What Excellent Technical Leaders Know

Lerer Hippeau Ventures regularly hosts intimate dinners for its community of founders (350+ founders). In early April, we hosted a dinner for over 20 technical founders and CTOs from our portfolio companies.

Our special guest, Pablo Calamera, the CTO of Vonage, has decades of experience at companies such as Apple, Thumbplay, Clear Channel Digital, and more. Having managed engineering teams for decades, Pablo has a wealth of knowledge around what kind of tech leadership works. He shared his key insights with our founders, and we are now sharing them with the LHV community.

Be prepared to let go of coding.

As the technical leader in your organization, there are some key tenets Pablo believes you will need to uphold (in no particular order):

  • Manage up and be the umbrella that shields your team from noise/distraction/thrash.
  • It’s OK to push back. Remember that the person on the other side of the table may not have your technical knowledge or understanding of the problem.
  • Be prepared to say ‘fuck no.’ Sometimes you have to push back on things that just don’t make technical sense. Engineers can be too eager to say ‘we can do that’, but should you “do that”?
  • Maintaining a consistent software release cadence is critical to a healthy engineering eco-system. Keep releases on the smaller side as much as possible to enable that.
  • Scale teams like you scale software, be the load balancer of a team of engineers or engineering managers, and delegate till it hurts.
  • Be prepared to let go of coding. Don’t be the bottleneck.
Manage up and be the umbrella that shields your team from noise/distraction/thrash