James Cowling (Convex)

StaffEng

Nov 30 2021 • 48 mins

Often the biggest impacts a Staff Engineer can make in their organization are not technical but rather people-related. When teams are value-aligned due to good leadership, they go on to make larger impacts than they would otherwise have. As Senior Principal Engineer at Dropbox for almost a decade, James Cowling learned a lot about how people think and work together, and he joins us today to share some of his insights. Joining this conversation, listeners will hear about James’ experience at the helm of numerous high stakes projects at Dropbox, such as migrating the company off Amazon S3 by building their own distributed storage system. For James, the main job of a tech lead is getting their team to have a firm grasp of the why behind a project, and to become completely values-aligned as a result. James takes us through his approach to diagnosing struggles within teams and how he helps groups to step back and course correct by drilling down on their purpose within the larger organization. We talk about the strong culture that gets built as a result of this approach and the power it has to keep teams robust. In today’s conversation, James also gets into how Staff Engineers themselves can stay in tune with the larger company, the single most important quality to nurture in Software Engineers who hope to grow into leadership positions, and a whole lot more.

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