A gift from an Engineer on my team

Building a team of leads

David Byttow
Jul 22, 2018 · 3 min read

Two weeks ago, I left San Francisco and moved to Manhattan. The move was for personal reasons as I’ve spent my entire adult life on the west coast and the gravitational pull toward NYC has only grown stronger in recent years.

But, the challenge I face now is remotely leading a large, cross-functional team at Postmates, the Buyer team. (Buyer is everything related to the mobile and web apps and the platforms that support them).

Over the last year, my primary goal has been to cultivate an environment where team members feel an equal sense of ownership, urgency, and responsibility for the product we’re building. I envisioned a team of self-managed individuals, or what I call, “a team of leads.” This model allows everyone on the team, myself included, to spend a large amount of time doing what we love most: being individual contributors.

I want people to have a fearless bias toward action, with the side goal of gaining experience and self-awareness through their work. So I worked hard to lead-by-example and write and review lots of code, and to hopefully inspire others to do the same.

While the team has certainly become one of the most prolific and productive teams in the company, only time will tell how I fared with my goal. On my last day in the SF office, Devin, a rising star software engineer on my team, gave me a book, and in it an excerpt. I couldn’t be more humbled and proud of this gift, so I’ve transcribed it below because I think it serves as a good list of traits that all engineers should consider in their own work.


David,

Thanks for your leadership over the past year and for helping to shine some light on the why. Here are a few lessons I have learned from you.

Be greedy with your time. Find a way to work on things that will force you to grow.

Code speaks louder than words. You can talk about doing things but at the end of the day it’s code that matters. Be quick to chew off new projects that will make you grow.

Always be coding. There is no substitute for doing a thing to understand a thing. Consistency be doing to improve.

Be ever present or ambient. Find a way for your impact to spread across the group. People should feel as if your influence is ever present.

Shipping solves all known problems. Be fast and ship, ship, ship! Shipping unlocks stuckness and creates wedges into other opportunities.

It’s just code. Something feels complex when it’s unknown. At the end of the day you need to dig into the code. Nothing was ever too complex to understand.

Have an opinion. Be opinionated and care. Don’t be afraid.You don’t need permission to do a thing. If you sense that something will add value, you don’t need your bosses or colleagues permission. Just do the thing. Have a bias toward action.

Thanks Devin!

Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/@davidbyttow

David Byttow

Written by

A technologist just trying to make a dent in the universe.

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