- Motivation for this document
- 🥖 My role
- 📐 How am I measured?
- 📚 What do I value most?
- 😠 How I manage conflict
- 👍 My expectations from the team
- 💬 How I run 1-1s
- 🏗️ What your first 90 days would look like
- 😜 My quirks and other things to know about me
- 📖 Resources I constantly reference
Motivation for this document
This document outlines how I operate as a software engineering manager (EM). My hope is to give you a sense for how I approach the job and what working with me would be like. I’ve served as an engineering manager at Branch International, Digit, KoBold Metals & Klaviyo.
If you’re just looking for the TLDR:
- I aim to be a servant leader, empowering others to succeed
- I value continuous learning and improvement
- I like to build teams based on trust, accountability, respect & a clear mission
🥖 My role
As an EM, my job is to empower folks so that as a team we can collectively make a strong impact. I do that by growing teams that are built around a clear shared vision, trust, accountability and respectful communication processes.
In this job, my focus varies depending on the company’s needs. If the company is hiring, I debug the recruiting process and conduct numerous interviews. When new team members join, I teach technical skills, provide learning opportunities and regularly check in with them. During planning periods, I collect stakeholder needs and collaborate with product teams on a roadmap. Throughout these activities, I assist, establish processes, and train others to strengthen the organization over time.
While many activities shift, there are a few things I’m always doing: creating a safe environment at the company for everyone to do their best work and helping people find avenues for growth in their careers. Sometimes that’s resolving conflicts, taking time to ensure everyone’s communication styles are empowered or providing feedback on a career plan. In all this work, I seek to empower folks with the skills and confidence they need to be successful independently.
📐 How am I measured?
In my role as a manager I’m measured in a few ways:
- Hiring processes that result in successful hires quickly
- Onboarding processes that result in new people contributing quickly
- Career growth support so that people stay on the team and increase their impact over time in a fulfilling way
- Team success in estimating and completing quarterly goals
- Contributions to the overall organization and engineering team that improve collaboration, efficiency, retention or other important metrics
📚 What do I value most?
♻️ Continuous improvement & learning
Continually learning and growing is the most important thing to me. In life and the working world, change is constant, people are unique and so staying curious, humble and open-minded is key.
Whether personally or within the team, I find a few ingredients are necessary for continuous improvement to take place:
- Consistent, deliberate introspection like sprint retros and my weekly self-reflection
- Feedback loops, both quantitative and qualitative from customers, peers & systems
- Humility to be open to new ideas
- Empathy to listen and understand others
- Making space for learning and research in your schedule and roadmap
🎉 Feedback, especially celebration
This is part of continuous improvement but worth calling out explicitly. This is a value learned from experience: constructive feedback is important but not as strong a tool for change as positive reinforcement. Celebrating team wins, constructive behaviors and setting a good example all push a team along much faster than criticism.
I like to use Situation, Behavior, Impact, Pause as a framing when giving feedback. I believe in prompt and private feedback when it’s constructive. And I like to celebrate positive things more in public based on the individual or team’s preferences.
🤔 Deliberate decision making
I value a strong communication process around decision making. For reversible decisions, I appreciate fast, data-based decisions. For hard to rollback decisions, I appreciate deliberation, research and experimentation. For any decision, I believe in defining roles upfront using frameworks like DACI (driver, approver, contributor, informed) and setting clear objectives around problems being solved and the definition of done.
😠 How I manage conflict
I tend towards collaborative, mediated and systems oriented conflict resolution.
- I seek to lower the temperature right away for example by bringing the conflict into 1-1 or smaller group conversations
- I listen without judgment to all parties involved
- I aim to understand the whole person including if there are external stressors
- I try to understand everyone’s roles and goals so I know how they are framing the problem
- I hope to be a curious and respectful mediator
- If possible, I aim to empower people to work through the conflict rather than dictating a resolution
👍 My expectations from the team
- You’ve got a learning mindset. You’re game to learn, grow and open to change.
- You own your career. I can support, provide feedback and open doors but at the end of the day you decide where you want to go next and on what timeline.
- You are accountable for the work you commit to. You share when you’re blocked or behind with the team promptly and you make sure your stakeholders are informed.
- You take ownership in the team and company’s success. You take initiative to surface or fix issues even if they are outside of your normal duties.
- You are respectful of your coworkers and customers and assume best intentions from everyone else.
💬 How I run 1-1s
- Consistent schedule so we always have time to talk
- We take time to connect as humans
- We focus on discussing challenges and career development
- We avoid status updates which should ideally happen in other settings
- I make space for upward feedback and ask for feedback on specific things
- I recognize your wins and what’s going well consistently
- I share constructive feedback promptly
🏗️ What your first 90 days would look like
Here are some key elements of my 30/60/90 day process! This plan is more tailored to software engineering. The idea is to start small, focus on building connections first, contribute small code changes and own a larger feature within the first few months.
Some general advice
- Take copious notes since you’ll forget most information coming your way.
- Ask questions, this is your time to learn as much as possible!
- Focus on your onboarding, not on finding ways to contribute right away. You’ll be most effective later if you learn now.
- Focus on learning people and culture over technical details since relationship building takes time.
- As you get further on aim for small wins within your wheelhouse and don’t overcommit right away.
- Be kind to yourself: you were hired for a reason and you’re not expected to be effective at your job for a number of months!
- Meet the team
- Meet your onboarding buddy
- Meet your manager
- Get full context on the state of the world and systems in play
- Wrap your head around what’s on the team roadmap
- Participate in company onboarding meetings
- While onboarding: update docs, take notes, ask questions!
- Participate in engineering and team onboarding meetings
- Meet the key leaders and peers outside of your team
- Get setup and contribute small changes to the codebase
- Get up to speed on your first larger project
- Participate in team activities like code review, sprint planning, etc.
- Find any fun groups you’d like to connect with like an ERG or the pet parents club
- Brainstorm with your manager on career paths
- Ship your first feature contribution!
- Be up to speed on the various product initiatives and participate in quarterly team brainstorming and planning
- Start to participate in recruiting
- Develop a career plan and personal goals
- Write-up your thoughts and feedback on onboarding and how the company/team is doing. A framework to organize things can be strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
😜 My quirks and other things to know about me
I struggle with
I can sometimes ramble or talk too much in meetings. Feel free to cut me off or let me know afterwards!
How I like my feedback
I prefer feedback in private, verbally and am ok with public praise.
How I process information
I tend to process information visually so you’ll see me taking notes in meetings for example. I also bias towards having a decision document rather than a series of meetings. I also love well labeled charts!
I have little patience for
I have less patience for ego, people talking over each other, meetings without agendas and negativity, especially when it’s about other people.
How I focus
I’m best able to focus in a quiet environment where I can be distraction free for a spell. You may see me log off slack sometimes if I need time to get a project done. I’ll also schedule work blocks and I try to cluster my meetings using tools like Clockwise.