experiments can get out of control

In the beginning, Koala created the website and mattress. And Koala saw that it was good.

When you build a single product company there are a lot of shortcuts you can take and assumptions you can make. When that’s a raging success you can sub-optimise around it. The company became really good at selling mattresses and delivering them in 4 hours. The mattress itself is our proprietary formula and it has over 13000 five star Yotpo reviews, our customers love it. We built backend tools to fill the gaps between warehouses, inventory, transport, and finance. Where we found impediments we…

aim high

In March 2018 I started interviewing for engineering leadership positions. This was a new experience for me having joined Campaign Monitor 5 years previously as an engineer. As the company grew, I grew with it through various roles such as Team Lead, Delivery Lead, and eventually Director of Engineering.

I was incredibly lucky, I got to meet some amazing founders and CEO’s in a diverse range of startups. I will share my scorecard and some of the things I learned along the way, hopefully it will help you a little when your time comes.

Managing your network

Always be building your professional relationship…

In my previous post I discussed why we should act more like Superforecasters when estimating. I suggested that we should leverage our historical performance and communicate estimates as a range and confidence level instead of a simple delivery date. Here I describe one method I have had some success with.

Base Estimates

This is a familiar story. The team gathers together and uses either poker planning, relative estimating or some other fashionable method to end up with a list of tasks, each of which has an estimate of how long it’s going to take. The work of calculating a delivery date often…

Santa was kind to me this year. I’ve been good and as a reward I found a shiny new Kindle Paperwhite under the tree on Christmas morning. With plenty of downtime over the holidays, the first book I read was Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner. It offers a fascinating insight into the psychology of forecasting, and I drew a lot of parallels to my own experience of Agile Estimation.

Estimation vs Forecasting

Being asked to guess the future sounds familiar to any Software Engineer. We don’t make flip-a-coin guesses though, at least I hope not. So what is the difference between…

Fear of commitment is an institutional problem. It is an emotion that has been carefully nurtured by continued failure to meet expectations. I call it an institutional problem because it is the environment of the company that has created a situation where you are both unable to meet those expectations and the expectations themselves are misguided.

Don’t commit to output

Low integrity commitment is when you have committed to a roadmap, a set of features that you are going to build within some timeframe. Collaborating on this roadmap is typically where the sphere of influence of the Engineering department ends. This approach would work…

When you attend a meeting actually be present, not just physically but mentally too. You are invited to a group discussion because your company needs you. They need your brainpower, creativity and ideas. They need you to solve problems by joining the dots in some non-obvious way that requires the full context of the discussion to achieve that lightbulb moment. Being present and listening is hard work and takes practise to get good at it. Here are some techniques that may help.

The Three Levels of Listening *

Level 0: Not Listening

Ok I cheated and added this fourth before the others. Put the laptop/phone down, look up and listen.

Level 1: Internal Listening

Richard Bremner

VP Engineering

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