SWLW #601: How might we learn, Building Engineering Strategy, and more.

A weekly newsletter by Oren Ellenbogen with the best content I found around people, culture and leadership in tech. You can also read this issue online and recommend this newsletter to your teammates for a great discussion.

Like always, sharing my best findings for the week. 

 

This Week's Favorite


How Might We Learn? (Video)
55 minutes read.

I'm an Andy Matuschak fan. Andy's approach to learning and teaching (see how he built his website) is an inspirational act by one of the most brilliant engineers and teachers I've seen. Each sentence coming out of his mouth is poetry in motion: "Learning by immersion works naturalistically when the material has a low enough complexity relative to your prior knowledge that you can successfully process it on the fly, and when natural participation routinely reinforces everything important, so that you build fluency."

Read it later via Pocket or Instapaper.
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Culture


Shipping New Code Without Writing Test
1 minute read.

My humble effort to help you start the weekend with a smile on your face.

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Who Needs a Mission or Strategy When You Can Iterate Quickly?
7 minutes read.

"Moving seamlessly and quickly between Vision and Tactics, executing well on the right things, aligning the whole company on a vision and mission that are durable enough to withstand reality as it unfolds, holding the line on where we are going but changing quickly on how we get there. This is one of the many challenges in which leaders need to excel. It only took me three companies, 25 years, and many millions of dollars burned to get a rudimentary understanding of this." -- Noam Bardin (Waze co-founder) shares his learning on VMS (vision, mission, strategy) in 3 different companies he led as a founder.

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On the Time YC Cofounder Jessica Livingston Tore Me a New One and Changed the Future Org Structure of Ramp
3 minutes read.

"Jessica pointed out that if our solution was to hire someone to deal with customer issues, then next week when we grew more we’d have to hire another person, then another, and so on. Her point was that the real solution isn’t solving tickets, it’s listening to customers and building a better product so customers never need to write in the first place. [...] Support is not a cost to minimize, it’s a key function every company should take seriously." -- Such a wonderful take for creating opportunities to build trust and empathy with your customers.

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How to Build Engineering Strategy
8 minutes read.

"Bad leaders execute, good leaders improve, and great leaders compound. Compounding is not about improvisation but a coherent set of actions in response to strategic challenges ahead. [...] A strategy is a designed response to the challenges ahead." I often see us looking at strategy as a way to solve all the problems we see, without the curiosity verifying that these are the problems with the highest impact on the business. We can create beautiful documents with all the right intent and suggestions (guiding policies and actions) while gaining very little organizational credit.

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Peopleware


Sales Is Research
3 minutes read.

This is a great mindset if you want to build a tight relationship across the company to best serve your customers: "Most would say closing deals. And they would be correct. That is the outcome they are held accountable to (and their compensation is tightly coupled to it). But take a step back and you’ll see that sales is a research function. They are literally talking to your ideal customers every day. They are getting more exposure to their lives and problems than any product manager or designer. Ignoring those conversations because they are “just sales calls” is like ignoring technical engineering conversations because they are “just about code.” How it’s built and how it’s perceived is the product. [...] This is one of the primary attributes I look for when interviewing sales leaders. How do they view their job? Do they only see the money machine? Or do they understand the value of the conversations their team is having and how that feeds into product development?"

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Why Data-Driven Product Decisions Are Hard (Sometimes Impossible)
7 minutes read.

Only now, with more than 20 years in the industry, I understand and relate so strongly to Andrew Chen's perspective: "I write all of this with the deep pains and scars of using data in almost every product decision I’ve been apart of over the past decades. Of course I will always use the data. Yet in my twenties as a feral young founder, I erred towards relying on data too much — a desire to be data-driven, at all costs. But I found that often took me to local maxima. Later on, I learned to be data-informed, still having intuition but overlaying data on top. There’s a happy medium here. But I think there is also an argument — particularly for zero-to-one situations — to just be ignorant of the quantitative data, and instead, just train on intuition. Just make decisions based on your expert qualitative opinion about the market, your customers, and your competition. And only optimize based on data later on, when it’s more appropriate."

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Nvidia CEO: “You Can’t Show Me a Task That Is Beneath Me.” Do What Is Required Not What Is Desired. (Video)
3 minutes read.

Jensen Huang's attitude is honest and contagious. Hard work is a healthy baseline before you have enough experience and intuition to know how to approach it better ("work smart") to gain efficiency and where you have leverage (your unfair advantage).

Read it later via Pocket or Instapaper.
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And finally, inspiring tweets...


@naval: The current moment is always filtered through the current thought.

@ValaAfshar: Success comes from the moment you say ‘I like this enough for other people to see it.’
 


p.s. if you're interested in joining SWLW's Slack channel, simply reply to this email and let me know. If you're leading a team, consider writing your Manager README (it's free) or getting my e-book and interviews Leading Snowflakes: The New Engineering Manager's Handbook. You can also support me by becoming a SWLW Patron. Thank you ❤️




Keep reading, keep learning.
-- Oren Ellenbogen.

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