QFM023: Engineering Leadership Reading List June 2024

Everything that I found interesting last month about engineering leadership

Matthew Sinclair
11 min readJul 4, 2024
Photo by Robs on Unsplash

We kick off this month’s Engineering Leadership Reading List exploring the balance between technical expertise and effective management. What Andreesen Horowitz got wrong about engineering management critiques the undervaluation of middle management, emphasising their role in aligning strategic goals with ground-level execution, particularly in the evolving landscape shaped by AI advancements.

In contrast, You are a CTO, not an expensive Copilot advises CTOs to prioritise strategic tasks over coding, underlining the importance of leadership in driving tech strategies and improving team processes.

Another significant focus is the optimisation of productivity and team dynamics. The Difference Between Speed and Velocity differentiates between mere activity and purposeful progress. How Sprinting Slows You Down challenges the conventional sprint methodology, suggesting that a more flexible approach can lead to higher developer satisfaction and productivity.

We finish up exploring Why Innovation Heroes are a Sign of a Dysfunctional Organization where Steve Blank discusses the phenomenon of ‘innovation heroes’ in large organisations and why they are symptomatic of a dysfunctional system.

As always, the Quantum Fax Machine **Propellor Hat Key** will guide your browsing. Enjoy!

People on Nice Teams Finish Last (staysaasy.com): This article argues that one of the most common management mistakes is failing to provide clear feedback when someone is wrong, especially on significant matters, which leads to misunderstandings and decreased morale. It emphasises the importance of being empathetic but straightforward to prevent ambiguity that can harm both individual learning and team dynamics.

#Management #Feedback #Clarity #Teamwork #Leadership

What Andreesen Horowitz got wrong about engineering management (leaddev.com): The article critiques Andreessen Horowitz’s stance on engineering management, arguing that while some middle management roles may become unnecessary during periods of contraction, they are not inherently “BS jobs” as claimed. Effective management is crucial for aligning strategic goals with ground-level execution, especially in the evolving tech landscape influenced by AI.

#EngineeringManagement #TechLeadership #AI #MiddleManagement #TeamEfficiency

Unexpected Anti-Patterns for Engineering Leaders — Lessons From Stripe, Uber & Carta: Will Larson, veteran engineering leader and CTO at Carta, discusses three common engineering management anti-patterns, offering lessons from his experience at companies like Stripe, Uber, and Calm. Larson challenges the norm by providing actionable insights for engineering leaders, emphasizing the importance of flexibility and context in decision-making. He argues that certain traditional management practices might not always apply universally and encourages leaders to think critically about when to defy conventional wisdom.

#EngineeringLeadership #TechManagement #Innovation #Startups #WillLarson

Become a Great Engineering Leader in 12 Months (hybridhacker.email): The article outlines a structured 12-month path to becoming an engineering leader, detailing essential skills and knowledge to develop, including product mindset, system design skills, leadership abilities, and the importance of seeking mentorship or coaching. It provides a comprehensive guide with curated resources, goals, and exercises for each stage, emphasising motivation, effort, planning, and reflection as key components of successful leadership development.

#EngineeringLeadership #TechCareer #ProfessionalDevelopment #Mentorship #LeadershipSkills

The Difference Between Speed and Velocity — Getting Stuff Done (fs.blog): Understanding the difference between speed and velocity is crucial for productivity; while speed refers to how fast you are moving, velocity involves direction and moving purposefully towards a goal. To enhance productivity, focus on reducing unnecessary tasks and prioritising meaningful projects to increase your progress and achieve better results.

#Productivity #Efficiency #Focus #GoalSetting #TimeManagement

You are a CTO, not an expensive Copilot (makemeacto.substack.com): The article discusses how first-time CTOs often struggle with transitioning away from coding, emphasising that coding is a low-leverage activity for CTOs. It advises CTOs to focus on high-impact tasks such as defining tech strategies and improving team processes, rather than spending time coding, and suggests using techniques like “Engineer-ication” to stay connected with technical aspects.

#CTO #Leadership #TechStrategy #SoftwareEngineering #CareerTransition

Three Laws of Software Complexity (or why software engineers are always grumpy) (maheshba.bitbucket.io): The article argues that software engineers often deal with high complexity due to three laws: systems degrade into poorly designed ones over time, successful systems often involve leaky abstractions which increase complexity, and there is no upper limit to software complexity as it’s driven by human creativity and organisational dynamics.

#SoftwareComplexity #EngineeringChallenges #TechDesign #SoftwareDevelopment #SystemDesign

Generative AI’s impact on the SDLC (nashtechglobal.com): Generative AI has the potential to revolutionise the SDLC by enhancing efficiency, productivity, and collaboration, while also addressing skill shortages and automating repetitive tasks. However, successful integration requires overcoming challenges such as technical expertise, legacy system integration, and data privacy, not to mention basic efficacy.

#GenerativeAI #SoftwareDevelopment #AIinTech #SDLC #Innovation

The 10 Most Common Mistakes of First-Time CTOs (makemeacto.substack.com): First-time CTOs often mistake their role as primarily technical and fail to integrate fully with the executive team, overlooking the necessity of understanding business fundamentals and aligning with C-suite priorities. Effective CTOs must balance their technical expertise with business leadership and foster collaboration at the highest organisational levels.

#CTO #Leadership #BusinessStrategy #TechManagement #ExecutiveTeam

The 10 Most Common Mistakes of First-Time CTOs, #3 and #4: In his latest article, Sergio Visinoni outlines two common mistakes first-time CTOs often make: solving technical issues first-hand to prove their worth and coding every week to stay technical. These habits, while well-intentioned, can prevent CTOs from focusing on strategic, business-critical tasks. Sergio emphasizes the importance of leveraging other team members’ expertise and staying engaged in higher-level discussions to lead effectively.

#CTO #Leadership #TechLeadership #Productivity #StrategicThinking

How Sprinting Slows You Down: A Better Way to Build Software: The article critiques the widespread adoption of agile sprints in software development, arguing that the practice often leads to developer burnout, lower code quality, and high technical debt. Instead, it advocates for a different approach where projects have no fixed deadlines, smaller teams are given greater autonomy, and engineers are allowed to own entire features. This methodology reportedly results in higher productivity and happier, more engaged developers.

#SoftwareDevelopment #Agile #Sprints #DeveloperProductivity #TechnicalDebt

Gen AI will increase demand for software engineers: The article discusses the impact of generative AI on the future demand for software engineers. Despite advancements in no-code and AI tools, the demand for traditional software engineers is expected to grow over the next 20 years. The author draws an analogy between generative AI in software engineering and autopilot systems in aviation, suggesting that while the tools may evolve, human expertise will still be necessary.

#AI #SoftwareEngineering #GenerativeAI #TechFuture #Automation

The Architecture Behind A One-Person Tech Startup: In this detailed blog post, Anthony S. Simon discusses the architecture he uses to run a low-stress, one-person tech startup. It covers topics from load balancing, cron job monitoring, and payments to subscriptions and even shares insights on using Kubernetes on AWS. He emphasizes that the tools he chose might not be suitable for everyone but worked well for his needs after years of learning. The article is inspired by Wenbin Fang’s similar post and promises a comprehensive tour of his SaaS setup.

#TechStartup #Kubernetes #AWS #SaaS #DevOps

Repetition: A Key Skill to Master as a Leader: In his article, Garry Shutler emphasizes the importance of repetition for leaders. He argues that repeating key messages is essential for ensuring that everyone hears and understands them, especially in the context of encouraging behavioral change.

#Leadership #Communication #Repetition #BehavioralChange #EffectiveMessaging

Dark Software: Traditional SaaS and fintech models are breaking down due to stagnant growth and high customer acquisition costs. A new model, ‘dark software,’ suggests bundling multiple hyper-specialized products and outsourcing non-core functions, similar to ‘dark kitchens’ in the food delivery sector. This approach could be a game-changer for future startups and investors.

#SaaS #Fintech #Startups #TechInnovation #BusinessModel

How to create software quality.: In this article, Will Larson explores the nuances of creating software quality. He emphasizes that quality is highly context-specific and discusses various techniques to address different types of complexity: essential domain, scaling, and accidental complexity. Larson also delves into the different feedback loops and their impact on software quality, arguing that early developer-led testing creates quality more effectively than later QA-led testing.

#SoftwareQuality #Engineering #TechLeadership #Complexity #DeveloperInsights

My best manager did this: In preparation for a new management position, this engineer asked their friends to share what their best and worst managers did. This revealed a range of responses, from the best managers empowering and trusting their employees, to the worst micromanaging and failing to communicate effectively. The stories highlight key qualities that contribute to good or bad management.

#management #leadership #workplace #career #mentorship

Engage your audience by getting to the point, using story structure, and forcing specificity: Ian Daniel Stewart shares tips on engaging your audience by getting to the point, using story structure, and being specific in your communication. He draws on advice from Vicky Zhao and others to highlight how clear and concise communication can be more effective. The post also touches on the importance of specificity and story structure for making compelling arguments.

#Communication #Storytelling #Productivity #PublicSpeaking #Clarity

What is a Personal User Manual?: Personal User Manuals (also known as Personal Operating Manuals) are tools designed to foster empathy and connection among distributed teams. They include short descriptions of an individual’s background, values, and communication style, and can greatly improve team dynamics by clarifying personal preferences and work habits. These manuals help in building psychological safety, improving communication, and fostering trust within teams, especially in flexible work environments.

#PersonalUserManual #TeamBuilding #RemoteWork #Empathy #Communication

The real 10x developer makes their whole team better: The real value of a 10x developer isn’t in their individual contributions, but in how they elevate their entire team through knowledge sharing and collaboration. Successful tech projects rely more on strong social learning communities rather than lone geniuses. Building Communities of Practice (CoPs) can enhance team autonomy, trust, and innovation by fostering an environment where knowledge and resources are shared extensively across the organization.

#10xDeveloper #Teamwork #CommunitiesOfPractice #TechLeadership #SoftwareDevelopment

Seven Conversation Hacks: The article ‘Seven Conversation Hacks’ provides practical tips for improving communication in meetings. These include addressing inactive participants by name, repeating unclear points, pausing for thought, adjusting body language, making eye contact, listening carefully, and knowing when to stop talking.

#Communication #Leadership #Meetings #SoftSkills #Management

You need to understand the business to design a good engineering strategy: Understanding the business is essential for designing a solid engineering strategy. This article discusses key aspects including business models, cash flow, and the alignment of engineering strategies with business goals. Aleix Morgadas provides a step-by-step guide to connect business knowledge with engineering strategies.

#EngineeringStrategy #BusinessUnderstanding #TechLeadership #StartupInsights #StrategyDesign

Tech Executive Alignment: Aviv Ben-Yosef discusses effective executive coaching for tech leaders, addressing common challenges in identifying key personal development areas. The article highlights where leaders fall within the focus/autonomy spectrum and offers practical advice on improvement strategies to foster better alignment with business goals.

#TechLeadership #ExecutiveCoaching #BusinessAlignment #LeadershipGrowth #FocusAutonomy

Why Innovation Heroes are a Sign of a Dysfunctional Organization: Steve Blank discusses the phenomenon of ‘innovation heroes’ in large organizations and why they are symptomatic of a dysfunctional system. He critiques the culture that rewards individual heroics rather than having a structured process for innovation, leading to high turnover of talented individuals. A repeatable innovation process and an ‘innovation doctrine’ are essential for sustainable progress in both government agencies and corporations.

#innovation #leadership #organizationaldesign #management #startups


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Originally published on quantumfaxmachine.com.

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