Book Review — Ego Is The Enemy

I’ll admit I had a lot of enthusiasm going into this book. I’d listened to a number of podcasts where Ryan was interviewed. I was excited to read him as an author. Many of his books look interesting to me. I selected Ego Is The Enemy as the first of his to read for a few reasons.

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Photo by mariel reiser on Unsplash

First, I recognize there are periods of my life where my ego got in the way. It got in the way professionally and personally. As well as the relationship with myself. I think most people that know me would agree that I’m not overly egotistical. I try to stay humble. But we all have ego that prevents us from taking risks and doing things we’d like to do based on what we think others may think. Maybe that is contrary to what most people think of when they think ego. It pushes us and holds us back. …

The Craft Of Engineering And Leadership

Being in leadership is a craft of its own. I’ve been an informal leader, a Tech Lead on a few teams, an Engineering Manager to quite a few teams, and a Director of Engineering a few times. The roles and responsibilities are different in every company I’ve been a part of. I’ve been told I stand out as a manager. I’ve been nominated for awards and recognition. The biggest testimonial I have ever received came from an engineer that said “thank you, I’ve never had a manager that cared”. I’ll never forget that.

With that said, I not a manager or leader right now. Why? Because my original craft is writing software. I’ve spent decades learning the craft, and I don’t want to atrophy those skills. I believe this is fundamental. I don’t feel you can be a great manager of software engineers if you yourself don’t understand pretty closely what you are managing. I’ve worked places where people have asked why the managers weren’t more technical, so I don’t think I’m alone in my thinking here. …

Book Review: Four Patterns Of Healthy People: How to Grow Past Your Rooted Behaviors, Discover a Deeper Connection with Others, and Reach Your Full Potential in Life and Business

Disclosure: I was asked to review this book and given a free promotional copy from the publisher.

Matt Norman has written a concise set of stories and questions focused on four habits that are shown to help people lead healthy lives. The one thing that sticks out to me with Matt’s writing is it feels like a conversation between friends. It feels less like a teacher and student, or coach and player type of conversation. Matt mentions a peer group of men he participates in near the end of the book. Imagine the type of conversations that happen in those groups and how they evolve, and that is how this book feels. It’s inclusive and not lecturing. …

Atomic Habits — Book Review

A number of people have recommended James Clear’s Atomic Habits in recent months so I was excited to pick it up. I ripped through it pretty quickly. It’s a great read! Not pretentious. Not condescending. Just a good collection of observations about habits and human behavior. There is a key sentence in the book that summarizes it perfectly in my opinion.

Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.

The Japanese have used the word Kaizen to describe the process of taking small actions to improve overall. I believe James is saying something very similar. He continues: “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. …

Most teams have a juggler–some may call this person the Swiss Army knife. They jump around from discipline to discipline as needed. They can juggle any component of a system or work inside any technology. A jack of all trades in a way.

Previously, I’ve discussed teams being made up of multiple roles and responsibilities. I’m not talking RACI matrixes, but rather personalities. Today, I want to talk about the person that is able to adapt and handle whatever is thrown at them. …

I want to share a few experiences I’ve had in recent years involving projects that were for internal use and the differing attitudes I’ve seen expressed towards their development.

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Photo by timJ on Unsplash

At a previous company, I was asked to step in and manage a project that was built by a number of engineers that had left the company. There was no more institutional knowledge. That happens, not the end of the world. When you are first starting on a project, you always have to get your feet wet. …

I want to share some thoughts about setting software projects up for success. Success can mean many different things, so I’ll discuss a couple of meanings in this post. Mostly solid quality and team happiness, rather than budgets and timelines.

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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

I’ve been writing software for over two decades now. I’ve been a part of both successful and failed projects across a variety of topics. Everything from writing software for a smart TV remote, marketing sites for Kodak and P&G, search functionality, and most recently streaming data platforms with nearly a billion events per day at Nike. Regardless of the domain, some common traits stick out in my mind that impact the outcome of the project on the success or fail scale. I add a note below about team turnover as an outlier for measuring success. I won’t cover obvious things like costs and budgets. Most projects are simply measured by money to be determined successful. But is money the only factor? …

Today, I want to share something that I began doing previously and have carried through to my current engineering teams at Nike. I call them fireside chats. They aren’t the typical setup where someone is up on staging fielding questions. They are simply the team getting together early on Monday morning in an informal setting and just chatting. It’s an open discussion. Sometimes as the manager I do field questions the team is curious about. Sometimes we talk about what we did over the weekend. Sometimes we talk about items that are probably better suited for a retrospective, but regardless, this is an opportunity to talk about them. Bottom line, we’re getting together as a group and discussing things without an agenda or any pressure. …

Taking a break from talking about team roles, I want to briefly share some points from conversations my father and I have had regarding extending offers to potential new team members. Assuming the interview process went well and the team agrees that they would like the candidate to join the team, the offer is the official “welcome to the team”.

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Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

An offer sets the tone for the candidate's journey joining the team. I believe the engineering manager should make the offer, or whomever the candidate is going to report to. This establishes the relationship and lets the candidate know who will be looking after them and helping them in their journey. Obviously, there are organizations that have dedicated people that handle the entire process, extending offers included. But I’d at least advocate that the hiring manager be a part of the offer process. In my opinion, it’s a little awkward to have the offer letter go out with a start date and the new team member not hear from the hiring manager between the interviews and the start date. …

Let’s talk about the one team role that isn’t always obvious–the catalyst. Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister define the role of the catalyst as the person that makes the team work well together in their well-regarded book–Peopleware.

The catalyst is important because the project is always in a state of flux. Someone who can help a project to jell is worth two people who just do work.

They cite a story about evaluating members of a team. It’s noted that one individual on the team is clearly not the best coder or tester. From the outside, it was hard to see what the team member added to the project. But during this person’s 12 years with the company, all of their projects were a huge success. It wasn’t obvious at first but with some observation, it became obvious the person was a catalyst. The person helped everyone communicate and get along. …


Michael Krisher

Engineering and leadership. Writer of code. Reader of books.

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