PODCAST

StaffEng

David Noël-Romas (@davidnoelromas) and Alex Kessinger (@voidfiles)

Conversations with software engineers who have progressed beyond the career level, into Staff levels and beyond. We discuss the areas of work that set Staff-plus level engineers apart from other individual contributors; things like setting technical direction, mentorship and sponsorship, providing engineering perspective to the org, etc.Hosted by David Noël-Romas (@davidnoelromas) and Alex Kessinger (@voidfiles).

Alex Kessinger (Stitch Fix) and David Noël-Romas (Stripe)Peter Stout (Netflix)
The structures of an organization can often be self-reinforcing, and in a changing environment, this becomes a recipe for future vulnerabilities. That is why senior ICs need to play a slightly discordant role at times by alerting teams to issues conventionally outside of their bubble of concern. Peter Stout is a Technical Director at Netflix where he has a cross-functional role at the juncture of business and technology. He joins us on the show today to share some of the finer details around what inhabiting this position in the above manner looks like. We start by hearing Peter describe himself as a generalist, and share how this played out in the broad focus of his college degree as well as in his career pivot from Chemistry into Software Engineering. We discuss the rapid growth of the engineering team at Netflix, how this has led to less tightly-defined roles for junior and senior engineers, and how this factors into the way Peter approaches his place in the organization. Peter talks about the shift he made from technician to technical director and how much of the skills he learned from the former position he brings into the latter. He talks about his tendency to seek out the blank spots in the organization and how he tries to focus on a long-term vision, using that to guide him as he connects the dots between teams and influences decision making. Here Peter considers his role as a disruptor and how he gauges how much pressure to apply while still staying largely in sync. We also have a great conversation about Peter’s approach to mentorship and his philosophy around how he grew into the leadership position he occupies. Tune in today!LinksPeter Stout on LinkedInNetflixRangeThe Leadership Pipeline
Dec 14 2021
52 mins
James Cowling (Convex)
Nov 30 2021
48 mins
Bryan Berg (Stripe)Ben Ilegbodu (Stitch Fix)Ashby WinchJosh Kaderlan (Lob)Ben Edmunds (Wayfair)Nell Shamrell-Harrington (Microsoft)Rich Lafferty (PagerDuty)Mason Jones (Credit Karma)Lorin Hochstein (Netflix)Stacey Gammon (Elastic)
What works for a small company may not work for a large company, so what do you do when your organization experiences rapid growth, and the old way of doing things is no longer sustainable? In today’s episode, we speak with Stacey Gammon, a tech lead and Principal Software Engineer at Elastic. She has been with the company for almost five years and in that time has been able to observe firsthand the challenges that come with rapid growth in areas like scalability, communications, and project management. Tuning in you’ll hear Stacey break down the details of her role and how she manages teams and people. She elaborates on how Elastic is currently approaching the problem of scalability and how it is still a work in progress. We hear from Stacey about the many projects they have going on at one time and why the biggest challenge is often saying no to new projects. Later, we discuss retrospectives and why they can be a safe and effective way for teams to learn from past errors. Stacey shares the details of the formal mentorship program at Elastics and unpacks why the long-term benefits of delegating outweigh the extra time commitment it requires in the short term. Stacey shares her feelings on spending a large portion of her time in meetings and why she believes one-on-one meetings are valuable. We loved having Stacey on the show, and we’re sure you will find the conversation every bit as insightful and thought-provoking as we did! For all this and more, tune in today!LinksStacey Gammon on LinkedInKibanaElasticTanya Riley
Jul 13 2021
46 mins
Will Larson (Calm)
Please note that this episode contains brief mention of suicide.Today's guest needs no introduction! Of course, they will get one anyway:Will Larson is the CTO of Calm and has worked at Stripe, Uber, and Digg. He is also an author and has written two books, one of which is on Staff Engineering and serves as the inspiration for this podcast! In our conversation with Will, we discuss one of his earliest blog posts on a catastrophic launch at Digg and why he felt it was important to write about his experiences. We talk with Will about the expanding role of Staff Engineers and how that is affected by the rate of change in the field of startups and technology companies as a whole. Later, we explore the tracks of technical leadership and management within technology companies and the pros and cons of the pendulum model. Will shares what he’s learned about the skills needed for leadership positions and why working with a team of managers versus a team of engineers requires a completely different skillset. After that, we talk about Will’s career in writing and public speaking. We loved having Will on the show, so join us for engaging conversation spanning many topics from the potential for leadership in technology companies to the joy of writing!LinksWill Larson on LinkedInWill Larson on GithubWill Larson on AmazonIrrational ExuberanceCalmStaff Engineer: Leadership beyond the management trackAn Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering ManagementDigg's v4 launch: an optimism born of necessityHigh Output ManagementThe Engineer/Manager Pendulum
Jun 29 2021
48 mins
Mahdi Yusuf (1Password)
Today’s guest is Mahdi Yusuf, Tech Lead for the Server Architecture Team at 1Password. Our conversation is about what it means as well as what it takes to navigate the needs of the org, client, and staff in order to find the best path forward. We kick things off by hearing more about what Mahdi’s job at 1Password involves and he talks about the chief concerns and responsibilities of working on the platform code that the rest of the app is built on. Mahdi’s role specifically requires him to do a lot more than write code though, including designing projects, communicating between nodes in the org, and mentoring staff. This is a balancing act indeed and our conversation moves to focus on what it looks like to handle these tasks with equal measure. One of the biggest skills the position of Tech Lead requires for Mahdi is empathy, and he talks about how a big part of what he does involves listening to concerns and working out when it is best to make a pivot and focus on something different for the overall good. In an environment with so many different stakeholders, knowing what this is can be a huge challenge! We wrap up our conversation with Mahdi on the subject of excelling in your career, talking about what it takes to do truly good work, thinking bigger than the specific problem one is working on, and the necessity of having difficult conversations. So to hear Mahdi’s insights on creating rock-solid products while maintaining a healthy and effective team, tune in today!LinksMahdi YusufMahdi Yusuf on LinkedInMahdi Yusuf on Twitter1Password
Jun 15 2021
49 mins
Amy Unger (GitHub)Brian Lawler (Iterable)Matthew Bilotti (Twitter)Natalia Tepluhina (GitLab)Jam Leomi (Honeycomb)