Junior developer’s work overwritten by a WordPress site. What would you do?

Belle is new software engineer trying to do awesomeness. Manager brings in a friend who overwrites her work with a simple WordPress site. Manager is ecstatic but Belle is disappointed and hurt. What would you do, tech lead?

Here are more facts:

  • It’s a volunteer organization and nobody’s getting paid
  • Belle suggested the new site that the manager’s friend (Steve) developed but also told the manager she didn’t have time to build it
  • Nevertheless she took the time to lay the groundwork with some Github repos, Jenkins build pipelines, etc.
  • She recommended a more robust architecture with some REST APIs and other industry standard practices; Steve didn’t know what Github was
  • The WordPress site that Steve built ignored all her recommendations and when he deployed it, all her work was destroyed
  • The manager is ecstatic about the WordPress site, declares Steve a great software engineer, and worst of all tells Belle “you can learn a lot from Steve”

I documented some of the more interesting community feedback in our new Tech Lead Workshops Discussion Boards. Many of the comments recommended technical or process based solutions; some were good, some were awful imho.

But my favorite comment was something like, for any situation you can either love it, change it, or leave it. I liked that a lot because I have a feeling, based on my own experience, that what Belle is really struggling with here is she feels devalued and disrespected. She feels powerless, like clumsy beach volleyball players trampeled all over her sand castle. Giving her those three choices might let her retake some of the power.

Belle feels her technical contributions are wrapped up in her own ego which is getting trampeled by a chumy relationship between Steve and the manager. What’s significant to her is, possibly, going to come across as mundane or tedious to the manager. She probably knows that instinctively and that adds to her powerlessness.

In this situation, she may have to step up and make her choice: love it, change it, or leave it because nobody else is going to do that for her.

And it got me thinking that, if there was a tech lead in this situation, and it was you, it may be your job to protect her work and make sure she feels valued — even if the manager still thinks Steve’s the hero.

By the way, this all came from a StackExchange post that I read on the flight to the East Coast today. Thought it was super interesting, but the mods disagreed and closed the thread. I swear, they do that to all the good ones….

So maybe the actual question is not the title of the post. Maybe it’s something more like, “Hey Tech Lead, how are you going to protect your team in this situation?

What do you think? What would you do? Continue the conversation on our discussion site.

Photo by Scott from Pexels

JOIN US – Scheduled two California Tech Lead Workshop discovery conference calls for next week

Hey Tech Leads,

Wanted to let you know that I scheduled two discovery conference calls for the Tech Lead Workshops, one for Silicon Valley and one for Los Angeles.

The workshops are a lot different in spirit and format than most Meetups, so I think it makes sense to start hosting these discovery calls to (1) get people interested and (2) have people come in ready to contribute.

meetup-small-iconAlso, traffic in both the Valley and Los Angeles is notoriously horrific so a lunch time conference call seems like a great idea.

Los Angeles will be next Thursday, February 15 from 12:00 to 12:30 Pacific. RSVP for the bridge number before 10:00 a.m..

Silicon Valley will be next Friday, February 16 from 12:00 to 12:30 Pacific. RSVP for the bridge number before 10:00 a.m.

(By the way, if you’re unable to join on Meetup drop me a line and I’ll give you the bridge number.)

Talk to you then!

We had our first Tech Lead Workshops – Silicon Valley session today. This is what we talked about.

Didn’t mention it here (yet), but a few weeks ago we launched another Tech Lead Workshops Meetup in Silicon Valley. Today we had a brief noon conference call to introduce the workshops to a few of the earliest adopters.

This was the invite, in case you’re considering launching your own meetup somewhere, which I hope you are:

Traffic sucks. Before investing your time away from your family, your work, and braving traffic (or the train) to this new Meetup group, first dial into an easy lunch time conference call from wherever you are to discover what Tech Lead Workshops are, why it might be useful to you, and how to participate.

Conference bridge will be provided to RSVPs the morning of the event.

Tech Lead Workshops are unique, intimate discussions centered around open sourced case studies intended for those who want to increase their tech leadership skills. But there’s a lot more to know!

So, talk to you soon….

The following is what I presented, reproduced from my speaking notes (not necessarily what I actually said!).

What are the Tech Lead Workshops?

The idea behind the tech lead workshops is that most tech leads, at least in my experience, get thrown into the role without any training and without many good role models. While we could help alleviate the problem by writing books, blog posts (like on Tech Lead Daily!), the only way to really get good at something like leadership is to practice it.

So the Tech Lead Workshops are sessions — maybe large, maybe small — where people who want to improve tech leadership skills can do so in a safe place.

What’s the format of the workshop?

It’s a conversation, not a presentation.

The conversation is guided (but not bounded) by two things:

  1. The open source case studies, which we’ll explore a bit more later.
  2. A three-point framework for tech leadership.

The three point framework is something I’ve been working on over the past two weeks and hope to publish here soon, but it’s basically a three step process.

  1. Seek out leadership moments and help define the vision for those moments
  2. Evangelize that vision to the team
  3. Coach the team as they execute the vision

There are two ways we might run the workshops. First, if there’s a big enough attendance, you could do it the way I attempted to run our first Santa Monica session — a panel to serve as the discussion leads and (hopefully) audience participation. In retrospect, this should probably be something to strive toward — not the first step.

The second way, which is probably how I’ll run the workshops in LA and Silicon Valley in the near future, is to host intimate sessions of not more than ten people in a comfortable setting like a coffee shop, secluded space of a restaurant, or maybe a quiet bar.

The case studies and the open source tech lead workshop site

The workshop should be focused on a specific case study to neutralize the conversation and drive connections to participants’ real lives.

Ideally, workshop participants will read the case studies beforehand and come prepared (you know, like you were always prepared in school). The case studies are open sourced on techleadworkshops.org and at github.com/techleadworkshops. I hope we can get a lot of participation on this eventually.

I took the initial stab at putting up some case studies and hope to do more. However, my case studies are written from my experiences — largely with big enterprise development shops where, shall we say, the culture is rarely ideal.

So I could use your help to increase the quantity and diversity of case study options.

  1. Contribute new case studies!
  2. Improve the ones we have.
  3. Submit your ideas as issues.
  4. Improve the UI of the website.
  5. ANYTHING!

When and where to have the Meetups

I’m thinking, as I wrote up after our Los Angeles event, that evening events might not be the right way to do this. A morning coffee conversation or lunch get together might be better, especially for the smaller, more intimate format I’m planning for the near future.

I can imagine (e.g., dream) that someday we’ll be big enough that we’ll have someone like Patrick Kua or Michael Lopp come give a presentation, in which case we’ll do a more traditional Meetup-like, one-to-many lecture format. Until then, I think we might want to focus on the small, intimate sessions.

Also, if you are reading this and want to run an event at your employer, let me know. I have a sense that this could be a great way to spread the tech lead case study method forward dramatically. Ping me at me@michaelrice.com.

We closed the call with some great questions and comments.

I’m looking forward to seeing you at a Tech Lead Workshop in Silicon Valley or Los Angeles soon (well maybe after the holidays)!!!

Great conversations at the first Tech Lead Workshops!

On Wednesday night we ran our first Los Angeles Tech Lead Workshop! Here’s what happened.

riot-entranceFirst of all, we were lucky to have an amazing venue at the Riot Games campus. I showed up just after the sun down (damn you Westside traffic!) and the campus felt like I just walked into Myst. What a great setting to go with my own feelings of uncertainty, apprehension, and excitement for how to night would go.  I wish I could show you more pictures, but they’re a secretive company.

This was the first Meetup of its kind as far as I know, and going first is always uncomfortable.

Second, I was super pleased that what I intended worked. That is, the Tech Lead Workshop case studies are supposed to trigger conversations — not be the full conversation. That’s exactly what happened and we had a great back and forth discussion about lots of things, including the differences between Riot’s culture and tech lead roles and those of myself and other members of the community.

The Next Workshop

Wednesday really changed my ideas about what I think will make these workshops work. When I usually think of successful Meetups, I think size — the more people who show up, the more sponsors, the more valuable it must be.

Wednesday’s experience made me to refocus on impact and value. I never thought a Tech Lead Workshop would ever be as big as a Node meetup. Wednesday’s experience suggests it shouldn’t be. Keeping these events small and intimate is key to having valuable and impactful conversations.

I started the Tech Lead Workshop Meetup to raise awareness about the importance of tech leadership in industry, so size was something I was certainly thinking about when I set it up. Now I think keeping the events intimate encourages tech leads to feel safe and to share.

Second, I’m not really sure an evening event is the right time to host these, even though that’s basically the Meetup default setting. For example, I remember once going to a DevOps conversation for breakfast at Elabrew in Santa Monica and it was far more impactful to me than, say, a huge Angular meetup.

Finally, I think the workshops are such a new format aimed at such a small audience that I for the next few months I’m going to focus on hosting conference calls to share the purpose of the workshops. That way people can dial in, get mentally engaged, and then run an in person workshop. Stay tuned for an update on that!

Why You Should Consider Joining a Weekly Tech Lead Conference Call

I’m organizing a weekly (or monthly) private conference call for eight to twelve tech leads across companies and industries. There’s an open information session about it coming up on October 20th — please join us through Meetup or through the event RSVP page on this site! But you don’t need to wait — see below!

Why Should You Join?

Personally, I found all my tech lead and project lead roles fairly lonely and isolating, and I’m pretty sure it reduced my effectivness quite a lot. As this great HuffPo article explains:

  • usually tech leads are in their very first professional leadership position, so they have lots questions and a strong need for support;
  • it’s uncomfortable to seek support from the people you’re leading, and besides, they’re unlikely to give very useful feedback;
  • it’s uncomfortable to reach out to your managers because you might feel some of your concerns reveal weakness or incompetence, even if they don’t really; and
  • many don’t want to reach out to peers in the organization for the same reason or that there’s competition within the organization.

What Will You Do During Call?

In a nutshell, we’ll be on the line to help each other — at least once a week or once a month (whatever cadence makes sense for the group). Basically all you have to do is plan to set aside 30 or 60 minutes to dial into a conference bridge and participate in the call. During the call we’ll:

  • Discuss a specific topic, like articulating a technical vision, how to contruct the vision, dealing with vision drift, working with problematic team members, etc., etc., etc.
  • Let one person be on the “hot seat” to explain how they’re performing on their tech lead goals
  • Spend a few minutes planning for next week: elect the next topic and a let someone volunteer to be on the “hot seat”

What Are the Ground Rules?

Pretty simple, really:

  1. Absolutely no sharing, asking about, or discussing any confidential information!
  2. Come with an open mind
  3. . . . and a helpful attitude
  4. Don’t interrupt
  5. . . . and listen to everyone’s point of view carefully before voicing (or even forming) your opinion

Ready Already?

You don’t need to spend time listening in on an information session to be a part of the tech lead conference calls. We have an application form (Tech Lead Conference Call Application Form) here at Tech Lead Daily!

By the way, these conference calls are loosely inspired by Patrick Kua’s tech lead lunches idea from Talking With Tech Leads.

Join us for our first tech lead workshop – Nov. 1!

On November 1st, we’ll have our first, real, in person, tech lead workshop in Santa Monica, California!

My vision for the Tech Lead Workshops (also on Meetup) comes from my own experience, which is to say I found experience is the only way to get good at leading. There’s lots you can read about leadership, you can take classes, participate in your company’s “leadership training,” and etc. But the only way to get good is to practice on your own, watch how others approach similar problems, revise your approach, and iterate.

So the Tech Lead Workshops are a going to be a place where you can review a tough problem in a safe place with others who are learning like you. On November 1st, we’ll work through Case Study 1 together.

Hope to see you there! You can RSVP on Meetup.com or RSVP right here on techleaddaily.com.