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Programming Leadership

Programming Leadership

Author: Marcus Blankenship

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A podcast to help great coders become skilled leaders, and build happy, high-performing software teams.
36 Episodes
On this episode of Programming Leadership, Marcus and his guest, Amitai Schleier, discuss a new project Amitai is working on regarding reviving an old, but useful, open-source program called qmail. Strategy and collaboration on this project as well as how to manage a project of this nature are discussed.    Show Notes The ‘old’ project is called notqmail. @1:10  Last stable release was in 1998 then it was abandoned. @2:45  Elders decided to make some changes in 2007 and called it notqmail. @3:49  Amitai decided to revive this old C code. @7:16  He wanted to join together the other people still running with qmail or netqmail and collaborate to make the best modern version possible. @10:24  The best advice was to take everyone's add-ons and then his own and let the users decide which to implement to avoid egos. @14:04  Collaboration depends on the properties of the code being worked on. @16:51  Amitai put together individual persuasive invitations to get people to join his team. @24:19    Links:
To be a modern manager, you must manage yourself first. In this episode of Programming Leadership, Marcus and his guest, Johanna Rothman discuss how you must learn to manage yourself to be effective at managing other people. They will discuss some common mistakes managers make and some important values to instill in yourself that will make you a better manager, such as integrity, vulnerability, and congruence.     Show Notes If we don't manage ourselves, we don't have the capability of managing other people. @2:42 Micromanagement comes from fear and that fear is out of incongruence. @3:07 Blame cuts off options and relationships. @8:25 Admitting you're afraid and need help and being vulnerable is a sign of strength not a weakness. @13:48 Take small steps in building trust. @15:28 Value-based integrity consists of these 5 values: honesty, fairness, consistency, taking responsibility, and treating people with respect. @18:43 Self-awareness is difficult, but often is as simple as asking people. @25:14 ROTI (Returned on Time Invested) method for a meeting @27:29 A challenge for technical managers is actually knowing how to do the work very well. @30:14 Take control of your schedule to deal with the time pressure. @36:21   Links:
Are you a resilient manager? Do you want to become one? In this episode of Programming Leadership, Marcus and his guest, Lara Hogan discuss what it means to be a resilient manager. She will discuss some effective management skills and thought processes. She will also introduce us to the idea of the manager Voltron.    Show Notes  New manager care packages @1:00​ Becoming a manager is scary for different reasons for everybody. @5:10  Management skills are the same across the board. @9:15 At every stage of management, you start over with the same new feelings, new fears, and lack of internal barometer of success. @12:06 It's okay to get comfortable and confident in what you know, but remember you're going to encounter new things. @14:01 Build out your manager crew of support, a manager Voltron. @15:19 Your Voltron should include people inside your company and people outside your company. @20:13 Manager dens- where you can experience coaching, mentoring, and a safe space, Vegas rules session. @23:57 Mentoring is sharing advice and perspective; coaching is helping someone come to their own conclusions. @25:56 Coaching is what helps people grow. @26:26 What are you optimizing for? @30:24 Resilient management has to do with making sure your bucket of energy is healthy. @35:01 When thinking about being cut out for management, it's about given the context, responsibility, and people you work with, does this work for you? @36:52 Showing is better than telling. @39:41   Links: @Lara_hogan  Wherewithall Wherewithall's Instagram 
​Are you compassionate? In this episode of Programming Leadership, Marcus and his guest, April Wensel discuss compassion in technology and how it affects people. April shares how to become more compassionate as individuals and how we can bring more compassion into our organizations. Dive in to learn about a more compassionate future.   Show Notes Compassion is about reducing suffering. @1:09​ Compassion is what's missing in technology. @1:22 Emotional intelligence ties into compassion. @4:36 We're all hardwired for cruelty and compassion- it's our choice which we choose as humans. @5:44 Everyone has the potential to practice compassion in daily life. @6:25 To practice compassion, you must have empathy. @7:48 Curiosity and inquiry are risks worth taking to show compassion. @8:23 The four pillars of being a compassionate coder are compassion with yourself, with your coding and non-coding coworkers, with users, and with society. @11:58 Organizations contribute to keeping uncompassionate patterns in place (higher pay and special treatment for coders for example). @18:01 Everybody has the capacity to develop compassion; it's about how we direct our energy, time, and effort. @21:29 Pausing, or taking a beat, to think is often the beginning of compassion. @25:20 You need to operate at human speeds rather than machine speeds to be compassionate. @26:53 Environments and working culture need to change in order to allow more compassion. @27:28 Burnout is an indicator that there's been a lack of compassion somewhere in the organization. @27:48 Compassion  is important in all relationships, especially with power dynamics. @28:53 Open up to build relationships and communicate to learn what others are thinking and actually going through, instead of making snap judgments. @32:48 Links: Sponsor: Website: April’s Twitter: @AprilWensel  Compassionate Coding Twitter: @CompassionCode
​In this episode of Programming Leadership, Marcus and his guest, Camille Fournier discuss some points from her book, The Manager's Path. They discuss the importance of time management and how to effectively manage employee turnover in a leadership role.    Show Notes A day in the life of a manager varies, but it is a lot of meetings. @3:58​ As a manager, you have to be on for all the hours you are in. @5:07 It's important to make time for your "thinking time." @7:14 The big problems are the intersection of technology and people. @10:24 You need a strategy to keep your team focused on the important things. @12:07 Learn how to balance a team's time between basic maintenance work and new things. @14:09 Different managers track time and work in different ways. @19:06 Look for disengagement as a sign that someone is fixing to leave. @20:37 When you notice a difference in a team member's engagement, address their concerns early. @22:41 "Money is rarely the first straw, but it's usually the last straw." @23:54 Employee retention and hiring retention is one of the most important things you have to do as a manager. @24:56 When someone leaves, there should be a conversation between upper management and that person's manager. @25:51 Internal mobility is a great way to keep employees at a company. @29:10   Links: Sponsor: Camille’s Twitter: @Skamille Camille’s blog: Podcast home:
My Mission

My Mission


Have you ever wondered why am I doing this? In this episode of Programming Leadership, Marcus discusses his vision for the future and how we can work together to change it. Are you with me? Show Notes Consider your why and get on board with mine. @4:02​ I want to create a future that's more productive and more valuable. @5:09 This future will have lower turnover and higher productivity. @5:58 Small ideas have to start somewhere and they grow. @6:53 Bad management and leadership comes from somewhere above you with expectations that came into the company a long time ago. @7:43 I feel small with a big idea and I need your help. @8:12 Breaking old habits is hard, but it can start with us. @9:02 Why do I do this podcast? @9:21 Why do I write? @9:34 Why do I speak at conferences? @9:52 My book is coming out in March. @10:55  Links: 
Episode Description ​Is conflict always a bad thing? In this episode of Programming Leadership, Marcus and his guest, Jennifer Jones-Patulli, discuss how people tend to think about conflict and how they handle it. Jennifer provides insight and tools to use as leaders to help handle conflict situations within an organization and among staff. Conflict may be uncomfortable, but it is not always bad.  Show Notes Fight, flight, or freeze reactions Cultures approach conflict differently Conflict is not a problem but can become a problem Time pressure plays into how people handle conflict People have different triggers that increase their heart rate and it’s important to know your triggers Scale and interdependent pairs Tactical vs. strategic Leaders should have an awareness of how to handle conflict Pattern spotting questions Tension provokes uncertainty which can then change dynamics of individuals or even teams  Links: Medium: Jennifer Jones-Patulli
​Turnover is a huge problem in our industry. There are many reasons people choose to leave their jobs and in this episode of Programming Leadership, Marcus dissects the top reasons software professional decide to seek other employment and ways to prevent future turnover from occurring.   Show Notes Technology and software have the highest turnover rate of all industries Managers can affect turnover Reasons why people leave Lack of opportunity for advancement Unsatisfied with leadership of senior management Unsatisfied with work environment and culture Want more challenging work Want to make more money Unsatisfied with the rewards and recognition for contributions Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture by Kim S. Cameron and Robert E. Quinn Resources and Links: LinkedIn Survey
In this episode of Programming Leadership, Marcus and his guest Esther Derby discuss change. They discuss her book, Seven Rules for Positive Productive Change, and how change is viewed and implemented by individuals  and organizations.  Show Notes Change is a core aspect of leaders' and managers' jobs Change is viewed differently from different people, or different places in an organization How do people and companies "do change"? Codifying when we know the least Forest succession as a metaphor for change What holds the current pattern in place? Fundamental attribution error Missing feedback loop Possible for people to change, but don't always choose to Which details really matter? "Use Your Self" "Slow Ideas" by Atul Gawande Strive for congruence Resources and Links: @Estherderby
​In this episode of Programming Leadership, Marcus and his guest Jason Wong discuss how one size does not fit all in leadership. They dive into how the traditional leadership model isn't working well and how it could be changed to become more effective. The two also enlighten listeners on a new followership model, and why followership can be just as important as leadership. Show Notes The traditional leadership model isn't working well Great Man Leadership New model should be less confrontational and more collaborative Corporations aren't just money and investors, we need to incorporate values The Chef Incident  We all seek leadership thus everyone is always following someone Chaleff Model of Followership Being a leader or a follower isn't a choice, sometimes you could be good at both Leadership model in which you pass the baton and take turns in the leadership role Soldier vs. Scout mentality Resources and Links: @AttackGecko  
Change is hard, unpredictable, and downright complex. Getting people or systems to change is not easy and certainly not done in a vacuum.  In this episode of Programming Leadership, Marcus and his guest Don Gray enlighten listeners regarding the world of software development, the reasons for implementing software changes and why it's not as easy as people may think. And while doing so, the pair attempt to arm their readers with a variety of change literature that will have them thinking of containers, systems and exchanges in a whole new light.  Show Notes Change is complex Reasons for change - need for improvement, conformance, changeability Software development is not linear and not deterministic A software change is invisible and not physical so it is rather difficult to visualize Prediction of how things will work is difficult Retrospective Coherence - looking backwards after a change has been made Thinking in Systems - people don't tend to think in systems  Containers hold focus People notice events and plot those events to see trends Resources and Links:
On today's episode of Programming Leadership, we dive into what is needed to establish safety in your own organization. Trust is just one of the key pieces that make up the structure of safety in a work environment, along with actual physical measures, active communication, and regular feedback. The people who make up your organization are an integral part of the safety structure. An exchange of ideas and criticisms between subordinates and superiors should be shared, but boundaries must be in place and commonly known in order for these exchanges to occur safely and effectively. Utilizing all of these components, managers can provide a safe environment for their employees to help limit catastrophes from occurring whether in the workplace or in the actual work itself.  Show Notes Safety is defined by the measures put in place to prevent small problems from turning into big ones, but those are not limited to merely physical measures. A feeling of safety in the work environment is just as important and necessary to an end product as a software test suite. Communication involves listening without assumption and questioning with intent so that decisions can be made with the correct desired outcome. Good intentions and taking risks can be seen as good or bad, depending on who's calling the shots. The reality is - there is no universal safety net. Trust can be broken, but it's also negotiable. Be willing to admit when too much is too much, and ask for help when you need it rather than take on more than you can handle and risk losing trust altogether. Learn to recognize a person's limits, and learn to recognize when those limits need to be challenged or reassessed and raised. Jobs evolve just like people. Evaluating a person’s performance shouldn’t be just about how well someone does in the job they were hired to do. You have to look at how a person has adapted to their work environment and how they have changed it, for better or worse. Resources and Links: @Tottinge
Training, done properly, is a specialized type of learning that companies can use as an investment in their personnel or as a box that gets ticked off each year as mandatory practice. What are some of the best practices for training? How can employees prepare to learn? Show Notes I think that good training and good learning go hand in hand Nowadays there's a whole host of different options for every technology. I think it's also healthy for an organization to say, "We're investing in you. We want you to learn these things even if there's no immediate payoff, even if it's not directly for like helping the company right now, we think that at some point in the next year you're going to be exposed to this. You'll need this, you'll want this." having these fundamentals really helps you sort of fly through the system and then use it for the purpose you want, which is getting your work done and not spending time on the nonsense. every company has to sort of decide on these trade-offs because during those days people won't be available as much as you want and you just have to sort of plan for that Links: Learn More About Reuven:Website: Online Store: YouTube:  O’Reilly Software Architecture Conference – Berlin, Germany.  November 4-7, 2019. Use discount code MB20 to save 20% on Bronze, Silver, and Gold packages.
A First Team Mindset

A First Team Mindset


When you as the manager treat your peers, other managers in the organizations as your first team, it changes your stance. It changes the way you work. It creates intentionally a set of allies you can problem-solve, people problem-solve with, people you can collaborate with. This is a little bit different idea than my first team of the people that work for me. Instead, your first team becomes those other engineering managers, directors, VPs, whatever it is, those peers, those all-important peer relationships that are so, so vital to cross-team, cross-silo and cross-departmental work. Show Notes What is a “first team”? I got trained in a cohort of people that went through together, and that became my first team Creating a unified management team There was also really something special about the way my boss created and improved the relationships with the people that he led through the program. if we go back to the past and we see where companies put people through their own leadership development programs Links: O’Reilly Velocity Conference - Berlin, Germany.  September 4-7, 2019. Use discount code MB20 to save 20% on Bronze, Silver, and Gold packages.
Does project work feel like a guessing game? What happens when projects go off track, and how can this affect customer relationships? Better yet, how can we navigate uncertainty when we estimate and plan -- but things still go wrong? Standing in uncertainty, learning to handle it, and living in inquiry are topics of discussion in this episode. Show Notes  We're going to talk about the idea of being able to hold uncertainty in our mind, start to get comfortable with it, and some mental tools and patterns of how to handle When we find ourselves uncertain, we oftentimes crave certainty. Be comfortable holding your plans with an element of uncertainty. It's really easy for you as a manager to observe generally how people are working. Product management and prioritization are all about cutting away, they're all about subtracting I'm going to propose that you get into a habit and create a practice of reestimating and replanning. I want to focus on this very simple three part steps to something that Human Systems Dynamics calls an adaptive action. standing in uncertainty, learning to handle uncertainty, living in inquiry Links:   Sponsor: GitPrime
At Stripe, guest Will Larson received his first official management training by an employer. It taught him about different management styles, problem solving, and more. But most employees don’t get management training, which can cause problems down the road. Marcus and Will discuss this, plus what it takes to handle leadership roles. Show Notes  Most coders don’t aspire to be managers “there's that idea that really if you think about the consequences and the kind of statefulness of these human systems that you're working with, you can come to understand them in a way that you can't if you look at them as causal” “this is where systems thinking is so powerful, which is if you look at it causally you've solved a problem, if you look at it from a systems perspective you've created a problem, and you really have to have the slightly longer term view and just to recognize that you are burying yourself when you take many of the quick easy ways out” “the joy of senior manager is these problems are really hard to solve but you actually can finesse most problems into like a problem statement where everyone like is happy” “So I've been thinking about the idea of forced change a lot recently.” “A lot of incident programs have the same problem where they learn about the gaps but then you have to find the space to improve upon them”  We’re still learning: Most Silicon Valley companies are still very young “There's still a ton of scarcity for kind of the folks at the top of the market.”    Links: O’Reilly Software Architecture Conference – Berlin, Germany.  November 4-7, 2019. Use discount code MB20 to save 20% on Bronze, Silver, and Gold packages. Will Larson on Twitter Will’s book, An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management
If a friend asks you to help them move something heavy, like a rock, you probably wouldn’t think twice. But if they asked you to take care of their pet monkey… That’s the beginning of our chat with Matt Greenberg, Vice President of Engineering at Credit Karma, who compares problems of various types and sizes to monkeys and rocks. The goal of effective leaders should be to break down bigger problems into smaller ones, going from monkey-sized problems to smaller, rock-sized ones. Show Notes Framing problems as monkeys -- vs rocks It's not easy once a problem has become a monkey, to shape it back down into a rock. It might be something like choosing a programming language for a specific problem. what you're ultimately trying to do is build teams of Michael Jordan's, so that they can do huge impact things, but that they're easy for them I see most of the challenges with my teams are when people don't have the empathy to see the state from other people's point of view Links: O’Reilly Velocity Conference - Berlin, Germany.  September 4-7, 2019. Use discount code MB20 to save 20% on Bronze, Silver, and Gold packages. Credit Karma Matt Greenberg on LinkedIn Matt Greenberg on Twitter: @matt_muffin
The only constant is change, and Heidi Helfand knows a thing or two about changes in organizations. From reteamining to reorganizations to just shuffling a member or two, in this episode we’ll learn how to think about these inevitable changes and what to do when they happen. Show Notes What are some of the kinds of change that a team might undergo? Dynamic reteaming comes in these five structural patterns The metaphor of the eco-cycle Different types of mentoring What does it mean to have a “successful” team? Inner and outer roles A recipe for disengagement Links: Book: Dynamic Reteaming Twitter: @heidihelfand  Sponsor: GitPrime
Emotional intelligence is essential to good leadership, but many CTO’s stress the importance of IQ instead. To move from contributor to manager, it’s a good idea to invest the time to explore EQ, as well as personality profiles to better understand how to manage people. Show Notes Managing expectations Emotional Intelligence 2.0 DISC profiles Avoidance and collaboration Dealing with conflict Real leadership It takes practice to change old habits Links: HumbleDot
Do people really crave feedback? That’s the assumption a lot of managers make, so in this episode we’ll talk about what feedback really means and how you can give it in a meaningful, productive manner. Show Notes What is the history of feedback? Your output becomes their input The limits of perception Using attention properly Your people are NOT rose bushes Keeping things positive Links:  Sponsor: GitPrime
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