Making (great) decisions, part 1

Long ago, I read this piece of advice, which has lived rent-free in my brain ever since:

First make the bug easy to fix, then fix it.

What I think it meant was to approach a bug as an opportunity not only to improve the software by removing the bug, but also to make it harder for the software to become buggy later (by adding tests and consequently improving the architecture).

As leaders, one of our primary exports is decisions. We all make them, every day, and sometimes those decisions have far-reaching downstream consequences.

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Quiet quitting is a huge opportunity

I know, I know, you’ve probably heard enough about “quiet quitting” by now, but, if you’ll indulge me, I think you could be looking at a huge opportunity.

First off, quiet quitting isn’t new. It’s a term freshly birthed from the roiling cultural phenomenon called TikTok, but it means the same thing as “disengagement,” or “coasting,” or even the Silicon Valley-famed “resting and vesting.”

What they’re not talking about on TikTok is that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores1. If you’re reading this, that’s probably you.

Are people on your teams “quietly quitting?” Does it matter? What can you do to ensure that your teams are engaged, whether they are “quiet quitters” or not?

I will cover all of that, and more, right here!

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So you want to hire some engineers?

It should go without saying that one of the most important—and most challenging—responsibilities of an engineering manager is hiring.

In a recent survey of 581 tech founders and executives1:

  • 62% say it takes 4 months or more to hire top product and engineering talent on average.

  • 67% agree that the “traditional recruitment process” is broken, taking too long and costing too much.

At the same time, tech workers are more restless than ever before, changing jobs at a staggering rate.

What should you do if you want to succeed in hiring the engineers you need for your team today? As we say in most engineering matters, “it depends,” but these are my earnestly held beliefs about what matters most:

  1. Attract (enough of) the right people,
  2. Conduct an exceptional interview, and
  3. Sell what’s important.

This is going to be a long one because there is a lot to say and it’s all important.

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What engineering managers must un-learn

You got to where you are by very precisely instructing the computer to do something quite complicated and often nuanced. Maybe you spent years in school, or years of self-directed study to learn how to do this. You have been rewarded for demonstrating things like:

  • Ingenuity
  • Resourcefulness
  • Grit, or persistence

Then you entered management. Did anyone teach you how to manage? Did anyone tell you what “great management” should look like?

All your years of software experience barely help you to excel at management.

In fact, some of the habits you were rewarded for as a programmer are actually hurting you. Today I’ll share some habits you should strongly consider un-learning.

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Be careful giving advice

It’s that question many managers hunger to be asked: “Can you give me some advice?” There is nothing we love more than when our experience is valued. We want to help people by offering anecdotes, observations, and direction. Almost all advice is well-intentioned, and most of it is probably good.

But when is advice not helpful? What if advice does more harm than good?

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