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Weekend Reads #3: Awesome Lessons from Interesting People
Learning from leaders and masters + a break from all the doom & gloom
I wanted to break a bit from the relative doom & gloom of recent weeks. I found some interesting readings this week from people who are masters at what they do. Enjoy!
Software Engineering - The Soft Parts by Addy Osmani
This is probably my favorite this week. It’s a deceptively simple and compact write-up that contains a lifetime of practical experience from Addy Osmani, a Sr. Staff Engineering Manager at Google.
It is rare that we get a glimpse into “the real deal”, and the lessons Addy shares about software engineering, engineering management, working with others, growing and other cool topics are invaluable to anyone in tech. I wished I had run into something like this 10 years ago!
Highly recommended, even if you are not in tech.
Bottleneck #01: Tech Debt by Tim Cochran and Carl Nygard
I’m helping scaling and accelerating a fast growing startup team and the topic of managing tech debt came up. As with many successful startups, the team accelerated development early on in order to experiment faster and find product-market fit. As the product becomes more complex, the team grows and the company matures we need to manage our accrued tech debt well in order to maintain good speed.
Tech debt is usually “handwaved” as an almost arcane term and often mismanaged. This write-up provides clear guidelines for identifying, dealing with and managing tech debt in a sustainable and practical way. It also keeps in mind that that we need to ship features, provide a great use experience and generate revenue - i.e. this is not a purely technical exercise.
I recommend this one even if you are not a scale-up.
The Anatomy of an Amazon 6-pager by Jesse Freeman
Amazon is one of the most successful tech companies of all time. It is also one of the most “cult-y”, and you can often spot an ex-Amazon person in the workplace by the unique terms, techniques and ways of thinking they use. Amazon’s writing practices are particularly interesting to me.
Jesse served at Amazon for 5 years and walks us through the “6 pager” with much more authority than many other similar posts do. This is a document usually reserved to plan significant projects, changes, processes or other high stakes moves. More importantly, he provides a concrete example that he created - a rare find indeed.
The Product Culture Shift by Camille Fournier
Camille is the author of The Manager’s Path, one of my favorite books in tech management (or management in general). In this article she addresses the topic of changing the culture of teams that are usually not directly involved in serving customers - usually infrastructure and internal platforms.
Picture an e-commerce company that, let’s say, handles deliveries for its merchants. Your team is growing, the product is becoming more complex and you provide merchants with multiple ways of selling and fulfilling their orders.
In order to keep the teams responsible for user facing features moving fast, your CTO decides to launch an internal infrastructure team (let’s say, an SRE team) and a logistics platform team, responsible for providing APIs to anyone building features around deliveries. Why is this hard? Quoting the author:
“Both of these shifts require going from a siloed, process, tech-focused mindset to a portfolio, usability, and customer-focused mindset. This is a hard transformation, and it’s easy for people who have spent their whole career building infrastructure to misunderstand what product and platform really mean.”
Can a Zebra Change Its Stripes? By Eric Newcomer
This one is a head scratcher, but you might’ve heard that Adam Neumann, the (in)famous founder of WeWork, just raised $350M from Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) to build his new company, Flow.
Eric helps us get a look into how VC works and how some such decisions are made, especially those that leave the rest of us puzzled.
That’s it for this week, I hope you enjoyed the list and has a chance to read at least a few of the recommendations.
I am working on some longer form, deep-dive articles by myself and in collaboration with a few friends, attacking problems from how to prepare for a tech deep-dive, deploying K8S in production, how engineering managers and product managers can collaborate better and a whole lot more.
If you have any topics that you want me to cover let me know, I’d be happy to help!