Newsletter #23: How to Start a Tech Initiative in Your Company and more
This month's newsletter includes tips on starting a tech initiative that stretches beyond a single team, as well as links to my best discoveries from the previous month.
I hope you had a great start to the year 2022.
How to Start a Tech Initiative in Your Company
So, recently, a tech lead asked me:
How do I start a new tech initiative that goes beyond my team?
Often engineers see a growing pain in an organization that's not prioritized. Sometimes it's a pain that no one pays attention to. One example is a pain from a lack of common standards on how APIs are designed and built across teams. Pain points like this have one thing in common: it affects many teams, and no single team handles it.
Some tech organizations have a team dedicated to such pains. Some companies call this team developer experience, platform or developer enablement team, and so on.
If your company does not have a team addressing these pains, there is an opportunity for you to maximize your impact, and you should seize it.
You can start by driving such an initiative. It's one way to become a more influential engineer.
So, how do you drive a new tech initiative that goes beyond your team?
First, describe the problem. Write a pager document on the problem. If you're having trouble describing the problem, it's a sign that it'll be difficult to drive. Watch out! it might not even be a problem at all.
Find out if others experience the pain point as you. The quickest way to have supporters and allies is to know that others experience the same pain point as you. Interview others and ask them if they have the same problem as you.
Propose a solution and what to do to fix the problem in the same document where you discuss the problem. You should also be able to describe the expected outcomes once the problem is solved. This is the desired state once the proposed solution has solved the problem.
Share the document with the proposed solution with the folks you interviewed earlier. The goal is to get earlier feedback from a smaller group of people before sharing it with a wider audience.
Once you reach an acceptable and refined solution, share it with relevant people and engineers who will be affected or benefit from the initiative. Use it as an opportunity to get feedback and gain allies or supporters.
Break down the solution into key milestones. What tasks must be completed to get it done? Who are the teams or individuals involved in providing the solution?. You can include folks who have expressed an interest in solving the problem.
By now, you have a refined and comprehensive plan that you can use to discuss with your managers to get buy-in and resources.
Identify stakeholders and folks who need to be informed about the initiative's progress and status.
Create a channel for stakeholders and allies to stay updated on progress. It might be a Slack channel, a mailing list, or email newsletters.
Commit and start execution.
My Top Discoveries Last Month
Facebook Marketplace is the second-largest marketplace in terms of monthly active users just behind only Amazon. What is interesting is how the Facebook Marketplace got to where it's today in just a few years. This long article describes how Facebook Marketplace started from inception to making it work. If you're leading a team building a new feature or a product, there are learnings for you in this post.
If you're a manager in a low-performing team or inherited a low-performing team, one issue you may have to address is getting them out of a rut. Camille Fournier, the author of The Manager's Path, offers some advice on how to get a team out of a rut. The key learning here is when you find yourself in a rut, remember that you don’t have to solve the root cause of everything wrong with the team as a first act. Start with the little problems. Give the team some small wins, clarity, and focus.
The first version of Etsy's machine learning platform was designed to serve a small team. It became a bottleneck as the team grew. This post outlines how Etsy revamped its ML platform, resulting in increased productivity and a 50% reduction in time from ideation to live. This post contains learnings from Esty's approach from problem discovery to the rollout phase that you may find valuable.
The Team Topologies framework is used most often to organize software development teams in technology companies. This post provides a great example of how the Adhoc team applied the same framework to build loosely coupled and highly aligned leadership teams.
Leading a software team is a creative role. As a leader, our aim is to hire great engineers who can solve complex problems. Hiring great engineers is just the beginning, we also need to craft culture and practices that empower engineers and decentralize decision making. You’ll find 10 techniques you can leverage to empower software teams.
Helping engineers see the big picture is one of the best investments a software leader can make. Helping them see beyond the code they write, to understand that the code they write is only a small part of the larger picture of developing a profitable business. In this post, Honeycomb’s CTO, @mipsytipsy, describes how they built a culture and hired engineers who were not just were interested in how the business worked was one of the best decisions they made.