Earlier this year, we interviewed a few dozen tech leads and asked them this simple question:
“What does success look like as a tech lead?”
Across small and large companies, infrastructure and product teams, enterprise and customer-facing companies, people shared that being a good tech lead means some version of: good execution with a team that’s happy.
On every team and at every company, tech lead roles can vary substantially. Tech leads can be managers. They can be mid-level engineers dipping their toe in “people stuff.” …
A few years ago, Company X was a five-person startup. Everyone talked to everyone every day, and it was super clear what needed to get done — if someone saw something not getting done, they went ahead and did it. It was chaotic, but the early employees also found this “wear many hats” mode exhilarating and inspiring.
As Company X grew, it developed into another sort of chaos. A few levels of management were added, communication silos started to develop, and people stopped taking as much initiative.
There is a rift of understanding between those at the “top” and those at the “bottom,” and for both, it feels like a hopeless situation. Leaders are frustrated that the engineers and designers and product managers on the ground aren’t ideating, are too permission-seeking, or aren’t assertive enough. Meanwhile, those exact individuals feel stifled and resort to slogging through their tasks, with little to no context on how they impact the organization. Engineers and designers appear to be unenthused, and execution seems slow, slow, slow. Engineers say they are blocked on design, and design says they’re blocked on product direction. Tech leads and product managers start managing smaller and smaller tasks. …
This post was originally published on July 17, 2018 on the Co Leadership blog.
When I left my full-time tech job as an engineering manager a year and a few months ago, I had crafted a lovely narrative on why I was going into coaching.
When people asked, I responded that I took the part of my job that was most rewarding, and decided to just do that. And in talking to many engineering managers, I also realized that people didn’t have much support as they moved into management roles — and they were lonely. …
I walk past the CEO in the hallway. “Hey Jean, it’s been awhile. What are you working on these days?”
Scenario one: I reply, “Oh I’m working on this big refactoring project. It’s taking a few months, but we had really accumulated a lot of technical debt.”
Scenario two: I answer, “I’m working on a large project to make product development a lot faster for existing engineers, and to make onboarding the 5 new hires starting in the next two weeks a lot faster.”
Same project, different perspectives, and probably two very different reactions.
In the first scenario, my manager might get flak about why are engineers always refactoring? We don’t have time to refactor. We just need to ship features, so that we can get closer to product-market fit. There’s no time for engineers to re-organize the codebase just to please their aesthetic sensibilities! Let’s make sure the PMs really break down everything into very granular tasks so we can make sure engineers don’t get distracted by refactoring again. …
Many years ago, I worked at a five-person startup.
I brought crackers and cheese and fruit that I had bought with my own groceries over the weekend and put them in the mini-fridge, so that we’d have snacks.
As we started to look for another Android engineer for our team, I put together an interview process and blogged about the process, so that we could attract even more candidates.
I drove to Berkeley to speak to college seniors about our product and handed out pamphlets. …
originally published on blog.coleadership.com on February 12, 2018
It had taken me two weeks to write the email, even though it was on my mind constantly as something I wanted to do. She replied a few days later, attaching a pdf with details of the coaching engagement and rates. For another two weeks, the reply sat, pinned to my inbox, with no response.
I desperately wanted to work with her, but the money was more than I had ever spent just on myself. As a coach myself, I of course charge for coaching, but in my mind, there was a big difference between charging VC-funded companies so that their employees can benefit from coaching, to individuals paying their hard-earned post-tax personal bank account dollars for coaching. …
I was walking my 4 year-old daughter to preschool last week, and I was noticing some anxiety I had about a workshop later that day. As we crossed the street, hand-in-hand, I figured I’d tell her what was going on so that maybe I could be more present with her on our beautiful morning walk.
“I’m a little nervous about a workshop I’m running this afternoon.”
And then I thought, well, I’ll just go full-on with coaching language and see if she gets it. …
2018 New Year’s Liberations
In 2018, I am liberating myself from:
This is a very simple question, but one I’ve struggled with at work and home. In the early years of my marriage, I would sometimes (ok often) ask my husband Tyler, “Hey do you want to try that restaurant?” Depending on the situation, that innocuous question could mean any of the following (and usually I didn’t even really know which):
Every year, I read so many amazing year in review posts and I feel like a bystander. “I should do that,” I think, and then waste four more hours on Reddit. NOT THIS YEAR. I didn’t read 52 books, or travel to 20 different countries, or go to Tokyo. I did leave my full-time job in April as an engineering manager at Medium, start my own coaching business, and just two weeks ago, co-led my first full-day workshop for engineering leaders — oh and helped keep two small humans alive.
If I had to choose a theme for 2017 to wrap it all up in a nice bow, it would be realizing that so much of how I live my life is based on preconceived ideas of how things should be. What a good parent should do, what a responsible adult should do with money, what a career should look like. Some of these limiting beliefs come from growing up as an Asian kid and seeing the implicit and explicit ideas of what success looks like. Some of them come from a decade of working full-time as a woman in the tech industry, and the burden of that cognitive load. Some of them come from being mostly effortlessly high-achieving through high school and college, and never really developing a great deal of grit and persistence. …