reason that a project can take much longer than expected. If the engineer doesn’t know the details of what is required of a task, then there is no way their estimate hit the mark. (Most often, they will underestimate, as they won’t factor in the details they didn’t know about.) Details…


Software engineers place a lot of emphasis on code performance. There is often tension between non-engineers who want more time to be spent on building new features and engineers who want to spend time on improving performance. The app seems perfectly fast to you. So why do engineers care so much about shaving a few milliseconds off of something that already seems to be pretty good?

Performance matters to your customers

Performance absolutely impacts your company’s bottom line. …


Some of the disagreements I’ve had with non-engineers in my career stem from an assumption that because someone else is doing it, we can do it too. While this sounds logical, it is not always realistic. Why not?

They own the data

As discussed in my last post about APIs, companies have proprietary data that they control completely. They may have an API that allows you to access some of this information, but only what the company wants you to access. Facebook’s friend graph is incredibly valuable for their company, but they only expose part of it through their API.

For example, Facebook’s allows…


If you’re a CEO or other business type, when you think “scaling” you think “I’m excited to increase our userbase and revenue by orders of magnitude!”

If you’re a backend engineer, when you think “scaling” you think “oh shit. What’s going to happen to my platform when it grows by orders of magnitude?”

As a CTO, scaling is the number 1 thing that keeps me up at night. When it was announced that my previous company would be featured on Shark Tank, everyone celebrated. I panicked. Millions of new users visiting our platform that had already exhibited signs of weakness…


Your engineer keeps saying her team really needs to dedicate some time to reducing technical debt. WTF does that mean? Why can’t they just focus on building features like they’re supposed to? Did I hire crappy engineers?

Not necessarily.

I’ve never worked at a company whose engineers — including myself — thought their codebase was just dandy. A favorite pastime of every engineer is griping about code they inherited from departed colleagues. If they’re the first engineer and wrote all the code themselves, they can’t stand the code they wrote 6 weeks ago. …


So you’re a woke MBA who learned HTML last weekend, took a class in SQL, or even audited a 6-week Rails bootcamp. That’s wonderful! Learning some aspects of coding is a great way to build cred among your engineers, communicate with them more efficiently, and reduce some of the burden of your overworked engineering team. I’ve never worked at a tech company where the engineering team isn’t the company’s primary bottleneck, so anything you can do that will take work off their plates will increase the amount of time they can spend doing the things that only they can do…

Adam Berlinsky-Schine

Writer, WTF Is My Engineer Talking About? CTO of Apiari. Former CTO of Coffee Meets Bagel. Ex-Amazon, ex-Yelp

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