I recently stepped down as VP of Engineering at Chef. This was a new experience for me as I’d never been responsible for the entirety of product engineering before. I’m immensely grateful for the experience and humbled by the confidence placed on my abilities by the engineers and company leadership. I feel I did a good job but, as with any human endeavor, there’s always room for improvement.
Over the years I’ve gotten in the habit of summarizing lessons learned whenever I change jobs. I thought it’d be helpful to share the lessons I learned leading Chef’s engineering teams since there aren’t many resources available for technical leaders. Becoming a good technical leader is a unique challenge quite different from the hands-on “doing” expected of developers, sysadmins, etc. This is doubly true at the higher leadership levels. You can read books like Rand’s Managing Humans and Lister & DeMarco’s Peopleware (I highly recommend both) but there’s no substitute for the lessons taught by real-life experience.
Here are mine.