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44 minutes | Oct 20, 2021
The Importance of Writing in Software Engineering
Interview with Erica Greene, Senior Engineering Manager at Etsy about the importance of writing in software engineering. She goes into details about why you need to write well, how to get good at it, how to coach your team in writing and much more.Sign up to the Level-up Engineering newsletter!In this interview we're covering:The importance of writing in engineering managementWhy is writing important in software engineeringWhy is writing important in meetingsImproving your writing skills as a managerWriting tools for engineering managersCommon mistakes of managersTeaching your team about the importance of writing Excerpt from the interview:"Recently, I had a disagreement with a project manager regarding a project. We had a meeting about it and it was productive, but we didn’t manage to completely resolve the conflict. He suggested that we continue the discussion in a document.We wrote down the points that we agreed on, and the points we disagreed about, and we started a back and forth. He wrote his response and sent it to me, and I could answer when I found some time, and then send it back. We resolved the conflict in about four to five rounds.It was a misunderstanding, and we came to a compromise. It was an efficient way of working out a conflict in written format, which we probably wouldn’t even have tried pre-pandemic, working fully on-site."Click here to read the full interview!
43 minutes | Oct 6, 2021
Leadership and Systems Thinking: Clear Sight for Complex Decisions
Interview with Pat Kua, former engineering leader, current leadership coach about applying systems thinking to management. We start from the defintion systems thinking and discuss applying it to leadership with clear steps and concrete examples.Sign up to the Level-up Engineering newsletter!In this interview we're covering:The definition of systems thinkingApplying systems thinking to leadershipKey concepts and potential traps of systems thinkingThe steps of applying systems thinkingThe importance of exploration in systems thinkingTools for systems thinkingBonus advice to apply systems thinking in leadershipExcerpt from the interview:"Systems thinking focuses on emergent behavior. It’s about qualities that the individual parts alone don’t possess.Human life is a good example for this. We’re made up of parts, such as skin, brain, etc., but none of these parts can be alive on their own. Life only happens when you combine them.The reductionist view is still important and valuable. Systems thinking is a complement to the classic scientific view. It can help you take a holistic approach to understand complex systems."Click here to read the full interview!
41 minutes | Sep 22, 2021
Scaling your Team and Product: Leadership Stories from Product Hunt
Interview with Radoslav Stankov, Head of Engineering at Product Hunt. He tells stories about him going from IC to Head of Engineering, the different stages he led through Product Hunt, the challenges he faces in product development, his leadership journal and much more.Sign up to the Level-up Engineering newsletter!In this interview we're covering:The evolution of Product Hunt's structureGoing from IC to leaderEvaluating yourself as a leaderThe effects of the pandemic on remote workLeadership challenges in product developmentLearnings about product developmentAnd more!Excerpt from the interview:"I have a technique that I call my manager journal. I write a log of everything that happens every week.This includes the general things, like what I was doing or what core events happened to our system. I also use it to keep track of what I’m worried about that week. For example, there might have been an outage, or an argument in my team, or some of my points didn’t go through.For example, my concern right now is the design system we’re building. My main concern was balancing its flexibility with performance. I write these in my journal every week and check back every month to track how my concerns have changed and to see whether they’d been resolved."Click here to read the full interview!
38 minutes | Sep 8, 2021
Creating an Internship Program for Software Engineers - Case Study from Redbubble
Interview with Tom Sommer, Director of Engineering at Redbubble about creating an internship program for software engineers. Tom tells stories about setting up the internship program at Redbubble and the iterations they've gone through over the years to give you a headstart at building your own program.Sign up to the Level-up Engineering newsletter!In this interview we're covering:Mistakes while creating an internship program for software engineersRecruiting to an internship programEvaluating candidates going into the programEvaluating candidates at the end of the programChoosing teams and mentors for internsStages and expectations in an internship programExcerpt from the interview:"Early on, we put the new interns into their own team, gave them a task to rewrite a system or a project for us, and checked in on them periodically. The point wasn’t to test whether they could do it, but we thought it was a good way to gain experience.It didn’t work out well.This is why we transitioned to embedding interns into teams to give them the full experience of working on a product engineering team."Click here to read the full interview!
50 minutes | Aug 25, 2021
Performance Review: Build Your Process and Master Feedback Delivery
Interview with Lara Hogan, legendary leadership coach and former engineering leader about building a performance review process. Lara goes into detail about building a process from the bottom up and takes a deep dive into synthesizing and delivering feedback to your direct reports for maximum effectiveness.Sign up to the Level-up Engineering newsletter!In this interview we're covering:Definition of performance reviewsSteps of a performance review processPreparation tips for giving and receiving feedbackRules to giving feedback based on a performance reviewSharpening your skills in giving feedbackSupporting your team to give feedbackExcerpt from the interview:"You want to make a performance review discussion a two-way conversation.I’ve seen people say that you should end your feedback with a request like, “Could you pick up more tickets, please?” I consider this a terrible way to deliver feedback that shuts down any chance of a conversation.Leading questions may serve you well in a toxic situation, or when working out a performance improvement plan. When it comes to delivering constructive criticism in a regular performance review, make it a two-way conversation. This is the best you can do for everybody."Click here to read the full interview!
55 minutes | Aug 4, 2021
How to Engage Remote Employees: Tips to Lead Distributed Teams
Interview with Greg Dick, Senior Engineering Manager at Hudl about building engagement with remote employees in distributed teams. They miss out on a lot of professional and personal interactions, and don't integrate well into the team. Check out Greg's tips to learn how you can kickstart that process as a manager!Sign up to the Level-up Engineering newsletter!In this interview we're covering:Definition of remote employees and distributed teamsIntegrating remote employees to distributed teams vs remote teamsChallenges of managing remote employees in a distributed teamEngaging remote employees in the office chit chatEngaging remote emplyoees in team building activitiesTips to set up the office to better engage remote employeesManaging the return to the office in distributed teamsIncreasing retention by getting remote employees engagedExcerpt from the interview:"A few years ago, I had a remote member on my team who left the company after about a year. I asked him what happened and he said, “I saw all the cool stuff you all were doing in the office and I wanted that too.” It turns out, he considered moving to Lincoln to work with us in the office, but he had family ties, so he ended up joining a local company that had a similar culture to ours.This left me wondering how much of this is our fault for bombarding him with reminders and videos of the office events. These might feed his feeling of being left out. Holding events every few weeks was an integral part of our engineering culture, but you had to be in Lincoln to partake.Currently, we make our events visible in a way that if somebody is interested, it’s easy to find them. This is valuable to remote employees when they’re looking for times to visit headquarters. Looking at the calendar and picking the events they like makes this choice easier."Click here to read the full interview!
65 minutes | Jul 14, 2021
Leadership Stories from Slack by Michael Lopp
Interview with Michael Lopp, Rands about his time as VP of Product Engineering at Slack. He tells stories about the darkest day of Slack, the mistakes he made along the way and how he grew into his executive role.Sign up to the Level-up Engineering newsletter!In this interview we're covering:Leadership takeaways from SlackThe darkest day of SlackTactical vs strategic focus as VP of Product EngineeringRetaining your direct reportsCreating processes before they're necessaryThe experience of Slack going publicStory about telling the truthAnd much more!Excerpt from the interview:"I suggest executives in growing companies tell the truth as quickly as possible.It’s great advice, but this story is about how it backfires. Really, this was a failure on my part as a senior leader, and it flowed from this approach. If I get a question, I answer it. If you ask, “How are we doing on hiring women in engineering?” I’ll say, “Here’s the answer and here’s the data.”At Slack, we had a lot of data come in about hiring in a big spreadsheet. It’s data like the number of people hired, diversity in hiring, and so on..."Click here to read the full interview!
36 minutes | Jun 30, 2021
How to Hire Entrepreneurial Engineers and Why You Need Them
Interview with Mark Kinsella, VP of Engineering at Opendoor about what makes entrepreneurial engineers great and how to lead them. We go in-depth from the definition through the key qualities of entrepreneurial engineers, hiring and retaining them, and much more.Sign up to the Level-up Engineering newsletter!In this interview we're covering:Definition and qualities of entrepreneurial engineersHiring entrepreneurial engineersOnboarding and retaining entrepreneurial engineersNurturing the business mindset in software engineersCulturally supporting the business mindsetGiving feedback to engineersPreventing burnout for entrepreneurial engineersExcerpt from the interview:"At Opendoor, we need to ingest a large amount of data. Real estate data is public, so we need to process all that data to make informed decisions. We had a hard time importing MLS and home data because it was so messy.At the end of the day, a few of our engineers went to shadow agents at a different company who were importing this data. They tried to understand the customer’s perspective and what they were doing. They took the insights they’d collected, and managed to build a better data ingestion pipeline.Understanding their customer made it possible to build a faster and scalable tech solution. This initiative and creative thinking got us to the point where we could ingest more data with higher reliability. This is an example of why we want to work with entrepreneurial engineers."Click here to read the full interview!
52 minutes | Jun 16, 2021
How to Keep Remote Meetings Productive and Your Schedule Under Control
Interview with Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range about structuring, scheduling and making your remote meetings productive. Learn from her stories about handling an avalanche of remote meetings, and what she's learned along the way about transforming these meetings and supporting her team.Sign up for the Level-up Engineering newsletter!In this interview we're covering:The optimal number of remote meetings dailyMaking remote meetings productiveStructuring remote meetingsNecessary extra meetings in a remote environmentTools to support remote meetingsMeetings that don't work remotelyProviding a flexibility of schedule in your companyExcerpt from the interview:"This is my rule of thumb: remove status updates and announcements from meetings, and communicate them as asynchronous updates. You can use a tool like Loom for this. Leaders can record a short video message, and the employees can watch it at any time and leave comments.Use async channels with anything that doesn’t require discussion, or where you can start out without a discussion.Don’t rely too much on meetings; move everything you can to asynchronous updates. For example, it’s easier for me to reply to an email than it would be to find 15-30 minutes to discuss the same thing in a video call."Click here to read the full interview!
48 minutes | Jun 2, 2021
Building Self-Managed Teams: A Case Study from Riot Games
Interview with Mike Seavers, former CTO at Riot Games about building self-managed teams for high performance. Learn from a seasoned leader about making sure you have the right people, and coach them the right way to empower them so you can stop holding their hands. Unlock your team's potential and unleash them to do great work!Sign up for the Level-up Engineering newsletter!In this interview we're covering:Relationship between performance and autonomyRole of the leader in self-managed teamsDescription of self-managed teamsMaking time to coach your employeesMeasuring the manager's performance in self-managing teamsLeadership strategies to build self-managed teamsCommunicating your expectationsBuilding self-managed teams in a new companyBuilding self-managed teams in an established organizationExcerpt from the interview:"In a self-managed team, even the most junior employee is empowered to make a meaningful decision that affects the team’s performance. They’re not dependent on management to make all the decisions. No winning team requires the coach to explain how to kick the ball; the coaching happens before and after the game.Leadership’s job is to make the vision and the goals clear. In my one-on-one meetings, I always ask these questions from my reports:Is the company vision clear?Are the company goals clear?Do you understand what we’re trying to accomplish and the near-term objectives?"Click here to read the full interview!
51 minutes | May 19, 2021
Software Development Trends 2021
State of Software Development 2021 reportInterview with John Ford, VP of Engineering and Country Leader at LogMeIn discussing emerging industry trends based on data from the State of Software Development 2021 report. We touch on the effects of COVID-19 on the industry, old and new challenges, hiring, retention and more.Sign up for the Level-up Engineering newsletter!In this interview we're covering:The effects of COVID-19 on the software industryTop challenges in software developmentComparing the perception of managers and engineersHiring and retentionPerformance managementOutsourcing development
41 minutes | Apr 28, 2021
Managing Hybrid Teams: How to Keep Your Team Engaged and Productive
Interview with Ellen Wong, Director of Engineering at Calm about leading partially remote and partially on-site hybrid teams. She shares her experience in hiring the right people for hybrid teams, creating processes, and handling all the day-to-day difficulties of the hybrid environment.In this interview we're covering:Advantages and disadvantages of a hybrid teamLeadership challenges in a hybrid teamPreparing your team for hybrid processesExtra support requirements in hybrid teamsFuture plans with the hybrid environmentKey skills to lead hybrid teamsKeeping the community alive in a hybrid environmentExcerpt from the interview:"I joined Calm remotely, and I’ve hired the majority of my team for remote work. My previous company was focused on working from the office, so we chose carefully who we allowed to work remotely. We came up with certain criteria, which I use when hiring for my hybrid team.Look for these qualities in your interview:Inclusivity and kindnessGood communication skillsProactivityOpenness to feedbackFor example, if they have issues conveying their points, and you have to keep asking follow-up questions, they may not be a good fit for remote work."Click here to read the full interview!
63 minutes | Mar 31, 2021
Leadership in Hypergrowth: A Case Study from Shapr3D
Interview with Ákos Kapui, VP of Engineering at Shapr3D. He talks about running an engineering organization in hypergrowth, doubling its employee count every year. Pick up his tips, tricks, and learn from his experience as he goes into detail on recruitment, decision making at scale, and planning while in hypergrowth.In this interview we're covering:Challenges in hypergrowthFinding the right employeesKey moments for a startup in hypergrowthScaling management as the organization growsPlanning hypergrowthPreparations for projected growthExcerpt from the interview:"Startups often don't recognize that the teams in the frontline should make their own decisions. The top leaders are far from the problem, their insight is limited, and their knowledge of the ground level work may be outdated. Micromanagement has its place, but it often leads to bad decisions.As you grow from 20 people to 40 and 100, you need to start making decisions differently. As a high level leader, your job is to help your employees make decisions, show them how to align a good decision, spot a bad one, and help them learn from their mistakes.Cities don’t involve the prime minister in details, and the frontline workers make the big decisions. The problem is that people lack experience in making decisions quickly, sticking with them, learning from them, and taking responsibility for them."Click here to read the full interview!
33 minutes | Mar 17, 2021
From Engineer to CEO: How to Start a Tech Company
Interview with Taavi Rehemägi, co-founder and CEO of Dashbird. He tells the story of founding Dashbird, and what it took for him to go from software engineer to CEO. Learn how he built his network and found success in a completely different role!In this interview we're covering:How they came up with the idea of DashbirdChallenges of going from engineer to CEOEssential skills for a CEOHow his engineer background made him a better CEOHow he improved the skills necessary to be a CEONetworking tipsExcerpt from the interview:"A CEO has to continuously learn just like a software engineer. My background in engineering helped me with the following:Iterating different solutionsSetting expectations toward solutionsLearning from past activitiesTracking variablesThe first years of a new tech company are about learning what strategy is viable on your market. Your best bet is using data and making logical decisions. Engineers are good at this."Click here to read the full interview!
66 minutes | Feb 17, 2021
Leadership Soft Skills: Master Your Own Mind to Lead Your Team to Success
Interview with Gergely Hodicska "Felhő", VP of Engineering at Bitrise. We take a deep dive with him into leadership soft skills and his story about finding his weaknesses and turning them into superpowers. We cover common weaknesses, methods to improve yourself and others around you, and more.In this interview we're covering:Importance of soft skills in engineering leadershipEssential leadership soft skillsStory about building up leadership soft skillsPractices to improve leadership soft skillsCommon challenges for engineering managersHelping direct reports improve their leadership skillsIntegrating leadership soft skills into your engineering cultureExcerpt from the interview:"I had a heated argument with a friend of mine at Ustream, and he told me, “This is why I don’t like working with you.” At first, I thought, I’m just trying to find the best solution, but really I was defending my ego in that conversation.Moments like that made me realize that I should improve, and research why I react the way I do in certain situations. That’s when I started to learn about my psychological drivers.The first step I took was learning about personality types. This didn’t give me a lot of answers, but it helped me understand why others are stupid..."Click here to read the full interview!
42 minutes | Feb 3, 2021
Remote Onboarding: How to Save New Hires from Social Isolation
Interview with Jerie Shaw, Senior Technical Program Manager at Shopify about building a remote onboarding process to suit the needs of remote software engineers. Coming up with new ways to get developers familiar with the job, keep energy and engagement high, and integrate them into the team while they're often continents apart.This is how Shopify deals with onboarding remotely.In this interview we're covering:Differences between remote onboarding and in-person onboardingMethods to integrate new hires into a group remotelyStakeholders in the remote onboarding of new hiresBreakdown of Shopify's remote onboarding processTracking the progress of new hiresMistakes when setting up the remote onboarding processExcerpt from the interview:"Solving problems together energizes people. On the other hand, spending an entire day on a video call drains their energy. Knowing this, we redesigned the onboarding experience to be active, synchronous, and hybrid.We give a group of new employees a real challenge, like ship a dashboard or build a data pipeline. They work on it together at the same time. We provide them with support structures like a virtual pod for better collaboration, and experts on the topic to answer their questions via Slack.This gives them a sense of being with a group and working on an interesting problem without being trapped in a video call for eight hours straight."Click here to read the full interview!
48 minutes | Jan 20, 2021
Improve Team Performance and Turn Around Underachieving Engineering Teams
Interview with John Ford, VP of Engineering and Site Leader at LogMeIn about his management framework to turn around underachieving teams and improve overall team performance. Learn from his practical tips and tricks while listening to some of the stories from his decades worth of engineering leadership experience!In this interview we're covering:Assessing team performanceVelocity goals for a productive engineering teamFocus points for underperforming teamsPeople improvementsProcess improvementsTechnical improvementsA story about turning around an underachieving teamBonus adviceExcerpt from the interview:"My advice for engineering managers and leaders is to keep an open mind because there might be many reasons for suboptimal performance. There are lots of differences between companies in engineering culture, team history, management, etc.If you’ve been running your team for a while, and the performance is dropping off, the reason is often a lack of clarity around the high-level objectives. In this case, you need to link the product or company strategy to the daily work of the team, and to provide direction about the higher-level strategy. Consider these questions:What's important for my manager?What’s the team doing..."Click here to read the full interview!
47 minutes | Jan 6, 2021
Knowledge Sharing: A Sneak Peek into Facebook’s Engineering Teams
Interview with Balázs Balázs, former Engineering Manager at Facebook about the knowledge sharing strategies he's used over the years with his engineering teams. You'll get tips, tricks and real stories from behind the scenes about how knowledge sharing works with real people, rather than how it should work in an ideal situation.In this interview we're covering:Picking the right methods for sharing knowledge in your teamThe best knowledge sharing methods in engineering teamsThe rules of using documentationThe best methods to help junior engineers growOnboarding software engineers to your teamMaking time for knowledge sharingTools for knowledge sharing in engineering teamsEncouraging engineers to partake in knowledge sharingThe key to Facebook's success in sharing knowledgeExcerpt from the interview:"Facebook has offices all over the world and employees get to travel to other offices for free with business reasons. As it turns out, software engineers are very innovative when it comes to figuring out business reasons for free travel.My team was based in London, and we worked with a team in New York for a while. We were struggling with effectively analyzing data. One of my engineers came up with the idea to fly our team to New York, and hold a data week, where the two teams analyze data together.I'm pretty sure that the motivation was to get a free week in New York. Still, it was the most productive week we’d had for a long time. It took a lot of preparation, but people didn’t mind, because the traveling made it fun.This is just an example; there are far more affordable ways to make knowledge sharing fun..."Click here to read the full interview!
46 minutes | Dec 9, 2020
The Ultimate Skip Level Meeting Guide for Leaders
Panel discussion interview with Sarah Milstein, Sr. Director of Engineering at Mailchimp, and Tanisha Barnett, Director of Engineering at Mailchimp. They get into the details of holding skip level meetings, let them be one-on-ones or group meetings.Here's everything you'll ever need to know about why you want to have your own skip level meetings, what they look like, what questions to ask, how to break the ice, keep track of them all, and much more. Master skip level meetings to become a great engineering leader yourself!In this interview we're covering:Skip level meeting definitionThe reason they started doing skip level meetingsSkip level one-on-one meeting and regular one-on-one comparisonChoosing the people to schedule skip level meetings withNotifying the in-between manager about skip level meetingsSkip level meetings' role at Mailchimp's engineering cultureKeeping track of the content of skip level meetingsSkip level meeting questionsIcebreakers for skip level meetingsSensitive topics at skip level meetingsAdvice for new leaders on skip level meetingsSkip level meeting storiesExcerpt from the interview:"Even though a key reason for the meeting is to talk about the manager, I don't want to support gossiping. It's a structured meeting that we use for giving feedback, not to talk trash behind people’s backs.When I get feedback about what employees wish their manager would do, I listen, but I try not to reinforce it in any inappropriate way. I say things like, "That sounds difficult," or "I understand why you want that," while I avoid saying, "Your manager really screwed up." I have to be..."Click here to read the full interview!
41 minutes | Nov 25, 2020
Managing for Happiness: Tips to Run a Productive Engineering Team
Interview with Jurgen Appelo, leadership speaker, writer and entrepreneur. He is an expert on the topic of managing teams to maximize happiness, which heavily bolsters productivity. Learn his tips, tricks and strategies in making it happen, and make your own team happier so you all win.In this interview we're covering:Connection between happiness and performancePrerequisites for high performanceCreate a company culture based on experimentationMethods for managers to learn their team's needsSurveys and measuring team happinessThe process to build a management system for happinessSigns of a happy teamMethods to engage employees to take action for their happinessExcerpt from the interview:"There isn’t one process to manage for happiness.The best way is to think outside the box and to do the things you enjoy and others might enjoy as well. Here are some examples of what I did as an engineering manager:I invited people for dinner at my house and surprised them with the fact that we would cook together.I put a bell in the office..."Click here to read the full interview!
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