RFC: Eng Team Handbook—An open-sourced guide to leading engineering teams

Raylene Yung
Jan 23 · 4 min read

Background

My path into engineering management was in some ways gradual, and in others a wild ride where I flew by the seat of my pants and learned as I went along. I first became a manager at Facebook, on the then-tiny three-person privacy engineering team. Early “management” was equal parts diving into the systems/code, learning how to recruit and do 1–1s, and giving myself regular pep talks along the way. I never stopped to read books on management and learned entirely from first-hand experience and observation. I watched for what worked well (or not) across the org and tried to absorb superpowers from every great manager I met. Three grew to thirty and beyond, as I took on more scope, owned core company metrics, and built teams in multiple offices. I sometimes joke that I was a disciple of the “Facebook school of engineering management, circa 2009-’15” — as one of the few who’d grown through every level from new grad to engineering director, I was also just one of two women and likely the youngest engineering director at the company when I left in 2015.

After Facebook, I hopped onto another crazy high-growth train and joined Stripe—I was inspired by the mission and the incredible potential of the product/team, but I also wanted to see if I had what it takes to be a great engineering leader in a completely different environment. A lot has happened since[0], but one of my biggest realizations was seeing how little gets handed to you when building an org from the ground up. I had taken a lot for granted at Facebook, relying on existing handbooks, processes, and a collective cloud of knowledge from experienced leaders around me. I started furiously reading the classics[1] and reaching out to peers and former managers for 1–1 advice, sourcing new information to add to my own repository of best practices and tips. I translated this into a lot of personal effort and writing time — building guides and templates for everything from 1–1s to engineering levels, product reviews and incident response. I learned a lot from the experience, but as I’ve looked back have wondered if there was a more efficient way to bootstrap an engineering organization.

Introducing the Eng Team Handbook (https://github.com/raylene/eng-handbook)

When it comes to building software, there are a lot of resources out there that help you get started quickly, from open-source libraries to full-stack tools and platforms. But when it comes to building engineering teams, you’re forced to turn to books, blog posts and anecdotal advice to parse out what matters, stitch together tools where they exist, or recreate things from scratch.

What if we took an engineer’s approach to management instead? By combining techniques common in modern software development — open-source contribution, iteration, templating — I hope this project gives teams a practical way to get up and running faster than they could before.

So what is it?

What’s next?

I created this as a personal side project, but am excited to get it out there and see if it can turn into something useful for more people.

  • If you’re on an engineering team, check it out and suggest improvements directly via issues/PRs
  • If you’re interested in contributing full guides, curating content, or even being a co-maintainer, please let me know! I could use the help :)

Thanks to Adam Perelman, Aizat Faiz, Ari Steinberg, Gloria Lin, kortina, Nick Schrock and Nicole Zhu for early feedback and advice on the project.


[0] Some things I’ve written on scaling eng at Stripe / in Singapore: https://medium.com/@emdashry/stripe-atlas-guide-to-scaling-engineering-organizations-principles-faq-ae1298cb2d11, https://medium.com/@emdashry/observations-from-apac-lessons-from-scaling-stripe-engineering-in-singapore-49822eca0ac1

[1] I finally read the most obvious ones (The Mythical Man-Month, High Output Management) and thought they were great, though a bit dated. Although not a traditional “management” book, I especially liked Thinking in Systems

Raylene Yung

Written by

In California, born & raised; eng & product @stripe is where I spend most of my days. Former eng director @facebook, sloth profile picture via @SWatercolour.

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