Book Review

Book Review. The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders by Camille Fournier

There are 27 million Software Developers world wide according recent estimations. If we will take average span of control as 10, we will get roughly 2,5 million Engineering Managers. That is an impressive number. But who are those people?

While it is clear what a Software Developer should do well (write good quality code), it is not that straightforward what set of skills an Engineering Manager should have. Or how career path from a Developer to a Manager may look like in tech companies today. Of course, every mid- or large size organization has a blueprint that describe career ladder and number of job descriptions for Engineering organization. But it does not help a lot in practice.

The book outlines a path from Software Developer to a VP of Engineering/CTO in today’s IT world. It describes all intermediate states – Technical Lead, Engineering Manager, Manager of managers and etc in a very structured way. It starts from very basic fundamental knowledge and takes a reader to more complicated topics, like organizational culture, stakeholders management and etc.

If you are a manager today, this book most probably will not give you a lot of insights. But if you are in the beginning of your career and looking for a management position, it will be definitely useful. The book indeed gives a path that is almost the same in every enterprise that has an Engineering organization.

The author spends a lot of time explaining technical leads/senior engineer role in a team. IMHO, this role is underestimated in a lot of companies and the book has ready to implement guidelines.

Overall score – 4 out of 5. I can recommend this book to folks in the beginning of a career in Engineering organizations or Senior Engineers who would like to make a step to a management role.

Write in comments – how a good manager should look like?

Check out my other book reviews.


How to concentrate

How to Concentrate in the World of Distractions?

Time is a limited resource. It is the only resource we cannot reproduce. If we want to achieve more then we need to increase productivity. Individual productivity depends on how well a person can concentrate and manage distractions.

And our world is full of distractions (surprise!). Everything competes for our attention all the time. Ads, social media, Slack messages, emails. The list is infinite. The world is not going to change (in fact, it is going to be worse over the time). So, we have to adopt to stay focused and keep a steady course to our goals.

There are different opinions on what is happening with human attention span and how digitalization affects it. Some researchers are saying it decreases, others disagree with that. However, the trend to short everything from entertainment content (TikTok videos and Instagram stories) to educational content (“bite-sized” lessons 3-5 minutes each) is clear.

This article is a summary of mechanisms and habits how to manage distractions and improve concentration skills. Some of them I already adopted, others are in the backlog or in progress. I cannot guarantee they will work for you, so feel free to modify them to fit your personality and lifestyle. The mechanisms are not in the priority order and you can start to adopt any of them in any point of time.

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Book Review. Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas

I was always astonished how group of people can form an organization that successfully solves highly complex, highly ambiguous challenges and innovates. The organization can continue to produce great products or solutions for a long period of time. But at some point something breaks. Same individuals change their decision making process and instead of nurturing crazy ideas, they start to bury them.

Why it is like that? What is the root cause? Definitely, organization structure has something to do with that. But what else impacts human behaviour in a group?

Those are some of questions that the book is trying to answer. The author uses phase transition theory to explain sudden change in group behaviour. He also proves that individual behaviour has much less impact than organization structure. More is different is one of the key points of the book.

There are a lot of interesting ideas around how balance can be achieved between “artists” and “soldiers” in organization. How to manage transition of innovative ideas from prototype to stable product? This is a classical problem it IT, based on my personal experience. Too many great ideas too often never made it to implementation. So, the book provides a blueprint how to overcome this.

I really enjoyed chapters where the author applied scientific method to solve the challenge every organization is trying to solve – “Where does an employee invest last working hour of the day? Will he or she try to add value to assigned projects or spend time on building networking and internal politics?” This equation includes multiple variables – span of control, equity fraction and many others.

The author distinguishes two types of innovation – product (P-type) and strategy (S-type). In short, if a company concentrates only on “the latest and greatest” products, it can stuck in the vicious cycle. It will concentrate only on “faster and bigger” features, even there is no market for it. This what book calls “Moses Trap”.

The book is also great source of stories about how innovation products and companies were born. There are examples from almost all industries – aviation, photography, IT, pharmaceutical and etc. So, if you are collecting and memorizing stories like I do, this book has a nice pack of them.

Overall, great book – 5 out of 5. I recommend to read it together with other books about innovation. Check out my reviews here and here.


FailProject: 5 Key Mistakes in Communication with Management

I have participated as a speaker at FailProject workshop.

We spoke about key mistakes in communication with management, how to avoid them and what instruments exist to build successful communication with your manager.

Recording of the workshop is available here or here.


7 Best AWS Whitepapers and Guides for Enterprise

This post is a first of its kind. It is a summary of my recent thoughts about AWS Cloud as a system and how to manage it. More insights will follow.

Disclaimer: This post is on my own and doesn’t necessarily represent Amazon Web Services’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Let’s imagine you are an employee of a medium or large size enterprise. Let’s imagine the enterprise is investing in Cloud services. Some teams are moving their workloads to Cloud, some are not doing it yet, but senior management is convinced that company’s IT future will be going hand in hand with Cloud technologies.

A number of accounts is growing and management made a decision to establish centralized Cloud governance and create… Let’s call it Cloud Infrastructure Management team. And you are member of this team. Your task is to create a scalable and robust mechanisms to perform administrative and management tasks of your Cloud infrastructure.

So, where do you start?

The list of AWS Whitepapers and Guides below will help you to build a foundation of theoretical knowledge and practical advices. It is far from complete and covers only tiny percentage of publicly available AWS documentation.

  1. Assess where the company in stages of Cloud adoption is and familiarize yourself with AWS Cloud Adoption Framework. To create any route you need to know where you are. The same applies for an organization that going through technological transformation and adopting Cloud.
  2. A corner stone of Cloud governance system is you and your team. Read about Cloud Enablement Engine team, how to structure it, what responsibilities does it have and a lot more. Use this whitepaper as a prescriptive guidance for organizational and technological improvements.
  3. Learn about how to organize your AWS Cloud environment. This monumental whitepaper will explain you how to create most efficient AWS Organizations structure, transform your multiple isolated accounts into secure and reliable system with hierarchy and OUs (Organizational Units). It will take time to build it, so be patient.
  4. Read about AWS Share Responsibility Model and deliver this knowledge to everybody in your organization who build applications on top of AWS Services.
  5. Make sure you build your AWS environment with Cost Optimization in my mind. This whitepaper will teach you what are key Cost Optimization pillars, introduce you Cloud Financial Management theory and tools you will use for Cloud costs analysis and forecasting
  6. Start to investigate how to architect applications in the cloud. You will use AWS Well-Architected Framework on every stages of application lifecycle – development, deployment and operations.
  7. And last but not least – ramp up your or other team members with Cloud knowledge. This collection of AWS Ramp-up Guides will be a starting point for lifting up AWS competence and help your organization to be successful in Cloud.

Education is a never ending process and much more excellent AWS Whitepapers and Guides are available for you.

What is your list of best materials about Cloud? Share your thoughts and suggestions in comments section!


Book Review: The Elements of Style by William Strunk

Humanity is a civilization of text. More precise – civilization of text written in English language. Good it or bad is another debate. The fact is 1 billion people use English as second language.

I have studied language at school and university. But education system was focusing more on speaking and reading skills than on writing skills. So, I never had opportunity to learn proper English writing style.

The more I progress in professional life, the more I see importance of writing. The greatest Zoom/Chime/Teams call will not have progress if minutes of meeting is not clear for participants. You cannot transfer context of a problem without clear definition what is the problem. Plus dozens of other examples – emails, feature requests, account plans and etc.

Amazon takes writing very serious. Narrative is one of the corner-stones of Amazon culture. Text does not rely on person presentation skills. Text allows to break borders of PowerPoint slide and transfer full context from a writer to readers. Well written text does not leave space for misinterpretation and confusion.

The Elements of Style is 100 year bestseller that teaches how to write in plain and clear English. The book has prescriptive guidance about punctuation, syntaxis and style. It also uses easy to comprehend examples of a good and bad style. It is short – around 100 pages.

Some of rules and examples were so subtle that I was unable to feel a difference between good and bad. Both examples were good enough for my non-native speaker eye 🙂

A lot of daily communication has moved to instant messengers, like Slack. IM communication is shorter, more frequent and has lower bar for writing skills. But average attention span time has drastically reduced over last decade. So, a writer should very concise and clear to make people read a text. And it requires practicing and skill development.

I highly recommend this book for every person who uses English language for professional communication.


Inside-out Products: A Trap for Product Manager

Let’s imagine a mid-size IT company. It was founded around a decade ago by group of smart engineers who are probably still around as executives.

Back in early days, the company built a highly successful and innovative product. The product allowed quickly expand worldwide, made company profitable and created foundation of today’s success.

A decade later, the company is not a start up any longer. Some processes are around, engineering is busy adding new features, marketing is creating nice slide decks and sales are sweating to deliver their quotas.

Everything looks great. But market became more competitive, customers are more demanding today than a year before and YoY growth is not that impressive as it used to be. The company wants continue to grow and it needs new products in portfolio that will rock the market.

What is inside-out product?

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Prioritize Customer’s Requests Efficiently – Part 3: Decisions

In the previous parts we have done the heavy lifting – got clarity and came to conclusions. In the third and last part we are going to discuss practical prioritization mechanisms and tools. We will also touch sensitive topic how to communicate changes in priorities.

Let’s assume that you have list of clear customers’ requests. You can articulate why they are important and what is the actual need behind the request. They may look like equally important, but they are not. When everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.

We need to introduce additional dimension(s) and rank items from our list according them. It is not a rocket science and plenty of tools are available for that. So, here we will touch only tiny percentage of them.

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Book Review: The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

I have started new job in September 2020 – after 6 months in a “working-from-home” mode. Some of the questions I was asking myself after signing new contract were:

“Will I be able to connect with my new peers, my manager and feel myself part of the team?”

“How can I connect with company’s culture without meeting people physically?”

These questions are extremely relevant in the modern society. We are becoming more and more lonely, while becoming more and more digitally connected. Paradox. Check out this 30 year vision from SoftBank for more insights on that. It was created in 2010 and their predictions are pretty accurate so far.

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