Taking The Reins

I’m often asked what common patterns of problems and issues I see as someone exposed to lots of different companies. One such problem which is a recurring problem with startup leadership is the tendency to settle on reactivity. Rather than take charge, executives are busy trying to handle all the incoming requests. Because they always […]

Questioning Axioms

I’ve written before about the types of things that I look for in senior tech leaders as I interview candidates. One amazing indicator of success I haven’t found a good way to interview for is the capability to push back tactfully. It makes sense that most people avoid appearing argumentative during interviews. However, too often, […]

Motivational Pull

For a while now, I’ve been saying that engineers go off to chase clever tech, shiny libraries, needlessly intricate refactoring endeavors, and tech debt crusades because it was easy. That’s their path of least resistance to exert control and autonomy. In fact, this is part of a broader phenomenon that also afflicts engineering managers and […]

Money-Mouth Distance

A funny thing about cognitive dissonance is that we all tend to be a lot better when it comes to spotting it in others. When someone else comments on their values or productivity habits, for example, you’ll easily quip to yourself, “Yeah, right,” if that person, in fact, doesn’t adhere to what’s stated. But when […]

Embracing Common Sense

I don’t know if it is still common, but “back in my day,” there was a distinct stage in an engineer’s career: the complexification. That was when one would first find out about some topic, often the phenomenal Design Patterns book, and go into a frenzy trying to force one’s newfound knowledge into use. It’s […]

My Tech Exec Interview Checklist

While the vast majority of my work nowadays is advisory work for CTOs and CEOs, I sometimes help companies bring in a new tech executive. This week, I thought it might be interesting to share what are the things that I look for when I participate in these interviews. Even if you’re not looking for […]

Aiming for Longer Tenures

The average tenure for software engineers and other tech professions has been around two years for a while now. We seem to have accepted this as an axiom, but I beg to differ. If you’re looking to create world-class teams with an incredible impact-per-engineer, you need a strategic effort to make your tech people’s average […]

Instilling Urgency

Leaders of teams of all sizes often find it problematic to make their people operate with urgency. By “urgency,” I don’t mean stress, nervousness, or anxiety, but a general sense of striving to achieve their goals earlier rather than later. While it is commonly attributed to growth—more people means that things move slower—I’ve seen this […]

Catching Your Breath

Many managers and leaders have become addicted to productivity porn. Everywhere I look, I see teams discussing time wasted, optimizing processes, and squeezing out some more time to work (remember Soylent?). As someone who regularly talks about tripling impact-per-engineer, I want to stress the difference between chasing productivity and focusing on efficacy. You cannot create […]


There are two scenarios that are frequent in my day-to-day. The first is where a company approaches me because its leaders feel like they do not have enough processes in place to accommodate their growth. The second is the opposite: an executive might feel like things are slowly grinding to a halt because too many […]