Earlier this month I attended New York’s LeadDeveloper conference which is dedicated to empowering engineering managers and scaling technical-organizations. The panels were well balanced with a mix of strategy and low-level tactics. I tend to prefer tactical talks as of late, but a mix is good and I wrote a set of takeaways and highlights on my favorite talks.
High Level Strategy Talks
What I came to understand by its moniker The Glue Talk, was by NYC native Tanya Reilly. This was first time hearing the term glue, but it aligns with what I value in a growth-minded engineering team. It was a compelling story about a developer that provides that glue layer: tracking the feature work across team(s), unblocking contributors, ensuring documentation is written. End the end, they ensure the story work moves to Done. When the bossess gather to hand out promotions, the code-focused contributor(s) are promoted. The glue-focused developer has their contributions de-valued and over-looked. The message from management that your contributions weren’t technical enough. And Tanya, points out the tendency for these glue roles to be volunteer driven, and in our gendered team these roles are disproportionately filled by women. I encourage anyone that is in a leadership/hiring position to learn from this talk. It is an issue that affects everyone in the technology industry and we all need to become more inclusive by learning from these stories.
I was eagerly awaiting David Ayers talk as I’ve become a fan of ADRs. Those not familiar with ADRS, also known as Architectural Decision Records are structured markdown documentation as part of the pull-request process. ADRs when done right provide a record that captures all the whys that went into a decision. These differ from code-comments which are typically the how. David gave a great introduction to the topic and eschewed this idea that architecture decisions should go into a cloud-docs / wiki
Encourage those wanting to learn more read the initial writings by Michael Nygard the original creator of the ADRs.
For those on the mac, it is easy to get started with the adr-tools.
brew install adr-tools
Crucial career conversations
Adrienne Lowe delivered an amazing presentation full of tactics.
I’m a huge fan of Kim Scott’s Radical Candor book, and Adrienne cited the book as a major influencer. Her talk opened with an emphasis on creating trust and safety, transitioned into tactics and call-2-actions on how to appropriately frame-questions and structure 1:1s. I had implemented many of the practices she outlined. But her planned 1:1 followup strategies were amazingly thought-out and I plan to adopt many of them.
Scaling yourself during hypergrowth
Last presenter was Julie Grace, a technical leader at Slack. Her time at Slack spans a phase of hypergrowth, which she lead various teams from app-marketplace to infrastructure. During her tenure, the Slack platform had explosive growth. Julie went cut to the chase with her tactics as atop-10 listical focused on how to scale-ones-self. Lots of glue work was described. My top three favorites.
- Learn to write well, and quickly… learning is thinking and writing-is-thinking. So write outlines for meetings. Write prepared notes for planning sessions. Write runbooks. Write product docs. Write. Write.
- Communication plans, always have a one. How does the team collaborate?How do we deploy? How the team operates. These are all comm-plans you should have in place for your team and organization.
- Know your audience & decisions makers, when making architecture or ops decisions that puts the business at risk. Know who is the ultimate decision maker and don’t waste time pitching to others. Pitch and sell to that audience/decider.