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Weekend Reads #4: Non-Typical Backgrounds, the Faroes and McKinsey
Great lessons from expected and unexpected places
From a Non-Traditional Background to Director of Software Engineering at Spotify by Gergely Orosz and Nivia Henry
I don’t have much patience for theory and much prefer learning by doing. Learning from the real experiences of great people comes in close second. This is the story of how Nivia became a Director of Software Engineering at Spotify. That, by itself, would already be a story. What makes this a great story are her unusual background, the challenges she overcame and the lessons she learned along the way.
Tech is a wonderful industry where folks from all walks of life and backgrounds can find opportunity, myself included (I’m a terrible physicist).
Inside the World’s First Undersea Roundabout by Jaden Urbi
I often forget that great lessons don’t have to come from business or tech articles - or even be directly related to them. This week I learned that the Faroe Islands, a tiny island country of 50K people in the North Atlantic, has underground tunnels. A lot of them.
What makes this especially interesting is how quickly they build them. A recent, major project took about 4 years to construct, and I saw estimates that a similar project in, say, NYC would take 15 years or more. They can make decisions quickly and run circles around much larger communities exactly because they are so small.
If you work at a startup where decisions take waaaay too long, remember the Faroes - being small can be a major super power if you use it right!
What are leading and lagging indicators? by James Stanier
I’ve learned the concept of leading and lagging indicators a while ago and I’ve treated it as pretty day to day topics since then. I’m helping improve how we execute OKRs at my current company and the topic came up.
Even outside of the context of OKRs, knowing what leading and lagging indicators are is a deceptively simple skill - it helps you identify and plan for what you actually want to achieve (usually lagging indicators) and use the right numbers to tell if you’re going in the right direction (leading indicators).
This is a good, non-jargon-y, down to earth introduction to the topic.
Mutation Testing by Robert C. Martin (Uncle Bob)
I have a confession to make - I’ve never done “proper” TDD. Sigh, feels great getting that off my chest. Back when I served as an engineer, I usually wrote tests after writing a small piece of code and went back and forth a little. I found writing lots of tests upfront to be super boring TBH. You should still do tests properly, goes without saying but Uncle Bob knows a lot more about the subject than I do.
I never looked into mutation testing before, and this was a nice introduction to the subject. Many associate and professional engineers start trusting things like TDD and test coverage metrics with an almost religious zeal, forgetting that they’re not perfect. This could be a nice addition to your team’s arsenal towards not setting production on fire.
Tech Debt: Reclaiming Tech Equity by Vishal Dalal, Krish Krishnakanthan, Björn Münstermann, and Rob Patenge
I chuckled a bit when I saw this. The content is good, but I thought it was funny seeing something about Tech Debt coming from McKinsey. The analogy with financial debt was particularly insightful, and definitely something I will bring up when convincing non-tech stakeholders why managing and paying down excessive tech debt is important (and why doing that might push Shiny Feature A back by a sprint or two).
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