I was fortunate enough to attend LeadDev London this year, after a two year hiatus it was great to meet IRL and learn from leaders in technology. Despite all the quality content a couple of talks really resonated with me, and so I'm sharing my key take aways and things I want to apply as an Engineering Manager.
#1 A Commune in the Ivory Tower? - A New Approach to Architecture Decisions - Andrew Harmel-Law
Andrew described the inherent problems of becoming a bottleneck as an Architect, and surfaced the concept of "distributed decision making" through the advice process. What really stood out to me is what good architecture process should be in practice:
[In order for architecture to be successful] it is very much about ensuring that the conversations that needed to be happening, are happening - not always initiating them, nor always helping to focus or navigate them, but ensuring they do happen [...] and guiding when needed
TL;DR: Get advice from all affected parties before making the decision, but you are empowered to drive the discussion.
A helpful tool for this is an Achitecture Decision Record (ADR), which can be used to explore and propose, as well as document as an artifact for the future. A general format might be:
- Decision - what was agreed?
- Context - what problem we are trying to solve?
- Consequences - The accepted tradeoffs of the decisions
- Advice - input from other domain expects, impacted parties
My team had been playing with a similar approach to document historic decisions, but shifting left to have the ADR introduced in the discovery phase really clicked for me. One slight variation I'd like to make on this concept is to use of a RACI to tie in ownership, as this aligns with our company principle, also using source control (Github) to draft ADR's and co-locate them in the codebase, so they are preserved.
#2 People Building: Career Planning for your Direct Reports - Daniel Burke
Daniels charisma and enthusiasm is infectious, but what really struck me was the practical advice he imparted about his process for developing his reports. It was simple, digestible and repeatable:
- Position - where are you?
1. Know your scope - whats the context and what opportunities do they present
2. Know your level - what are the expectations for your level at your company
3. Know your performance - align your performance delta first
- Plan - where do you want to be?
1. Whats your motivation? - understand what's driving your people
2. Whats your current path - where is your trajectory taking you
3. Creating goals - create SMART goals that tie to company and personal growth metrics
- Progress - how are you doing?
Daniel also made two really powerful observations that are invaluable for anyone on their management journey:
- You are responsible for your career - getting reports aligned on this is the first step to accountability.
- Feedback is kindness - don't be afraid to give constructive criticism, it's the kindest thing you can do as a manager.
Overall the conference was a great mix of story telling, educating, and fun. If you want to learn more, check out the further reading section below.