71 episodes

SimpleLeadership specifically focuses on improving the craft of software engineering leadership. As a VP of Engineering & CTO I am acutely aware of the lack of good resources available for new and existing software engineering managers. SimpleLeadership is designed for both new and experienced software & technology managers who want to build high-performing teams, better motivate & mentor their employees, reduce attrition and advance their career. It is for people who want to go beyond just being a manager and become a true leader.
In this interview based show I ask each guest to share their journey from individual contributor to software engineering manager and provide any guidance on the transition. The SimpleLeadership Podcast will present real and actionable stories from people who have navigated their way from being an individual contributor into a software engineering manager. We will also hear from experts on specifics of team dynamics, motivation, feedback, leadership and many more aspects of being a successful engineering manager.

SimpleLeadership Podcast Christian McCarrick

    • Management
    • 5.0, 16 Ratings

SimpleLeadership specifically focuses on improving the craft of software engineering leadership. As a VP of Engineering & CTO I am acutely aware of the lack of good resources available for new and existing software engineering managers. SimpleLeadership is designed for both new and experienced software & technology managers who want to build high-performing teams, better motivate & mentor their employees, reduce attrition and advance their career. It is for people who want to go beyond just being a manager and become a true leader.
In this interview based show I ask each guest to share their journey from individual contributor to software engineering manager and provide any guidance on the transition. The SimpleLeadership Podcast will present real and actionable stories from people who have navigated their way from being an individual contributor into a software engineering manager. We will also hear from experts on specifics of team dynamics, motivation, feedback, leadership and many more aspects of being a successful engineering manager.

    Technology Leadership Begins with These Traits with Emad Georgy

    Technology Leadership Begins with These Traits with Emad Georgy

    Today’s guest—Emad Georgy—is passionate about technology leadership. He’s a CTO Consultant and the Founder and CTO of Georgy Technology Leadership. Emad has been in the tech industry for over 25 years. His hybrid approach to technology management—focusing on both the practical and cultural elements of leadership—makes Emad a trusted and valued partner helping both domestic startups and global enterprises scale and grow. 
    In this episode of Simple Leadership, we chat about what cultivating leaders looks like. Sometimes, it involves making difficult decisions for your team. You must also embrace your values and lead your team by example. Listen to learn some steps to help you grow and mature as an individual and as a leader.
    Outline of This Episode [1:24] Emad Georgy joins me in this episode [3:23] Making difficult decisions for your team [6:01] Tips for leaders starting a management position [7:49] What is the concept of leadership debt? [10:38] Traits it’s important for technology leaders to possess [14:40] Embrace the engineering mindset [18:38] Develop a deliberate “people strategy” [22:33] Embrace problems as a tech leader and CTO [25:13] How to improve your team’s customer focus [29:31] How to become a process ninja [32:56] The importance of resilience in engineering leaders [35:26] Leading through times of crisis What is the concept of leadership debt?  According to Emad, if tech leaders really want to solve the root cause of technical debt, they have to start talking about leadership debt. It’s the concept that the decisions you make as a leader results in hidden costs that build over time. 
    He points out that “It's our responsibility as technologists to bring [those decisions] to the surface, make [them] transparent, hold them and go, "Are we making decisions that enable the durability of the company and/or architecture?".
    You don’t wake up one morning and decide to rewrite your whole platform or application—the decision is based on little decisions and mistakes that occur over time. Having knowledge of how leadership debt works helps you make better decisions along the way.
    Technology leadership development begins with these traits Emad points out a key trait: embracing the concept of ownership. A leader “Must have a collective sense of responsibility—not just about his or her actions—but about the actions of their team and the organization”. It’s about leading by example. 
    You need to be problem-solvers, not problem-reporters. Emad has learned that pointing fingers only serves to create dissension among your team. It isn’t about who’s at fault, it’s about how you got there. So when something goes wrong, you step up and take ownership—then help your team find and fix the problem. 
    Emad points out that as the leader, you get to manage the company culture. He defines culture as “the stories you tell every day”. If you spend every day complaining and moaning about the work you’re doing—that’s your culture. That is your contribution to the culture. But you can easily change that. Keep listening as Emad shares some other traits and processes he believes are key to your success. 
    Technology leaders need a deliberate people strategy Emad gets frustrated when leaders claim that they’re “all about their people”, but when it comes down to it they focus less than 20% of their time on their team. He believes it is essential to apply a tangible growth path to your team. Where do you want to see the team go in a year? What will you do for the company in that time? What do you expect from each individual? Are you helping them determine their career path and managing their growth? 
    Anywhere Emad has migrated in his career, he embraces a people-first approach. He’ll spend his first couple weeks—or month, if necessary—having one-on-ones with his team

    • 40 min
    Overcoming Engineering Leadership Challenges with Farhan Thawar

    Overcoming Engineering Leadership Challenges with Farhan Thawar

    Transitioning an engineering leadership position to a work-from-home model can be a challenge. For some engineers, working remotely is the norm. For others, such as those working for Shopify, being forced to work from home because of the Coronavirus is a whole new ballgame. In this episode of Simple Leadership, Farhan Thawar joins me to chat about his transition into working from home and how Shopify has made the process manageable. We talk about the benefits of coding in pairs, whether or not managers should still code, and what he looks for when hiring engineering leaders. 
    Farhan became the VP of Engineering at Shopify after the company acquired Helpful.com, where he was co-founder and CTO. He is an avid writer and speaker and was named one of Toronto's 25 most powerful people. Farhan has held senior technical positions at Achievers, Microsoft, Celestica, and Trilogy. Farhan completed his MBA in Financial Engineering at Rotman and Computer Science/EE at Waterloo. Listen to this episode for a glimpse into his expertise.
    Outline of This Episode [1:27] It’s Farhan’s Birthday! [3:44] Is there an uptick in online shopping? [6:34] How Farhan is being impacted by COVID-19 [10:54] The concept of “Assume Positive Intent” [12:00] What got Farhan where he is today [14:43] Farhan’s transition into a leadership role [16:32] Lessons Farhan has learned from mistakes [19:04] What new managers struggle with [26:23] Implementing coding in pairs [30:23] Where should a manager write code? [36:10] What does he look for when hiring engineering leaders How Farhan has been impacted by COVID-19 Shopify sent all of their employees home to work remotely at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. They also supplied each employee $1,000 to make the transition a smooth process—for necessary equipment such as webcams, ergonomic chairs or mats, and office supplies. They knew they wanted to be proactive in protecting their team and those around them. 
    Farhan much prefers in-person communication and interaction. Since working from home, he has made a concerted effort to focus on communication that includes Google Hangouts, Zoom calls, audio, and asynchronous video—all before defaulting to text. His goal is to connect and converse with fellow employees about their lives and remember to have non-work-related conversations like they would if they were in the office. 
    How to take your management to the next level Something new managers often struggle with is whether or not they continue to code once they assume a leadership role. Should they work on company projects? Practice coding on the weekend? Farhan incorporates coding into his schedule every Thursday morning as a way to “go deeper” and stay on top of his skills. 
    Something that Shopify implements is what is called a “studio week” in which executive-level team members take a week to deep-dive into their craft to continue learning and perfect their skills. It takes their skillset to the next level, gives more context to how their team operates and helps them stay on top of the right questions to be asking their team.
    How pair programming can make a positive impact Pairing with someone is a great way to learn a new environment and language. It’s also a great way to learn something new that you’re not as familiar with. You can lend your technical expertise and architectural ideas to the team. You work to help each other stay focused and intense—and add to the intellect and velocity of the team. 
    Shopify allows their teams to set up pair programming hours—they simply open space in their schedules for others to sign up. They even supply special rooms specifically for the practice. Farhan shares that it’s set up with two monitors, two keyboards, with a long desk so you can sit and pair for a long period. Others prefer to work on pair programming in the comfort of t

    • 44 min
    How to Manage Remote Teams [and Help Them Thrive] with Dana Lawson

    How to Manage Remote Teams [and Help Them Thrive] with Dana Lawson

    If you’re in a leadership position in the engineering industry and have suddenly been thrust into working remotely, it may feel like your world has been turned upside down. In this episode of Simple Leadership, Dana Lawson and I discuss a few tips to help you manage remote teams. You want your team to thrive and be successful during a time of great uncertainty.
    Dana describes herself as an atypical engineer. She wanted to attend college to be an artist but soon realized the ‘starving artist’ lifestyle wasn’t going to cut it. She took the ASVAB test when she joined the military and scored high in engineering categories. In the last 20 years, she’s worked in every tech position possible—most recently, she is the VP of Engineering at GitHub. Listen to hear her unique story!
    Outline of This Episode [1:38] Dana Lawson: from art major to engineer [6:18] How Dana found herself in a leadership role [9:02] Mistakes Dana has learned from throughout her career [12:27] We got to eat dinner at Al Gore’s house [15:48] Tips and strategies for managing remotely [26:38] Don’t forget these aren’t just transactional relationships [30:42] How to onboard a new hire completely remotely [34:45] What happens when the process doesn’t go well? [37:04] Help remote employees advocate for themselves You have to embrace a leadership mindset Dana states that “Anybody can be a leader, it’s just how much you wanna unlock it”. She believes it’s an attribute that’s been ingrained in her personality. She’s naturally an A-Type and has never been afraid to speak her mind. In whatever capacity she was working in, she always took the initiative to move the ball forward. 
    You don’t have to have a management title to be a leader. 
    She just believes that some of us gravitate towards being a leader more than others—but that we all have the calling to lead in some way. Dana argues, “Anybody has the ability to go influence change and bring up the people around them to do great things”. 
    Tips and strategies to manage remote teams Dana shared some tips she’s learned from a managerial role:
    Write it down. Have a good practice of writing things down. Track what’s being done throughout the day. Reiterate tasks and instructions multiple times through different modes of communication whenever possible.  Form a daily structure for your team and yourself. Don’t stop the practices you already have in place because you suddenly have this new obstacle of working from home. You can still hold the same meetings, just do them virtually.  Take advantage of ALL the communication tools available to you. Slack and online chats are great, but if the conversation is going to be longer than 5 minutes, hop in a video chat (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime) or a phone call. 90% of communication is non-verbal and it’s okay to jump from chat to a call. Invest in some camera gear: This is my tip here, but get a decent webcam off of Amazon and use appropriate lighting when using Zoom or other video applications.  To keep things light-hearted—though partially serious—Dana points out that you have be on-point with your emoji game. There’s verbal communication, non-verbal, and emoji verbal. Humans have reverted to Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Oddly enough, each company has its own set of social norms with emojis—so learn quickly. 
    These aren’t just transactional relationships Don’t forget there are humans on the other side of your communication. How would you interact with someone in the office? What about pleasantries like “Hey, good morning!” or “How are you today?”. Dana points out you can ask about your team’s families, learn about their dog, and keep apprised of their life like you would in the office. 
    A distributed workforce still needs to feel like they’re part of the office family. Dana points out that you want to build

    • 48 min
    How to Implement Good Software Development Processes with Eric Elliott 

    How to Implement Good Software Development Processes with Eric Elliott 

    A management role in software development can be difficult to navigate. You need to keep a high-level perspective on projects while making sure they go smoothly. Eric Elliott, today’s guest on the show, believes that you need to implement coding quality practices such as test-driven development. In this episode, we talk about why software development processes such test-driven development makes an impact and why it’s important to remove bugs. We’ll also talk about how to train developers and keep them happy—and why it’s inherently important not to rush the process.
    Eric Elliott has been in software development for the better part of his life. He co-founded EricElliottJS.com and DevAnywhere.io, which aim to teach developers essential software development skills. He is also the author of the books, “Composing Software” and “Programming JavaScript Applications” He builds and advises development teams for crypto projects, and has contributed to software experiences for Adobe Systems, Zumba Fitness, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN, BBC, and top recording artists including Usher, Frank Ocean, Metallica, and many more. 
    Outline of This Episode [2:08] Eric’s background in software development [4:28] What’s happened in the last year? [6:17] Tangible benefits to reducing bugs on the front-end [9:34] How much time should be spent on fixing bugs? [11:43] What happens when you rush engineers? [13:35] What happens when a manager steps in [19:50] How to communicate with your leadership [25:11] What tangible things should you measure? [29:55] Top 3 things to do to improve quality of code [34:30]Measure pull requests and open bug tickets [40:49] Test-driven development (TDD) [43:50] Resources Eric recommends  What are the tangible benefits to reducing bugs? If you are able to reduce bugs on the front end, you spend less time fighting fires. According to Eric, “Fixing bugs is not work that’s delivering direct value to your customers—it’s rework”. Customers don’t look at your software and think being “bug-free” is a benefit. They just assume that it’s a given that there will be no bugs. 
    Secondly, Eric points out that you will lose customers if you produce buggy software. Struggling client retention and turnover means you’ll have to increase your marketing budget in order to attract new business. 
    It is the most expensive and time consuming part of producing software. But it is imperative to deliver a stellar product on the front end. Because, per Eric, “Every hour spent in code review saves 33 hours of maintenance”. The hardest part is understanding that this process takes time and cannot be rushed, but it is well worth it in the end. 
    What happens when you try to rush your engineers? Those in leadership positions often have to deal with pressure from higher-ups to rush a project or push a timeline. This is the worst thing that could happen, and you’ll start to see significant negative results of rushing your developers. 
    Eric points out that bugs will pile up, testing will get skipped, and communication will suffer. Your team will feel like they don’t have adequate time to mentor each other, and knowledge sharing is left behind. Productivity levels will plummet. 
    Even worse, your developers can reach the point of burnout—with effects that can be long-lasting. The Japanese struggle with a culture of over-working to the point that they have a coined term for people who die because of overworking—”Karoshi”. While this is an extreme example, it’s something you want to steer clear of. Pushing your team to rush will bring to fruition the opposite of what you intend. 
    What is your role as a manager/leader? Eric uses a manufacturing analogy to drive this point home:
    “ There's a floor manager who is usually perched up high above a factory floor so they can see everything ha

    • 48 min
    Follow These Steps to Combat Loneliness in Leadership with Suzan Bond

    Follow These Steps to Combat Loneliness in Leadership with Suzan Bond

    If you are transitioning into an executive or leadership role in an organization, you can find yourself dealing with incredible loneliness. You also deal with a change in power dynamics, gaps in information, and a lack of support systems. It is difficult to prepare for the change from “getting work done” to being an “influencer”. As a former COO, today’s guest, Suzan Bond, understands the struggle of the transition. She joins me today to share some ways you can combat loneliness and ease the transition. 
    ​​Suzan is an executive coach and organizational strategist who has spent over a decade in technology. She's a regular contributor to Fast Company where she writes for the Work-Life section—covering leadership, personal effectiveness, and productivity. She has an educational background in psychology, organizational behavior, and community organizing. She received her coach certification from the Coaches Training Institute. 
    Outline of This Episode [1:49] Suzan Bond’s background in technology and coaching [4:18] The mistakes Suzan sees in transition into management [6:59] Tips for moving from managers to executives [8:05] Dealing with loneliness in engineering leadership  [12:05] The concept of solitude versus loneliness [13:50] Gaps in information can exacerbate loneliness [17:05] Strategies for building trust with your company [19:26] Navigating the change in power dynamics [23:33] How to show vulnerability while projecting confidence [25:42] Having a morning ritual [27:32] How can leaders build support networks? [34:30] The specific challenges of being a technical executive [37:40] Learn to view your role as a transition [41:53] Connect with Suzan The difficulty of a transition into leadership Suzan points out that many managers and leaders aren’t prepared for the transition into an executive role. They go from deriving their value from the work they’re able to complete and suddenly have no direct impact. Instead, they must learn how to influence others, essentially working through other people. This process can lead to a struggle, a feeling of a loss of control or perceived power as they’re pushed outside of their comfort zone. 
    Suzan believes that you must acknowledge that you are making a significant transition—and you cannot underestimate the mindset shift you must make. On a basic level, you may be gaining autonomy or a pay raise. But you’ll also likely deal with long hours and significant demands on your time. You will be changing how you operate on many levels and must be mentally prepared. 
    ‘Gaps in Information’ and the connection to loneliness Our culture has made a large shift towards being transparent and open about everything from how money is spent to sharing how much executives in a company make. But finding the right balance of transparency is a delicate balance—and often keeps leaders up at night. They question themselves: “Am I being open enough? Am I giving enough context”?
    On a more complex level, they may desire transparency but be unable to give it due to legal issues or simply protecting employee privacy. Leaders are often criticized and misunderstood because they cannot share all of the reasons behind the changes they implement. It leads to a feeling of awkwardness as a leader. 
    People think you’re incompetent or label you as uncaring—and you simply can’t defend yourself. Whatever the reason, there are times you can’t share all of the information you have. All of this can exacerbate the loneliness you feel. To overcome this dichotomy, you must rely heavily on building a foundation of trust with your team.
    The interplay between trust, vulnerability, and confidence As a leader, you have to actively work to build trust so when there are times you have to fall back on “trust me”—they do. It must be prioritized above “proving yourself”

    • 43 min
    How to Manage Efficiently Through a Merger or Acquisition with Loïc Houssier

    How to Manage Efficiently Through a Merger or Acquisition with Loïc Houssier

    Effectively leading a team through an acquisition or merger can be shaky ground to navigate. You aren’t just dealing with merging teams, tech stack, and processes—but also a culture. Your team needs leadership that is open, honest, and transparent about the process. If your company is going through a merger or acquisition and you want to arm yourself with some tools to manage your team efficiently through the process, learn from the expertise of today’s guest, Loïc Houssier. In this episode of Simple Leadership, Loïc and I discuss what he’s learned about leadership, what his mistakes have taught him, and how he managed his team through multiple mergers.
    With a background in Mathematics and Cryptography, Loic launched his career as a security researcher in France. As his career evolved, he took on management roles in Software Engineering—focusing on Critical Infrastructure of European Administrations—for Orange, Thales, and Naval Group. He joined a startup, OpenTrust, to help with its growth and organize the teams and eventually became the CTO. Loïc joined DocuSign via the acquisition of OpenTrust 4 years ago and is now the VP of Engineering and based in San Francisco. His role is leading the Docusign effort on Mobile, eCommerce and Billing systems.
    Outline of This Episode [2:42] Loïc’s background in the industry [8:24] Using non-technical skills to influence [12:22] Assign the right task to the right people [16:13] Focus on priorities and don’t micro-manage [20:30] Leading your team through a merger [26:35] Dealing with after-merge changes [30:55] Efficiently scaling engineering teams [35:35] Introducing measurement and metrics [40:33] Books Loïc recommends Operating in different industries help you become a better leader With Loïc’s background as a research engineer in the field of security, he was used to being the voice of expertise in a room. As he moved through different organizations and moved into managerial roles, he worked in areas where he was not the technical expert. It was an eye-opening experience for him. Loïc had to learn to put his ego aside and find other ways to get his teams to listen to him.
    PerLoïc, “You don’t have to be the best technical person in the room to make a decision”. 
    Armed with the knowledge that he wasn’t always going to be the expert, he sought to find ways to learn to listen to his team. Even without the technical knowledge, he could help solve their problems and make decisions. Loïc encourages you to try something completely different than your area of expertise for the humbling experience—and learning lessons—you’ll get. The higher up you move the more you have to rely on your non-technical skills to influence, communicate and get things done. 
    Mistakes can be a catalyst for growth When you take on a management role you quickly learn that everyone is gifted differently. Some people, like Loïc, are more outspoken and on-task go-getters. Other people can be quiet and painstakingly detail-oriented. Loïc experienced this firsthand with a team he was assigned to for a government project. He assigned a team-member a task that he expected to take a couple of days. But it took almost 4 weeks for him to submit the requested document—after being asked for it multiple times.
    Loïc went to his superior, fuming, stating there’s no way he could continue to work with someone who wasted his time. After explaining the situation to his boss, his manager flat-out told him that the mistake was his. He had assigned the wrong task to the wrong person. Loïc learned that as a manager, his role was “Not to change people, but to understand how people are efficient in their own way and give them the work where they will be successful.'' 
    The team member that he struggled to understand? Loïc placed him in a role that was a much better fit—managing co

    • 45 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
16 Ratings

16 Ratings

HenryLopez@TheHowOfBusiness ,

Great Show

Great content and interviews. I particularly enjoyed the episode with Liam, in preparation for interviewing him on my podcast. Great questions! Keep it up.

gamell12348274 ,

Very useful for new managers...

...and people interested in tech leadership. Christian touches upon all the important and interesting subjects.

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