Thoughts on Engineering Management

Can One Team Do It All?

Once you’ve worked on a few different software projects, you notice that different processes tend to work better for some and not others. For example, you may have experienced the pace and immediate feedback of working on a brand-new capability, made possible by the seeming lack of process and a focus on writing “just enough” code to make the feature a reality. In a different software project, you may have spent time sweating the details and producing code with a perceived high level of quality.

I'm new to Engineering Management, what books should I read?

There are so many great books that I could recommend for a new manager. Narrowing down the list has been challenging! We’re fortunate that much is written on the practice of management. In addition to that, many Engineering Managers have detailed the specifics of working with technology teams. However, this makes it difficult to know what to focus on first. I’ve picked the first 10 I would recommend to a new manager.

I'm new to this, what do you recommend?

Recently I was asked what resources I would recommend for someone moving from an engineering role and taking on a management role. Many people become a manager without clear training and development plan in place from their employer. “Congrats - you’re now a manager. Good luck!”. In this environment, finding your own sources for development is critical, yet, there’s so much out there that it can be challenging to know what to prioritise.

Are you ok?

Life is weird right now. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before and everyone reading this is likely to have undergone significant changes to the way they live, work and play. I started at Stash a week before the UK lockdown was announced. Stash took the decision the week before to move all their staff to remote work, so for the first time I’ve been through a remote onboarding process. This has continued, and as I write this, I’m half-way through my fifth week of working 100% remote.

On Leaving Alfresco

This week, after over 3 and a half years, I left Alfresco. The decision to leave was a difficult one, but ultimately, it’s the right move for both the company and me. My connection with Alfresco goes back further than the recent years working for the company. Back in 2010, while working at Yell, I was part of a team tasked with creating a knowledge base based on (the now deprecated) Alfresco Web Content Management.

Getting better feedback

In many organisations, the request for feedback comes as part of a performance review cycle. During this process, an individual will review their goals, assess their career development plan and reflect on feedback from their peers. As humans, we have a bias to want to be near people that look and work as we do. This bias means that we tend to notice when people act or behave differently from the way we do.

Comparing the performance of agile teams

Recently I got into a conversation about measuring the performance of Engineering teams. The teams in question are following the Scrum framework and have decided to use story points for estimating the complexity of the work. In the conversation, we were talking about the validity of measuring individual team performance and whether one should use this data to compare the performance across teams. Now, for anyone that’s even taken more than a passing glance of any of the literature surrounding agile development, Scrum or estimation, the idea of measuring team performance and comparing performance between teams is a clear anti-pattern.

9 months! Really?

It’s been almost nine months since my last blog entry. I’ve never been a prolific writer as you can see this in the gaps between posts. I think I’ve found the reason why. Recently I came across the article Speed Matters by James Somers. Right there, in the second paragraph of the article, Somers summed up exactly my relationship with this blog: “If every time you write a blog post it takes you six months, and you’re sitting around your apartment on a Sunday afternoon thinking of stuff to do, you’re probably not going to think of starting a blog post, because it’ll feel too expensive.

Removing Facebook (again)

Scheduled deletion of my Facebook account. I'd recently removed it from my phone and disabled my account. #DeleteFacebook — Steve Bennett (@stevebennett) March 20, 2018 Late in March 2018 I decided to delete my Facebook account. This isn’t the first time I’d decided to do this. In 2014, as Facebook turned 10, I decided to put my own usage of the social network on pause. This didn’t last too long and only a few months later I’d decided to reactivate my account.

Career Paths and Circles

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time recently reworking our career paths. Our current documents are heavily based on the work by Radford, which defines 6 levels for each job family. Whilst our career path was very well defined and comprehensive, we are finding that the documentation is a little incomprehensible and causes difficulty as people try to self-assess their position on the career path. Through conversations about this, it’s clear our team members want something simpler against which they could measure their progress and plan their development.