I started coding in middle school and got into web stuff after Apple World 1996. I did some freelance projects during college at Boston University, where I majored in Computer Science. I went to a tiny startup called Bullhorn after graduation. It was a 10 person company that grew to 300+ by the time I left. I did everything from coding a custom email server to racking physical machines in a data center.
At two subsequent companies, I focused on Python back-end work. I also transitioned to be a full-time manager. I found that managing people is the way that I can have the most impact. Specifically, I can help promote healthy relationships, excellent communication and high-leverage work on the team.
I fell in love with mentoring new engineers and first-time managers. I geeked out on culture and process initiatives like hiring, promotion process, tech talks, and blogging.
Management is a constants stream of decisions, with increasing ambiguity as your scope goes up. When I doubt, I try to optimize for these three things.
Teams will be most successful if they can determine their own solutions, and set their own priorities. Leadership can help by setting context on the WHY, and may have concrete suggestions on the WHAT. The team doing the work should flesh out the WHAT, and come up with the HOW. The more that leadership leans in to defining the WHAT, the more responsibility they have to articulate the WHY.
Teams will be most successful if the individuals trust each other completely. Building this trust is job number one for an engineering manager. The engineering manager, the product manager, and the designer should be sharing information openly between them, assuming good intent, and in general alignment about the WHAT. In 80% of cases, serious constructive feedback between leads on a team is the responsibility of those leads to fix themselves.
Teams exist to produce impact. The single biggest lever for impact is picking the right projects. This means being correct more often than not about which projects will have the most impact, and scoping the work on those projects to most efficiently realize that impact.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are your expectations for your direct reports?
- Grow healthy relationships between your product partner, your design partner, and your direct reports.
- Hit your sprint and quarter level commitments 90% of the time.
- Personally set direction on one or two things a year that have impact.
- Come to 1:1s engaged, and with a written list if stuff to talk about.
- Follow up proactively on action items.
- Excellent written communication.
See also My Expectations for Managers
What can you expect from me, as a manager?
- Reliable 1:1 time, every week. I will come with things to discuss.
- Transparent and timely information passthrough, when appropriate.
- If I ask you to attend a meeting, I will make sure the meeting is well run.
- Autonomy to make your own decisions almost all the time.
- Flexible work hours, location, and vacations.
- I will almost never ping you outside business hours.
How would your team describe you?
Unflappable, practical, informal, disciplined.
What is your biggest weaknesses?
I need to write things down, otherwise I will drop the ball on things.
What are your biggest strengths?
Organization, process, attention to detail. I excel at building healthy relationships.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself?
I’m introverted, but I can get energy from spending time with people as long as I know them well. I find that it takes a few months to get comfortable with a new team or business partner, and six months to build full trust.
What do you need to be successful?
- Weekly 1:1s with my boss, with written notes.
- As much transparency as possible, especially any context from executive leadership.
- Meetings that start on time, stick to an agenda, and have written notes.
- Dedicated blocks for heads-down work, and understanding if I decline meetings during those hours.
What motivates you?
I’m motivated by projects and initiatives where I can:
- Set long term goals
- Take my time to think things through
- Collect evidence
- Refine a process iteratively
- Offer guidance to others
Have you taken any of the various “work personality tests”?
So many! Even if none of these are very scientific, I find that they are good conversation starters, and can be a good shorthand for how to work together.
- Enneagram 8
- Myers Briggs ISTJ
- Insights BRGY
- Strengths Finder Analytical, Focus, Discipline, Futuristic, Relator
- BlueEQ 70%