Lyncredible Navigating the tech stack of engineering management

Start with measurement

The legendary Andy Grove wrote, in High Output Management, that good indicators are key to management. It has since been popularized by the OKR framework as is depicted in Measure What Matters by John Doerr. As I practice the metrics skill on and off work, I continue to be amazed at how effective a tool it is. With the pandemic ravaging the world, I find myself relearning the importance of starting with measurement.

Fighting complacency

My originally scheduled posts have been postponed for three weeks while I watch the pandemic unfolds and escalates in the western world. I was not too concerned when China locked down 780 million people. That happened when I started this blog, and I never doubted that the Chinese people would prevail. However, I am seriously worried about the developed world, so I am writing down some unstructured management and leadership lessons I have learned from the situation. Here, the first one is to fight complacency.

Effective career conversations

While I was learning to have effective 1:1s, the career conversation 1:1 was the one I dreaded most. Every skilled manager says it is a good idea to regularly sync on career growth, but who was I to talk about other people’s career? I had never done a round of performance review. My own understanding of the ladders and levels needed to be calibrated. Once again I turned to some structures to gain confidence. I leaned heavily on the advice from Jay Shirley and Julia Evans in doing so.

Effective one-on-one

I spend a ton of time in 1:1 meetings. I meet with my team members weekly, including people I support and peers on my first team. I have bi-weekly syncs with engineering managers from adjacent teams, and I do monthly checkins with a bunch of other folks. I easily spend more than 10 hours every week between attending these meetings and preparing for them. My feelings of how my week goes are largely predicated on the effectiveness of my 1:1 meetings.

What could go wrong

What could go wrong? That was the question my own manager asked me when I proposed to replace standups with weekly checkins. That question was a powerful one. It got me to think. I contemplated what could go wrong, and more importantly how to mitigate the risks. I eventually came out feeling much more confident, and I would go on to ask myself what could go wrong many more times.