December 18, 2020.
The tech lead manager role is often presented as an easy on-ramp to Team Manager, but my experience is that being a tech lead manager is considerably harder to do well than Team Management, to the extent that I believe the tech lead manager role is a trap for new managers.
December 17, 2020.
Many engineering managers become obsessed with the transition to managing managers rather than managing a team directly. I’ve seen that pursuit of managerial scope become almost an obsession for some folks. That’s a shame, because group management is a very different job than team management, and is often both less rewarding and less likely to facilitate ongoing learning. In particular, I often get email from folks considering joining a hypergrowth company in pursuit of their first group management role, and my advice is, in its most concise form: Do it if you must, but be cautious.
December 10, 2020.
I'm returning to work from parental leave this week, and felt like taking the moment to to write my 2020 review now rather than waiting for the end of the month. It's been a wild year, with a lot of very good things personally, and a lot of very bad things nationally and globally.
November 23, 2020.
I recently got an email asking for some perspective that was general enough that I thought it might make more sense to answer as another mailbag post. The lightly edited core of the email was: What advice would you give someone who is five years in their tech career? What should someone focus on in the world of fast-evolving tech? How did you find the right mentors in the course of your career/
October 8, 2020.
There are only a few magic spells to attain a Staff-plus role: negotiate for the title while switching roles or find a supportive environment to bake in place while building your internal credibility with an empowered sponsor who’ll advocate for you. The most important reagent in both spells is picking the right company to perform them at. The good news if you’re applying to a new company is that while you might invest weeks of energy into determining if you can get a Staff role there, you won’t need to invest years. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a company to join and grow within, you’re embarking on a years-long journey into an unknown organization. This is a daunting decision to make, and picking the right company for you will have a considerable impact on whether you attain a Staff-plus role.
October 1, 2020.
My father was a professor of economics. After he completed his PhD in his late twenties, he started teaching at one university, got tenure at that university, and walked out forty-some years later into retirement. Working in technology, that sounds like a fairytale. There are very few software companies with a forty-year track record, and even fewer folks whose forty-year career consisted of one employer. There used to be a meme that many engineers spent either one or four years at each company to maximize their equity grants and then bounced on to the next. If that ever happened, it certainly isn’t common behavior for folks who aspire towards or reach Staff-plus roles.
September 24, 2020.
Bert Fan’s best advice for those trying to reach a Staff-plus role was, "often reaching Staff is a combination of luck, timing, and work."
June 28, 2020.
If you’re safely nestled within the comfortable clutches of the Senior Engineer career level, you might wonder if you ought to pursue the Staff title. It’s a considerable investment of time and energy, along with requiring a good amount of luck, is that investment worth your time?
June 14, 2020.
As I’ve had more early career folks reach out about mentorship, the most frequent question they have is learning about the story of my technology career. I genuinely don’t think my story is a good one to learn from because I’ve had a path dependent on a great deal of privilege and luck. That said, at some point it’s easier to simply write the story and let folks decide that for themselves.
February 13, 2020.
Recently I got an email asking about evolving your engineering career after you’ve hit the career level, but before you feel like you’ve accomplished what’s important to you. I wrote up my response here in case others are interested.