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The Leadership Garden Newsletter – #53

The Leadership Garden Newsletter – #53

Hello friend, I’m Csaba from Leadership Garden, and this is a weekly list of interesting articles that I come across that help me grow my thinking.

I hope you find something new to think about and share it with your friends.

And, if you forgot, this is in your inbox because you asked me to send it to you. You can always unsubscribe by clicking the link at the bottom of this email.


Growth stages of companies and products.

  • 💡 Kent Beck's 3X framework explains growth stages of companies or products: Explore, Expand, and Extract.
  • 💡 Simon Wardley's PST framework categorizes growth stages as Pioneer, Settler, and Town Planner.
  • 💡 Peter Thiel's zero to one (0 -> 1) framework encompasses three phases: 0->1, 1->n, and post-scaling.
  • 💡 Identifying the growth stage of a product or company can help develop a strategy for that stage.
  • 💡 Knowing one's best-fit growth stage can aid in finding the perfect role in a company.
  • 💡 The challenges and focus areas vary across different growth stages (e.g., scaling, cost-cutting, marketing).
  • 💡 Consider reading “Turning the Flywheel” by Jim Collins for more frameworks on growth and management.

On Becoming a VP of Engineering, Part 2: Doing the Job

Ever wondered what a VP role looks like in practice?

  • ✨ Alignment at the executive level is crucial for a VP of Engineering, ensuring shared goals and priorities for the company's future.
  • 📅 As a VP, daily tasks include attending meetings with executives and directors, creating and implementing strategies, and addressing team concerns.
  • 🛠️ Avoid scrappy heroics as a VP, as they can work against the team and create hidden process debt.
  • 💰 Compensation for a startup VP of Engineering may not be as lucrative as larger companies, but it can still be rewarding.
  • 🚦 Leave slack time to handle unexpected situations and to replenish emotional energy needed for strategic thinking and leadership.
  • 👥 Being a VP changes how you're perceived, and it's important to express emotions at work to motivate and appreciate your team's efforts.
  • 👩‍💼 Unlearn behaviors from previous roles and assertively address issues as a VP, as what you tolerate sets the standard for the entire team.
  • 🎯 Focus is essential for a VP, saying no to distractions and prioritizing the company's key goals to make strategy effective

Oh, and don't miss part 1: On Becoming a VP of Engineering, Part 1: The Path to VP

How platform teams get stuff done

Platform teams have a unique reliance on other teams to ensure adoption of their platform - getting code changes into other teams' codebase is critical to their success. There are a variety of patterns for that cross-team collaboration, and selecting the right ones depends on both the phase of platform adoption and the ability of both teams and codebases to accept external influence.

  • 🚀 Three main collaboration phases for platform teams: Platform Migration, Platform Consumption, and Platform Evolution.
  • 🔄 Platform Migration: Platform team drives changes in product teams' codebases to switch to new platform capabilities.
    • Product teams may not be motivated to make these changes themselves.
    • Collaboration patterns: Farm out the work (slow, less prioritized) or Platform team does the work (faster, aligned incentives).
  • 🏭 Platform Consumption: Product teams use platform capabilities in their day-to-day work.
    • They may need support from the platform team, especially if the platform is not fully self-service.
    • Collaboration patterns: Professional services (platform team does the work), White-glove onboarding (intensive support), Community of practice (consultative role).
    • Hands-on support is necessary early on but should transition to self-service as the platform matures.
  • 🔧 Platform Evolution: Product teams need changes in the platform to fill gaps in its capabilities.
    • Collaboration patterns: File a ticket (can be slow), Move engineers to the work (temporary re-assignments), Work on the platform from afar (Internal Open Source, if platform is mature enough).
    • Transition from highly collaborative to more self-service as the platform matures, minimizing cognitive load on consuming teams.
  • 💼 Successful collaboration requires considering the type of platform work, the maturity of both teams, and clear communication about support models.

Being a good mentor – a developer's guide

You may be wondering, “Isn't mentoring just another buzzword tossed around in the corporate world?” Here's the thing — it is, and it isn’t. Mentoring is an integral part of personal and professional growth, both for the mentor and the mentee. In my opinion, it's the secret sauce that differentiates successful teams and individuals from the rest.

  • 🎯 Being a good mentor is about guiding and supporting developers in their career path.
  • 🦎 Successful mentorship requires adaptability to different individuals' learning styles and experiences.
  • 📝 Decode their learning style to tailor your mentoring approach accordingly.
  • 💪 Understand their technical strengths and weaknesses for personalized sessions.
  • 🤝 Consider the context to address specific challenges effectively.
  • 📚 Stay updated with industry trends for valuable insights.
  • 🙌 Mentorship is about providing timely guidance, not a rigid curriculum.
  • 🚀 Mentorship requires patience, empathy, and focus on the mentee's growth.
  • 🚫 Avoid condescension; uplift the mentee.

How Google Measures and Manages Tech Debt

Over the past several years, Google made a deliberate effort to better manage technical debt. Of course, managing technical debt is difficult without being able to define or measure it. This paper describes Google’s approach to defining and measuring technical debt, along with their efforts to manage it.

  • 📚 Google made a deliberate effort to manage technical debt after observing hindrances reported in their engineering satisfaction survey.
  • 🏭 Google defines technical debt by interviewing subject-matter experts and incorporates insights into their quarterly engineering survey.
  • 📋 The researchers identified 10 categories of technical debt, from migrations to code degradation, based on survey responses.
  • 📊 Google uses quarterly engineering surveys to measure the rate at which engineers encounter and are hindered by each type of technical debt.
  • 📉 The researchers explored 117 metrics, but couldn't find leading indicators of technical debt in log data.
  • 💼 A coalition was formed at Google to address technical debt systematically, using a technical debt management framework and maturity model.
  • 🎓 Google provides instruction, self-guided courses, and technical talks to promote best practices for managing technical debt.
  • 🛠️ Google developed tooling to support the identification and management of technical debt, aiding teams to track their progress.
  • 📉 The efforts led to a significant reduction in technical debt, with a majority of Google engineers reporting slight or no hindrance from technical debt.
  • 🏆 The paper provides a process for leaders to improve team productivity by understanding and addressing technical debt effectively.

The Underground Economy Of Company Reviews

Online company reviews are high stakes.

Top reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Google can get thousands of impressions each month and are major drivers of brand perception.

Employers know this. And when I come across multiple 5 star reviews left with no cons, or a Pulitzer worthy essay from a former intern, I become suspicious.

  • 💸 There exists an underground economy of company reviews, where some companies pay freelancers to remove negative reviews or solicit fake positive reviews.
  • 🧐 The prices for adding fake reviews or removing reviews vary significantly, with freelancers offering lower costs compared to online reputation management agencies.
  • 📈 To maintain authenticity, fake reviewers space out their reviews, use different IP addresses, and avoid leaving the “cons” section blank.
  • 🤖 Automated tools like ReviewMeta can help identify suspicious patterns in reviews, such as a large influx of positive reviews at the same time.
  • 🎯 Companies may strategically inflate their reviews before award evaluations, taking advantage of Goodhart's Law, which states that when a measure becomes a target, it loses its effectiveness.
  • 👥 HR leaders and companies may be incentivized to boost metrics rather than prioritize honest feedback, contributing to the underground economy of company reviews.

💡 Bonus – a useful/fun website to try this week


Create Notion-style avatars. If you need a new profile pic for your socials, and you want to avoid the AI-enhanced headshot services, this free service is a great choice. Hat tip to creator Wilmer Terrero

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