Nick Caldwell is the VP of Engineering at Reddit where he is responsible for building and operating the 4th most visited site in the US. Prior to joining Reddit, he held various positions in engineering leadership at Microsoft across a 15-year career, including work on natural language processing, enterprise search, machine learning, in-memory databases, and business intelligence. Nick’s most significant role at Microsoft was as General Manager for the Power BI where he rapidly transformed the company’s business intelligence suite by forming multiple new product teams.
Nick holds a degree in computer science and electrical engineering from MIT, an MBA from U.C. Berkeley Haas, and holds 10 patents related to natural language processing. Nick is an active participant in /dev/color: a non-profit whose mission is to maximize the impact of Black software engineers, and founder of Color Code: a scholarship fund dedicated to future leaders of color in technology fields.
Today’s special episode is a live fireside chat I moderated with Nick Caldwell who is the VP of Engineering at Reddit. This event was put together by the founder of the San Francisco Engineering Leadership Community, Jerry Li. SFELC is an exclusive and curated community for engineering leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area. Founded in early 2016, they’ve grown to 400 leaders from over 200 companies. Their mission is to create a fundamentally better way for engineering leaders to learn and connect, through community and sharing. This episode is a bit longer than my usual episodes and also includes a Q&A with the audience at the end. I want to thank Nick and Jerry for a great event and for allowing me to use this on my podcast. Listen on for a very engaging and informative conversation.Show Transcript:
[0:00] My name is Jerry I’m the organizer for this community I said for stands for San Francisco engineer ready to community.
[0:10] Before I start I want to know a little more about our audience raise your hand if this is the first ever sfefc vent you ever participated.
Lonely People welcome to the community I hope you enjoy it and clean back to our Fish Events by the way we have a few more line up in the next few months.
UFC announcement for me next two weeks.
[0:36] Spin let me see this our speaker in moderator tonight Nick Nick truly a VP of engineering at Reddit.
Remember you joined probably 9 months ago and prior to read it Nick was I took a few and your leadership.
Positions in Microsoft for 15 years working on a diverse set of area such as natural language processing machine learning.
And remember that is if I remember correctly search.
State of visualization yeah a lot of mobile software.
[1:18] And the most significant member South is a general manager for the power bi product very rapidly.
Transform the solution to that.
Vision Townsend Problem by forming a few new product teams and they had a degree from Mike from MIT in both computer science and electrical engineering.
And Hillside NBA from Berkeley I think you have temptations.
[1:52] For ready to National Processing this is really impressive 10 approved ones allow next time have an active promoting minorities and Tack.
Such as working business as color.
A nonprofit whose purpose is to mix mice the impact for from a black sofa New Year’s and also hey founded.
Carta code which is a scholarship fund for the future and an earring Tech leaders of color.
Listening and Christian Christian are motivated tonight.
Hey I know him for a long time they host our events last year and his currently a VP if entering at talmud.
He has 20 years currents in as a product and also an earring.
Executive Inn I have a transient strategy says server development and prize and mobile applications.
And I said word like me Christians are really passionate about and ready to ship.
And he had personal outside simple leadership. IO.
There he promote lot of best practices and also interview of the many engineer leaders to to promote.
Agenda Rivera news of leadership quality how to how to transition from one on YouTube to managers and then how to get to the next steps so check it out if you’re interested.
[3:26] So we started going to give to Nick and Chris I hope you’re enjoy.
[3:35] During thank you very much History Channel my inner Jimmy Fallon.
[3:43] So thank you everyone for coming definitely appreciate it Nick thank you for being here and for read it for hosting this event it must been told this very close to my mouth so I can hear me.
Anyone here thank you for coming.
[4:00] Underachiever as I mentioned right it’s an honor kind of to be sitting next to you thank you,
the neck is at a very interesting career and background of self I don’t think we can get it all of his background pre could have college but it’s definitely very interesting,
how about I hope to get through tonight is,
listen to story from the career path and hopefully each of us here in the audience of myself can get some tidbits and some tips and how we all can improve ourselves as engineering managers right cuz they’re all here when I’m forced to be here.
I think we’re here because we all believe,
in really trying to elevate sort of the Engineering Management and equality that is in Silicon Valley okay I also want to point out that Nick has been riding a lot of blog posts pretty recently so for the things that we don’t get into today absolutely check out,
on medium and you can see links in his bio a lot of interesting articles with some depth of stuff that we won’t get into tonight.
[4:56] 2 first neck I know a lot of people here interested in hearing a little that your journey so holla tific rear one of you start off with giving a sliver the cliff notes,
I’ll give you the cliff notes,
actually thanks for coming out y’all I’m really honored to have this many people come out and hear me talk about myself thank you for giving me this hour of your lives the,
the career started MIT I was.
Fascinated with machine learning and NLP and I’ll cut that part short I know you don’t me to go that far back but it leads into my first job at Microsoft which was,
I working on a group called in natural language processing group Microsoft at that time had.
An entire division like thousands of people working on machine learning long before the era of big data and it was something that I fell in love with.
And I stayed there for probably the first like five years of my career and this one team,
making multiple NLP machine learning components and shipping them into in a different Microsoft products like SharePoint MSN exchange all over the Microsoft stack.
Eventually I realized that shipping little pieces of software and other people’s products was in a satisfying as owning an entire product and end,
and very very fortunately Bill Gates was looking for somebody to work on this product called up our Q&A,
and your idea behind it was that you know you were able to use natural language to query data sets and he needed someone with in Microsoft had the ability to do this kind of innovative research e but also.
[6:33] Practical enough to actually ship.
And that’s kind of where I I made my mark in my early career a lot of depth on a very very propellerhead e kind of area but always managed to land a very complex project so work with Bill Gates on this thing for,
about a year-and-a-half at tookus.
Took a year-and-a-half to fun the team 30 people and then build Technologies hadn’t previously existed and then launch the product as a result of that I was given additional responsibilities.
Landed me ownership of the entire bi stack at Microsoft this is a product called Power bi.
I got an MBA real.
I really like learning I like self-improvement and growth if you guys ever hang out with me you’ll know that I’m very very goal-oriented and I’d wanted to get an MBA for a long time I thought it was incredibly valuable at a lot of devs give me crap about it but.
I thought it was was useful and power bi.
Paying customers over the course of three years and if you if you look at the Gartner business intelligence review.
We are now like leaders by a very very large margin over our biggest competitors Tableau and click.
[8:08] Got bored with working at Microsoft after 13 years.
I’m sorry I forgot important point I was also when I left Microsoft general manager which meant I was just sponsible for engineering product and design somebody asked me about that earlier what it meant,
I got bored with working a big company after 13 years and after.
A long search you know ended up looking at Reddit I think there’s a huge opportunity here and I don’t want to use up all the time and talk about why I think it’s awesome.
Because this isn’t go ahead go ahead if you have 90 seconds well out Ali’s 90 seconds if you give them to me,
Reddit Lee has an amazing a product on a bet I bet a lot of you in the in the in the audience or editors I have a 1010 year old Reddit account,
Bruins on Reddit good okay out of 10 year old accounts I always love the product and then.
I was at coffee with Steve Steve was trying to pitch me on working it Reddit.
You know he talked a lot but he said like a few key things which was like at that time I think ready to 250 million monthly active users and no.
No no investment at that time in our in our ad stack,
and I previously launched 5 products at Microsoft at all been done pretty well and we told me just those two facts as I owe this is a gold mine so,
I get to work on a product that I love and I’m going to turn it into a very very profitable successful business in a let’s go do that.
[9:40] It’s good enough a couple things you mentioned in there you didn’t mention the NBA alright,
how did that come about in 4 people here do you think that you would recommend going that route for getting into technology executive status.
Oh that’s that’s a good spinner so I had to get an MBA actually.
You know since I left MIT MIT has a pretty good school is Sloan School of Business in a lot of startups come out of there and you know I from a very young age wanted to how to do my own thing.
The reason I chose an MBA at 2 to try and get to an executive management path is because.
Believe it or not if you’re at Microsoft and get to a certain level.
A lot of people have mbas and you know to get the kind of executive polish you need and the kind of executive credentials you need if you’re going to work at a large company like that and actually helps a lot.
I would I recommend it I think it kind of depends on how passionate you are as individuals about.
The art and process of management like I like learning.
Even before I got this NBA you know constantly be doing projects on the side and things like that MBA is kind of going to force-feed you.
Management rigor I learned a lot there and and it and it worked out well for me but I think you’ve really got to love learning most people I talk to you in the Bay Area kind of take a different route which is a just go start a company and learn things a little bit more ad hoc fashion.
[11:12] Well I definitely so when I think there was a difference between.
The start-up requiring an MBA versus you know going into an Enterprise company Microsoft Amazon I mean much more on.
I would say formulas for building businesses and their little bit more repeatable,
whereas when I talk to you know when I first moved to San Francisco a guy in elevator tried to ask me for 80 grand to fund his bitmoji for dogs start up so it’s like you get down here in like people or.
Definitely not afraid of risk.
Where is Microsoft you could not get a cent unless you can explain how you would turn into a billion dollars and in order to do that you had to Think Through competition strategy at a very very rigorous level.
How many even startups right now that don’t even have that as a revenue right I’m going to think.
You looking for that kind of Revenue in inside of a company right there’s opportunity sometime so I have a startup within a company,
this is back before I I was trying to convince myself I shouldn’t go do a startup at some point my life that’s how you end up at a company for 13 years self-delusion,
so there’s a concept of intrapreneurial experiences and that’s essentially what I was doing at Microsoft was bouncing between lots and lots of different teams.
And starting them up and trying to use that as a surrogate for a true entrepreneur entrepreneur experience.
[12:49] I don’t think it really was but I think what you get out of that is you get kind of the fun part of doing a startup which is doing something new hustling with a bunch of people who,
want to work hard and then you don’t get as much risk and you don’t get as much reward if things go well sure high-level Microsoft to rent it,
Seattle to San Francisco compare and contrast.
San Francisco thousand times better like growing up like you not group on the east coast and it was like in whisper tones you would talk about California.
How awesome it is and you know this place with the golden sunlight end.
You know I finally moved out here never was talking about moving to Seattle and they don’t know what they’re talking about Seattle is like the worst weather imagine,
there’s so little to do and more relevant to engineering the types of companies in Seattle are very different there is not this.
You know just this this whole ecosystem of startups and Venture Capital like this flat out doesn’t exist it in a similar way in Seattle what you get is large stable companies where people like work.
For long time no see people are surprised I stayed at Microsoft for that long my management chain.
I was like 20 years you know guy above me 20 years guy both him 25 people stay at these companies for a long time I just a different way of a building your career.
Let’s see some ass Microsoft versus Reddit.
[14:22] You know I think one is you know one is obvious and Enterprise company and it’s much much more focused on.
Because Microsoft Microsoft has a very very competitive culture so like when I would build my products power bi we would think very very very carefully about how we’re going to approach the market.
And we would use strategies that were technical product oriented price price oriented in order to try and win market share.
At Reddit like we’re not really approaching the market that we were just focus on building like an awesome product.
And you know and I are tar top angles to make the site more welcoming or engaging more relevant to people we also have a goal around Revenue,
but we also don’t sit in our you know exact meetings and talk about how we’re going to like directly compete with people in the same way that we did at Microsoft,
it’s a it’s a much friendlier sort of competition at I kind of like sure and I do want to pause for a second.
We do have a application called slido.com some people already been on there.
During the session and immediately after our session will be going through and taking questions that you can actually just going to put on the site and I’ll be going through them and you can upload and download some of the questions as well so just pause for that.
Throughout the thing I’ll go through it will ask him the top questions towards the end one of the things when I kind of that was on the schedule here is the concept of transitions.
Lots of transitions I think in Engineers career paths in their lives.
And what are things going to start up with a lot of people especially if you’re an engineering manager at some point in your career you’re going to inherit a team right and some of those times you’re going to inherit a total mess.
[16:03] Fred more often than not actually for taking over teams whose you could someone last cuz they weren’t before me.
1 what advice would you give for someone taking over inheriting a new team you know whether it’s a mess or not really were the first 90 days look like and what would you focus on first.
[16:18] That’s a that’s a really good question so I put put in that situation several times in my career I think.
[16:26] When you inherit a team the very first thing you want to do is figure out who the lsaa players cuz I hate that that phrase but you need to figure out like who still believes in the vision of the team.
And and who’s the most effective executor.
And then then you need to also do the opposite was just to figure out who’s like really screwing things up.
So when I drop into a new team you try and find people who can kind of back you up and and will follow your leadership philosophies and learn to,
I want to see emulate but will Echo the the culture at the inspiration that you give to the team xcetera you want to find supporters.
And if you’re doing that at scale it’s even more important you know because you have to find people who are going to be reliable and broadcasting your your message now the second thing is if you’re doing a turnaround you obviously have to figure out like the processes that have that have gone wrong.
And in the first 90 days you probably want to use the first.
Guy wants a third of that cuz 90 days is a long time to do a turn around but you have to use a good chunk of that just purely listening to people and diagnosing.
While simultaneously figuring out how people are going to help you turn things around finding your key players about a few weeks after that you need to start using that early 90 days to change things quickly when you’re.
When you get to where the end of the 90 days when you don’t have that kind of newness.
[17:53] You you don’t have as much freedom and flexibility you can’t win hearts and Minds as as as easily people’s kind of form their pinion about you so the strategy I like to use as listen for a. And then move quickly and make the changes as you need quickly,
you can get to a state where you’ve kind of formed in normed before that 90 days or so would you focus,
on people first or soda product first in any company comes from people are Foundation,
your organization will fall apart if you people don’t trust you if they don’t trust each other the product yo.
Engineers don’t like when I say this but the product is going to change all the time like you know how every everything you build an engineering is eventually going to get replaced.
And the thing that you remember at least the thing that I think you know thing class,
the relationships that you build with people long the way and then the impact that you had on your customers but the core technology and so forth is meant to change if you’re doing a good job on your software hopefully your customers are asking you to modify continually I’m so that it’s very different you know down the line.
No thank you.
[18:59] Other kinds of transitions I think everyone here at some point especially or an injury manager has gone through at least this first transition right that’s the transition which is probably one of the hardest.
I’m going from Individual contributor to first-time manager.
[19:13] What do you see for what are the pitfalls that you see that are most common and he tips you have for making that transition.
Yeah there’s a few I mean I was a disastrous first time manager I was very fortunate read it like there’s my managers back there they they would not have recognized me like so.
I wanted to get in management for all the wrong reasons it was like I just thought I was like a bath of time I was like the best coder on the team and I thought all the other engineer should code like me.
And like my first.
A couple weeks is as a manager was me just telling people like just like really abusive code reviews and telling people that they were like working too slow.
It was hearts and Minds,
but I was doing it all wrong like I was I really thought like your your goal as a manager what to get people to act like you and really like your goal as a manager is to find the skills that people bring to the table like your,
You’re Building A Team you want to figure out what each individual is going to bring the other thing that I think you have to be really really careful out as a first-time manager.
Eventually I did come around to the point where I really just love the people aspect of it,
and I think all your like if you’re really good line level manager like and you tell me you don’t you know love your team then I don’t know why you’re doing it but you can kind of over rotate so I had.
People on my team who like sucked and I didn’t want to fire them and you know I thought that in like curating these people out of my team it would reflect poorly on me.
[20:47] If you’re a first-time manager like that’s that’s a I think of Fairly common mistake you’re a it’s difficult.
To go and tell someone hey like you’re not you can no longer be a member of the team and in bu you know you’re you kind of hoping that you know your team,
will be cohesive you know that if you don’t you don’t you don’t you don’t actually look worse if you ask someone to leave your team,
you look better for trying to make the team more functional place and it takes awhile to realize that yeah I agree that I think not removing people the good people on your team tend to lose respect for you as a manager if you don’t.
Pave the way for team arm-in-arm and and Dynamics so one of the things is first-time managers.
You know maker versus manager coding versus not coding what are your thoughts on managers and are they still in the code you know what is your philosophy here on that.
I like managers who can code but like the,
it’s a good people has asked me what is a man to do what does a director do like it turns out the thing you’re supposed to do is in the job title so like managers are supposed to manage and I think it’s I think it’s hard to become a manager if you don’t have.
Technical credibility and has an experienced man it you know actually building software your team won’t.
Take you seriously you’ll make bad decisions you’ll be a bad manager if you haven’t built complex pieces of software but ultimately like your job is to manage and that’s what you should be spending most of your time.
We you know I like to hire managers though who can if needed.
[22:18] Dive down into the details and and help out if if they can’t do that then.
Every once in awhile you’ll give to a situation where somebody with a little bit more wisdom experience and needs to come in and make a call.
And you know if if something gets escalated to the manager My Hope Is that they can make the technical decision that you needed but that’s not their default position is if.
The coding if a director is coding and checking it every day like something is really gone wrong wrong something wrong so that’s kind of the first transition.
And then the second transition goes from and it’s a big transition to going from managing individual contributors.
To becoming a manager of managers right with it that’s a director or head or something so that you know what do you see is the biggest stumbling block for people that go from managing in other two contributors to manage a manager.
[23:11] Yeah I’m going to guy when I became a director remember it was a guy I used to work with and I’m pretty pennies.
He said Nick you’re off the floor now those exact words that you’re off the floor you can’t be friends with all these people like it used to be I used to have one-on-ones with every single person on my team until it got to be like 40 people.
I would have 15-minute like bi-weekly with 40 people because I loved meeting the folks so much.
But when you’re a director you can’t do that you have to get off the floor and it took me a while to do that because it’s painful like if you really like the people aspect of management.
Being elevated into a position where it’s not your job to you know frankly you have to treat people as.
Resources are used as used to rub me the wrong way a lot as well you have to think about building multiple teams and shaping your organization and how it meets the business needs.
More than you think about the individual relationship to used to have with your team member what team members while simultaneously making sure their lives don’t suck.
Because people people aren’t resources like the reason you become a manager the reason you become a director like I have to believe the foundation of that lies in your ability to empathize and.
You know see the best out of your team but when you get to a certain level it all gets very very abstract people you know you start seeing people’s names on spreadsheets more than you see them in person that’s a little scary.
And skip levels skip level meetings you still do them I try and do them as much as I can but I think that’s.
[24:47] You know when you get when you become an exact it only gets it gets that much harder I try and encourage my director is to do this as much as I can and and I squeeze in the time when I can I still love to.
I need to skip long straight down into the bottom of the order but it’s hard cuz when you’re an exact people don’t want to share as much info with you you know if if they if you stop by there desk they’re like oh crap something wrong and that,
hurts my heart a little bit but as as long as I know that you know through other indicators that you know they’re having a good time at work I’m on my.
And I think one thing to do I think bring out that happens a lot is as you is your raise or than the ranks of the injuring leadership even up to the level of see you I think the words you say.
Especially your team tend to carry more weight whether you realize it or not when you got to get very very.
Concise about what you want to have happen you can’t like sit in front of a rummages pontificate because people will be afraid of the consequences of what you say and ways that you don’t expect the other thing that you have to do as your team gets bigger is.
You learn to broadcast and you broadcast in different ways to get in front of your team the other thing that you do if your director is.
You have to get your managers to repeat what you’re saying like you have to have a cohesive message that starts with the exact team and Carries all the way down into the leaf nodes of the organization in the channel for that communication is the is the management team.
[26:19] So you got to figure out any really really careful about how you communicate and just over communicate like no one has solved this problem.
Like at the heat death of the universe they’ll be cockroaches and I’ll be the sun saw a problem that how you get.
Two groups of people more than 20 feet away to understand each other like the only solution that I’ve known as just go through every channel that you can over-communicate.
No absolute great advice great advice think parents and communication I can’t agree more.
Hey question for you who here is a head of engineering or VP of engineering have actually have you know fairly decent amount,
who here who didn’t raise our hand wants to eventually become head of engineering of epogen ring.
[27:03] Okay so you think it’s once you get down the management track which is a whole nother conversation if your company doesn’t have an icy track and a management track but that’s a conversation for other day but.
Any career tips you have neck for a kind of the people here who aspired to become a VP what do what should they focus on both personally and career-wise.
I think to become a VP like the.
[27:30] The way that I phrase it that the three layers of meant like when your line level manager you have a lot of flexibility to experiment with like how you interact with people with your engineering processes,
United waterfowl that Angela that can that they all sorts of different things when I was a manager by the ton you become a director you’ve got to have a little bit.
Farmer of a a set of opinions about how you want to operate.
And the difference between like a director and an exact is that you come pre-packaged like when I go I’m not interviewing but if I were to go interview for an exact position.
They don’t ask me why poor coding questions they don’t ask me like my theory about you know management,
I tell them this is how I manage these are the tools and processes that I bring to the table these are the examples in which these tools and processes have worked in the past,
do you want this executive package yes or no and your journey from.
Management through director is basically trying to Define that package for yourself some managers are great at bring tools for turnarounds like we talked about earlier.
If if you ask me I will you know I would say hey look I’m an innovator if you need to spit up a team really really quickly inspire a bunch of people hire and get something shipped that’s what I do and there’s other types of managers like sustaining people so you want to have like.
Enough experiences at your director and and an ice cube management level that you can decide what you’re going to make your executive career about.
And essentially to have that become your brand so that’s what I’m perfect.
[29:04] Transition a little bit too I think of a topic that most engineering managers at every level you know care about a lot and that’s hiring.
[29:12] And we were talking a couple days ago and you’ve I think already done an incredible job of hiring so far this year was so hard.
Sits on mine so you can meet Nick and I in the stairwell after that how many be hard so far this year.
I think that we’ve hired 40 people I don’t know if that’s exactly but around 40 and the target was 80.
Nice guy still going still going what’s been successful or challenging hiring here at Reddit especially versus her to Voice come from in Microsoft.
[29:43] Well it’s seeso Microsoft you know I’ll start with what’s challenging it read it I mean I think the challenging,
sing about Reddit is a lot of people didn’t even realize why we were actual company up until very recently like if you asked an average person like how big is Reddit how many people actually work there lot of people thought of us like Craigslist.
I was like three guys in a basement or something it turns out there’s like hundreds of people here so I think the biggest challenge has been.
[30:14] Getting our story correct which is to say read it has a lot of baggage in the press that we have to explain to new candidates.
And then even once you explain that we have to talk about you know our engineering prowess you know our future.
An interesting overall vision of what we’re going to try and build her it read it and getting that story straight I think you know move the needle the the the the highest Microsoft is different in that.
[30:38] Microsoft mean I want to find anyone who’s worked out but Microsoft is is not necessarily filled with people who have that same kind of.
Hustle and desire to go try new things like they’re very few.
New engineering efforts at Michaels 100,000 person company.
And that’s just a full-time employees so find it so trying to build a new team there was a little bit different because.
You could basically say hey I’m working on a new initiative.
And as long it was it was something different from like the 15th version of office or SharePoint version 20 you would get a quite a lot of people coming out of the woodwork just to get on board with anything that would be new at the company,
so it made Staffing little bit easier cuz there was no explaining to people to risk you already at Microsoft.
Just be at Microsoft and come work on something new is like a pretty easy sell sure any tips for how do you scale the hiring process or will you think of the critical pieces of a putting a hiring process in place start at So within the first.
Yeah so there was there’s only one manager when I got the right at so the me I’ll just hand wave and say that you have to find people who can be great potential managers and you have to find people who have enough.
I want to say people skills and EQ to do well on an interview Loop so the first.
I think like month we basically scoured the team and did training and so forth and got kind of our first round of interview panel set up and then we you know threw them into the fire and then very quickly iterated found people who knew what they were doing and then.
[32:21] Iterated overtime and now we’ve got I think something the ordered like 30 qualified interviewers were when we started out it was on the order of like 5 people.
And you have a quantitative kind of process in terms of like how we train people the interviewing process like you have rubrics or how to use we do.
I will confess that I don’t personally stick to the the Rubik’s as closely as our HR department would like but I do think that are.
Star interview process does something very very special.
I definitely didn’t see it Microsoft I didn’t see you another haven’t seen really another company so we got a rubric on the technical side we’ve also got a rubric on the personal side that’s pretty detailed like Reddit is very very.
Protective of its culture and to be very specific we don’t want to hire non-inclusive people we don’t want to hire jerks and we do a really good job of a filtering those out during our interview process Caitlin Holloway who’s our.
Head of HR really really focuses on that aspect so we have at least two interviews with people and culture or a cross-discipline interview for every Loop and I think that helps a lot.
No that’s great.
I want to give a quote here from the gallop CEO and he says the single biggest decision you making your job bigger than all the rest is who you name manager.
When you name the wrong person manager nothing fixes that bad decision not compensation not benefits nothing your thoughts on that.
[33:52] 20 * rid of them I think that’s,
I think that management is an art I think you know I’ve made my career at it and I think it’s the most important thing you can do,
because you are literally deciding how to spend other people’s lives I don’t want to put two.
I want to sound too happy about it but I do feel that way like you’re deciding how people spend their time at work or deciding on their career paths and their hopes and dreams you’re giving them opportunity so I think that you know making sure you find the the right manager is.
You have to represent the vision of the company and also just to be decent people is is a very very important role in terms of.
[34:36] You know that the gal of quote.
I think if you if you do spot yourself with with a bad manager like you shouldn’t be afraid to do something about it yeah clearly study after study shows you putting managers not the company.
[34:51] Absolutely so Nichols has a great blog post and I get into the in a second gold hunting for Rockstar engineering managers why don’t you give a cert of the,
the cliff notes about if you’re a manager of managers what are the things that are most important to you in hiring a manager I won’t dig any further into how much I think people are important but I hope you I hope that came across.
But the the fundamental thing that you’re responsible for when your manager is delivering excellent quality software.
To your users on a predictable schedule and you know what I’m trying to hire managers.
I look for people who a of course I understand that people come first but be are very very rigorous and not afraid of the process that you know I just what I said just said implies managers have to.
Have to care about Jura tickets like managers have to to care about you no addressing bug that in technical debt.
In order to keep their production lines I guess if you will running smoothly so I try and I try and find people who appreciate the people and the process that are involved in management and are passionate about improving both.
And one of the things we talked about about it a couple days ago to hiring and stuff right the Silicon Valley Landscape and how many hundreds of tens of thousands of jobs are open right now what are your thoughts on Twitter.
A traditional CS background hires versus bootcamp hires so my opinion on this has changed radically like since I came to read it so when I was at Microsoft.
[36:30] If you guys believe me or not but like there is in Seattle not that many boot camps is pretty rare and at Microsoft the.
[36:40] You know if I would say relatively non-inclusive way that we would hurt hire people we would essentially scan resumes from top schools as our starting point go from there and you know boot camp folks were really never considered so when I came.
Down here to read it and just a bay area in general and saw that there were so many boot camps I started with a lot of skepticism,
but about like 3 days into my job here and we met with hackbright Academy and hackbright but if you don’t if you haven’t heard of it is.
Bootcamp for women engineers and the hustle I mean like these.
You know the folks did not have traditional CS backgrounds but they had like what really matters which is hustle and I do think that you know.
Wanting to work hard toward a goal like often matters a lot more than like your formal education.
And we hired a lot of those folks not only from hackbright from other boot camps as well,
and some of them are not like he leaders in our organization so my opinion on on bootcamps actually very positive now I think that they’re great source for people who like want to put the work in and a great source for for diverse candidates.
Is an anecdote there’s a great blog post right now I can’t remember top my head recently by started out of things is a very Junior engineer over at.
And she came out of a out of a boot camp and really talks about the environment of going to bootcamp and then getting into slack and then her progression there so I think it’s a differently interesting interesting to read.
[38:14] What is things to hiring.
Engineering Management right as you go higher up the scale leadership aspects become more important than just being that line manager and in yet another blog post very prolific.
You have a quote that says leadership is about taking responsibility for what happens next right so tell me about this and how was this an epiphany for you yeah so this is.
Like I said when I was an early manager I was doing pretty bad and.
I am I worked on this team where if you guys are part of waterfall development like you nope at Microsoft we had waterfall Cycles at lasted 3 years so you know you would literally be planning for an entire year.
And I was on a team that finished the previous cycle early.
So we were just sitting around doing like nothing it was just torture to me and I was incredibly frustrated I was just running around to my.
My man but you know my manager that I was complaining behind closed doors I was just constantly bitching about this and I I went to my mentor.
A guy named Robbie and I was just unloading on him and he was like Nick if you think this is a problem well you know the difference between a manager and a leader is a leader is responsible for what happens next.
And it was just blunt about he also said right after that so why don’t you quit bitching I didn’t put that in the I didn’t put that on the blog post.
But after that I actually was it was the transformative moment of my leadership career when I change from being just a manager who like you know push his tickets across the kanban board.
[39:44] To someone who actually tries to influence the direction of the organization’s I left his his office I went to my general manager office at the time,
Rose I look there’s no roadmap there’s no plan I know I’m just some like random ass you know Deb manager on the team but will you let me like figure out what we should do for the next cycle.
And somehow like some way this guy actually believed in me gave me dead resources p.m. resources test resources and Anna putting together a road map that carried the the team for the next like 3 years.
And I was really the start of my like leadership career I think it’s about a little bit after that self-starting attitude which I think if you’re here tonight I think most of you probably have that right you’re all trying to improve ourselves,
you could be home you can be doing something else but you’re here,
necklace and trying to improve you know your own leadership and management you know Styles so thanks for coming right this isn’t the end.
What are the things what would what would you say are your leadership guiding principles right what are you what is your ethos for management leadership that you aspire to and that you actually want your managers to actually here too as well.
Well I mean I think the simplest things I just want to build great teams that are fun to work in but then I I have a set of rules that that go into that.
I I try and build.
[41:06] I see an on in the back I’m going to say this with a thousands of time I try and build teams that have the following properties I try and get people who are fearless.
People who are are are not afraid to take risks that characterizes most of my early career.
I try to get people who are independent so I don’t you know as much as I talk about management I think it’s much better when people don’t need to be told what to do.
And then I try and get people who have a growth mindset,
that is they don’t lock themselves in with with boundaries be it like if your dad wants to do p.m. me stuff or you just need to go work in someone else’s codebase like you’re not creating artificial boundaries for yourself now just described what if,
left to its own devices would just be like I completely unruly Wild West culture but I also tell people that you know you need to have the following two properties you have to be.
Very very self-critical and responsible in addition to everything I just said so something goes wrong great take care you know take care something goes right great take take credit for it but when something goes wrong you ask yourself like what could I have done better you don’t.
Point fingers and then the final thing which overrides everything else I just said is teamwork.
That is if you can find a way to put the value of your your company or your team above yourself you end up with a really great organization.
And one things you mentioned in your previous story was about a mentor right so clearly you’ve had a mentor if you had more than one and.
[42:40] How do you recommend anyone who’s trying to raise up to get him into themselves so I’m actually more of a fan of sponsorship.
I don’t know if you guys have heard that the difference I’ve had a few mentors in my crib but I’ve had far more sponsors and the differences.
As follows if anyone asked me to be a mentor after this please take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt but I’ve had a lot of like mental relationships and I think that there is a relative lack of.
Follow through sometimes and with sponsorship when I sponsor someone I’m kind of putting my brand on them and saying like hey.
I will help you find a new position of healthy find a new role I want you to work your ass off cuz I’m putting myself on the line to give you this opportunity,
and I’ve had many people do that for me in my career and I think it actually helps,
a lot more than than just a I don’t say normal relationship but I think this goes a step further because it shows Mutual commitment in a way that appear mentoring relationship does sure and you don’t let them down either.
[43:46] Anyone sort of piece of advice for people to transition from that aspect of being a manager to becoming more of a leader in the organization.
[43:59] I think like leadership opportunities are everywhere so you know if you’re if you’re operating in a management mode where you feel like you don’t like or just clocking tickets or are you just coming in every day to you know do stand ups and meet your team.
Like the way that you become a leader is just step back for a minute and try and get like a $10,000 foot you just ask yourself like in your job today like what were some problems that went on a dress that maybe you complained about and no one is doing anything about.
And decide to go do something about it like that’s like fun of Millie that’s the only difference between like a manager and a leader like leaders.
Don’t think they’ll stop at the complaints they they they see these opportunities for growth and I think that’s the best price I can get no great that’s that is great advice.
[44:46] You want to switch it over to to one of the last topics of the evening it’s about diversity.
And one of the things I want to ask in the audience present company excluded.
Does anyone here have an African-American VP of engineering or head of engineering raise your hand if you work here anyone does not work at Reddit.
And how either you are here I saw you in the past is it on here or have a woman who is a VP of engineering or head of engineering.
[45:23] So you know the bit more.
That’s actually that. That’s positive I think that sounds like 5 people that was very father you know and I think Silicon Valley with her to DC’s or some unnamed companies in there many of them have sort of gotten.
Bad raps lately for bad behavior,
and I think a lot of it has to do with a lack of diversity right and a lack of that empathy and that culture diversity so.
And as an African-American you know VP of engineering here I think you can have it you’re a good person to talk about the topic of diversity with sometimes get to talk to him.
[45:59] But I think sometimes you don’t talk about things then they stay on answer it right they stay on salt so I think you know this is the start of a conversation about.
Diversity that is not only about race but gender orientation and everything else.
So you don’t want the things I want to talk about aside from equal opportunity and all those types of things why does diversity matter for you why is it so important.
Dami there’s basically two reasons.
If you don’t believe the second reason I’ll give you certainly believe the first reason which I think the first teams are just more fun to work in.
In every organization I built I’ve enjoyed the ability to build connections with diverse sets of people.
And diversity and in that sense can mean people were just interested in different topics as a great starting point but in addition it’s even better if you can come and you’re not the only like black VP of engineering I think it just makes the workplace more fun,
when it’s representative of the of the outside world the second thing is you know.
You have to believe me there’s tons of studies for this but I’ll I’ll say why it’s important for Reddit but building better products and if you’ve ever heard of.
Conway’s law if you guys are managers Conway.
Is the guy who basically said that your product is destined to match the shape of your your org chart.
And you know I think there’s a corollary to that which is that your product is also destined to match the culture of your team and I think it’s not so hard to believe that so for a place like Reddit.
[47:38] Where it’s really important that we you know I don’t want to go on a rat hole in this but it’s very important for read it to grow.
For us to figure out a way to make the site more welcoming to new users new types of users,
in order for that to happen I think like the best place to start is with our own product team so that we can better empathize with the types of uses were trying to attract to the site.
[48:01] And throughout your career what is your experience been you know being sort of an African-American in a environment that’s.
You know it’s been I’ll be frank like it’s been it’s kind of isolating so at.
[48:23] I’m very fortunate in that I am if you guys were to hang out with me would realize I am not afraid of Independence and and getting a little uncomfortable I I don’t mind at all but I think I’m unique in that respect.
Yeah I went to MIT in Boston which I don’t think has any black people in it and then I moved to.
Then I move to Seattle and there’s like four but they don’t live near me and then in addition to that I mean.
And I was in I was like a black executive at Microsoft right so I was one of the very few black engineer after think I’m like I think I was the only one.
Now they’ve because me but I was also one of the youngest so I started my executor Microsoft F34 like the average exact it at Microsoft is like you know mid-40s so,
I think you don’t answer your question it’s very very isolating and I think that if you look at statistics,
around churn for diverse people like United it’s not it’s not hard to understand why they don’t want to work in an industry where they can’t.
I’ll come in and and and and find a community or set of people to hang out with everyday spending a big chunk your life at work.
[49:37] Any differences with that experience between now Seattle and San Francisco from A diversity standpoint this is pretty complex but.
[49:47] In San Francisco despite all the crazy I mean just baffling stuff that you read about in the you know in the newspapers.
They’re more bootcamps there’s much more emphasis on solving this problem here than it was in in Seattle and I think the reason for that is.
You look at like Venture investment if you look at the sources of opportunities that exist on Earth.
A large number of them start here in the Bay Area and people and I I agree with this philosophy that what we want.
Opportunity and access to be shared equitably and if you’ve got this you know engine on the earth which is producing all of these opportunities and and minting people like Mark Zuckerberg like left right and Center,
that we should strive to make sure that that offer those opportunities are fairly available to everybody.
And then there’s other CD or stuff which I don’t want to get into but I like to focus on opportunity you also are involved in a couple of.
[50:48] Things deaf color being one tell me a little about your efforts and supporting of these these groups that try to support,
an underrepresented groups in technology facilitator.
Sheryl Sandberg don’t like that for people of color to about 300 people in the program they form like 8 to 10 person,
circles and we meet once a month and I help facilitate that.
It is by far like the most amazing group that I have encountered for people color in technology in my career that even know about like it’s it’s better than this B is better than natural side of black Engineers lot of other things,
you know what I first got here it was just.
Just mind-blowing like you we walk into a room of 300 black Engineers it was it was I’ve never seen it before so I love that organization you know if you guys are interested in highly encourage you to look up the website.
And you know my my participation there is I’m again like I’m an exact there’s three other execs there and we just try and do our best to mentor and sure sure great,
any advice for any other sort of under representative groups in technology for you no advancing their careers.
[52:07] Besides find groups like this and getting support and sponsors I think.
[52:14] You know it’s it’s going to sound like weird advice but I mean you have to be I would say like you have to be.
Willing to be uncomfortable because that’s the reality that we’re in right now and if you want to advance your career.
[52:30] This is the problem with diversity inclusiveness is not going to get solved overnight and the way that I like to solve it.
Is maybe a little bit different than say like a social justice Warrior who wants to to get out and and and and complain and hold banners I think there’s a place for that for raising awareness.
But my belief is that like we’re well beyond like the need for awareness I don’t think anyone is denying that this is a problem I don’t know we’re in his problem there’s like a action problem.
So my advice is like the best way that that any of you can help not just people who know people color.
Is to take action like if you’re in a hiring management position.
[53:07] Do something like it you know no one else is going to solve this problem so tired of you know Chief diversity officer is getting hired who don’t have like the village it actually hire people like so if you’re hiring manager like.
[53:17] You will you will not get in trouble for wanting to help song and I like you know you know you’ll help solve a real social problem too so so my.
My advice for people of color is is be patient don’t give up and then my advice to hiring managers just like do something right like it’s time for action.
Any specifics on how companies and managers within companies can actually help promote diversity at the word musicians besides hiring and thinking about you know how to solve pipeline issues by looking.
An additional places like boot camps I think making sure that people don’t turn out is important.
You know so when people actually land in your company you want to make sure that they’re having a good time there as well.
Have employee resource groups have an interest groups have anything that will like make that person feel like they’re at home and some way even if it can’t be like a.
You know what gender or race the Affiliated group just do something like because you know.
They may not say it but it’s hard to feel it home intact if you’re a person color so just help them out.
An inner conversation previous to you mention that it’s very important to get top-down support for diversity I see some companies making the mistake of like only doing the bottoms up employee resource groups and then having like.
Line level employees form them and then hoping that that will attract more candidates and I do think it’s great to have.
[54:47] Your people at the you know the bottoms up helping but like the way you saw this is you get executive support trying to make.
Broad cultural changes particularly one that one’s that impact your hiring needs to come from from top down and you cannot expect like an icy to really have.
Material impact you want in Courage it but make sure the exact your supportive.
This is a question actually one of my directors asked when he found out you know we were going to have this conversation you had two sites like Reddit and Facebook and Twitter to balance the freedom of speech.
You know versus any racism sexism hate speech xcetera right and how do you how do you balance.
I mean I mean Reddit is particularly challenging to sites like Facebook your your frankly they have a much stricter policy on on speech and.
There is not.
[55:42] Pseudo Anonymous access which is what we have on Reddit so what we trying to do is be a place where the entire world can find a community and have a rich dialogue.
But we do it in a way that’s pseudo Anonymous so people can be like their true self or more authentic and that makes it a very very hard problem is essentially why Reddit exists is cuz we’re trying to solve this problem for the world.
And we tackle it in a couple different ways,
I want to see upload download system so I mean redditors themselves can decide that you know content is not appropriate for a particular subreddit the other thing is we have Folks at work right over there the trust and safety team.
Can essentially build tools that detect bad behavior on the site hate speech spambots Etc,
and try to shut it down at scale and you know Reddit is getting you know hundreds of millions of comments you know per month and you can imagine that’s a difficult problem but we’re trying to solve it both with technology.
With feedback from our users and also by a people on the ground so I’ll.
Then run your answers that’s pretty good this sort of come to the end a little bit of the pre-formatted questions we had an answers.
So if anyone hasn’t put any questions into slido.com there’s a bunch of here now I’m going to start getting to a few.
If you don’t have a phone that’s probably impossible but you can also raise your hand too and I’ll try to I’ll try to get to them but I think one of the first questions and you.
[57:17] You answer this a little bit it was due do anything you mentioned it briefly with your cultural part of your interview with the full question is how do you encourage diversity on your team’s what you do differently but you do anything specific during recruiting.
You know to help with this.
Like during recruiting we do a few things to make the candid experience better for women and people of color so I mentioned that.
We have three of the interview slots are meeting with the really like just have lunch or sit down and have a conversation or not necessarily technical interviews they’re more like feeling out the person’s personality.
And we try and have those you know.
You know if it’s if I want to come in front of you would try and have a woman from our people and culture team meet up so they meet someone like them throughout the day.
But I think most of the effort it really starts before that.
In trying to solve the pipeline problem so a lot of people say oh like you know we can’t get people to apply for our jobs,
what are we do and I think we spend a lot of our time really trying to promote Reddit in places that will will allow us to Source diverse candidates.
[58:26] Next question is can you talk about executive presence right what is executive presence and how.
Can someone with an engineering background that might be more say introverted come off with this concept of executive presence.
Yeah I can’t this is going to sound really bad though you going to eat I mean you guys have all.
And counted your exact I mean trying to put my.
[58:53] How I put my cynicism hat on and describe what it took Alexander like it’s someone who seems like they have all the answers and that the they’re not asking any excuse me they’re not answering any questions in a meeting.
You know they’re the people receiving the information and making a decision so.
If you you know regardless of whether you’re jovial in a meeting or you’re very very Stern or you know however you might Act.
Really the only difference is you’re the person that’s kind of make a decision as a result of this meeting and you act that way.
I think that’s the essence of exact presents like these people are in a room providing you enough material so that you know you can make a call but as far as.
[59:38] As far as how to enact that you know you.
You act as if the meeting is trying to be in service of helping you make a decision and your executive presence flows naturally liked right at home with the kids or something I mean it’s.
It’s it’s basically a,
and I think too there are a number of really good TED Talks right if you search for you know any portents of body language and answer those things on Google or Ted Talks,
how to cook myself that if you’re interested or not I think that might help as well take up more space all that stuff that goes.
Turn give me commute you can get a seat.
Versico chutzpah New York question here advice from transitioning from the director of engineering role,
to the VP of engineering role.
What is that what tips do you have for that I got a little bit earlier but the difference is you’ve got to have.
A crisp explanation of like how you run teams how you.
[1:00:54] How you build up your build up your build up your team so execution how you build up people and then some sense of of a business strategy and you know you can.
[1:01:07] The difference between a director-level interview and an exact level interview is is just certainty like that’s really the only the only difference like if you,
ask me how to run an engineering organization.
I will tell you I used a technique which is similar to kanban it has five steps a scale it out across multiple engineering organizations which I organize vertically around product.
Boom like you know exactly what you’re going to get if you hire me as an engineer how do you know when you can do the same thing for how you hire people and and so forth and so on.
When you’re when you’re in exact there is no room for flexibility no show up in a meeting you’re like well you know I’ll think I’ll do this you’re just selling them a program right.
People who hire execs are looking for you to come in and solve a specific executive-level problem there’s not that many of them there’s turnarounds which innovation in their sustaining you if your program fits what they need,
and you can explain it crisply and you have experience having use that program before you will get the job and that’s that’s pretty much.
[1:02:08] I think one thing that I see in some of my Engineers as they grow to that they need to learn better is managing up more right I think a lot of people spend a lot of time managing down but if you go up it’s about.
How do you then communicate with the CEO how do you communicate with the board of directors I think that.
Certainly by the time you get to a director-level and you have I made this mistake in my career like I was very very fanatic about.
Trying to not manage my metrics I was very anti metrics when I was early in my career when you become a director and you trying to scale out across large numbers of large numbers of people.
You have to get really really Chris on you know the definition of success for every group in your organization so if you were to land and read it.
And see how we run our engineering work for every team and Reddit there’s a set of deliverables and dates associated with him.
And then there is a set of okay our business metrics that need to get moved as a result of those of those people working on particular area.
And from a exactly position I can run the entire team just using that information I don’t need to dive any further than that unless something’s going wrong and you know managing up.
[1:03:26] No people manage up to me by understanding the metrics that that I care about,
and presenting their information in a way that like I care about is here the okay are you trying to move Nick you’re the dates are trying to move and here’s the the way of contribute to the overall Reddit strategy like if you can do those things you’re doing pretty well.
Great another question we touched about this before is your specific experience going from managing individual contributors to becoming a manager of managers how did that transition happen any mistakes any tips you have.
[1:03:57] Yeah I mean my first job is a manager of managers was.
[1:04:03] Actually let me roll back I was going to give you a really awful story and I decided not to.
Not to talk to Bailey about myself I think that when you become a manager managers you have to understand that you’re dealing with.
Pools of people and not individuals and that was the the biggest mistake I made I think in order to learn how to do that though is very very difficult and it just takes time I’ll tell you exactly,
when you learn how to be a manager manager answer your first reorg that you responsible for.
So I know if you guys have ever had to run a reorg but the instant you’re sitting there and you’ve got like a spreadsheet with a bunch of people on it and you’re like dragging cells in the spreadsheet from one column to another.
You are director and if you can do that without like feeling bad because it’s like the right thing to do like a really good director and I think that.
Took me a long time to do like I got very very attached to like you know individuals I think the way you carry that forward as it as a director is.
[1:05:08] When you when you have this challenge like it some point you guys will have this.
Just trying to make sure that you’re not blindly shuffling people around as if they were interchangeable cogs that like some thought has gone into what this person on your team wants to accomplish in Life or in your.
Any organization and that it somehow informs your decision as a director to to move them into a new business challenge I think as long as you can credibly claim that you or some manager on your team,
has collected at info in you’ve been informed by it that you can you can stay on the right side.
[1:05:42] Had a question on diversity and inclusion any specific resources books websites courses or anything that you recommend if a company is trying to you know get into DNA.
There’s a great report called catalysts it’s like my favorite if you just go on Google and search I think it’s a catalyst. Org.
They have got just reams of of information on.
The value of DNA how to run programs how to set up employee resource groups excetera.
I I use that when people ask me to quote like statistics for yd and I matter so I think it’s Catalyst. Org it was not calloused out or just search for Catalyst and diversity on Google you should show up.
Cool another question is about coaching as an exact do you still have time to coach your employees.
Yeah yeah I mean that’s as an exact that’s the only way you can really manage so maybe I’m not understand the question but as as there’s different management styles and I think that.
[1:06:47] The best managers start from a coaching methodology that is to say you don’t tell exact people exactly what to do.
You asked him questions that will lead them to you know the correct conclusion and I and I always do that that’s essentially how I like to run my organization’s do you have any resources for your managers to help them become better managers and coached their teams.
I mean what I like to do is I offer my own time to my managers in the other thing is I’m a huge fan of professional education like I have an MBA.
And I read it has like fortunately like a really great benefits for for education so I try and encourage folks to my team to use it.
So between my own time and and more formal education that’s what I push people to work okay great.
Anyone a few more that’s good here and ask your question I’m going to repeat it so that I think we’re recording this so that I can hear it as well.
Send me this repeat this if I can remember that the three minute thing first one and I’m going to paraphrase,
in interviewing do you look more at the CSU know or do you look more at the ability of what they’ve done what you think they can do and then I’ll repeat the same questions I mean so during an interview I can tell you my ideal interview,
like is in the form of a take-home challenge that is what I prefer because that way you you can kind of see what’s on was going to produce in the in the real world.
[1:08:17] Unfortunately like that doesn’t always scale so like if I read it right now they are 80 people and hot and trying to run 80 you know try to hire 80 people using take them challenges doesn’t quite scale so we do fall back not necessary on Michael eat code.
You know I think if you would feel if you were to apply at Google you would get like straight out of leak code.com questions.
We have a set of questions though that we think our little bit more.
Design oriented while still having a few interesting but relevant to your day-to-day job algorithms typically like hash tables and things like that.
But we don’t really overemphasize on algorithms when I got hired it was completely algorithmic and I think that the industry has just largely changed to be more practical on this topic.
So that gives you an answer let me see if I get the second question.
[1:09:08] Jujube submission you be submissive is this so you have other Executives or CEO and you know they’re wrong and you come in and how do you handle that situation.
[1:09:19] Yeah I think like.
If you knew me pretty well you would know like I am not submissive remotely but I think I’m dumb.
[1:09:36] You know if you’re very very self-critical then then I think things work out you have to acknowledge that you might not always be right.
But if you work for a manager for doesn’t ever want you to agree with him then you probably shouldn’t work for that manager.
I just it’s hard it’s it’s hard to grow if people lie won’t give you some light and I would say that.
[1:10:02] If it’s on a particular issue that he just stick disagrees with you that’s one thing maybe you’re wrong and you just need to disagree and commit.
If it’s a continuing pattern of a guy just want you to do whatever he says but there’s cultures like that but that does not the culture will have like an any organization I would ever build and I hope you don’t work in a company like that Frank.
Grace are there is another one yes.
[1:10:24] No I mean I didn’t really oh sorry repeat the question we can you repeat it maybe you’ll you said you’re better at this and I play the memory game really good.
[1:10:34] You also mentioned the three types of eating you come in and you’re really good at eating a building or ization turning on recognition or surveilling out and use different words.
[1:10:44] How did you pick one and would it you always follow that one now and that’s what you look for yeah I think that’s.
[1:10:52] By the time I became an exact my previous skills math to me into one of those buckets very cleanly I had.
[1:11:00] You know almost every team at ever worked on was like an innovation team and the.
Since I was at Microsoft I also did a lot of turnarounds so it was like come build a new product this team is failing.
That combo so I became an innovation and turnarounds leader I didn’t.
I didn’t intentionally guide myself that way though and I and I didn’t really develop this.
Philosophy about the different types of Executives until after I make a after I got my MBA in like I thought thought it through a little bit more my advice those if you want to become an exact and is more than three types I wish I had my.
Homework book with me but seek out some of those opportunities.
It might take a little bit out of your way in like result in a bit of a non-standard career path but it’ll give you breath and and give you the experience that you want so that you can become an exact and when you’re not interview can say yeah I did this this and this and here’s how I approach to.
So I didn’t do it intentionally but I encourage knowing what I know I would have been more intentional about.
[1:12:04] So it says I how do you train new managers while simultaneously trying to to to grow.
That’s essentially what we just did it at at Reddit I think that’s.
[1:12:18] You knows I talked a lot about coaching earlier.
When I was thrown into a into this situation where you know there was really no managers around and I needed to start executing really really quickly.
The first few months that I had at Reddit we’re not really discuss coaching approach.
It was here’s what you do as a manager I need you to do it right now or we’re going to go underwater I was in some meeting on swear.
[1:12:49] I’m here Mike told me to see other day I was in a meeting once where someone was complaining about.
Like hey the PM’s keep changing the schedule and pulling resources from our team and like changing the specs and.
[1:13:01] What what are you going to go do something about that Nick and I was like guys.
That is literally your jobs as managers like welcome welcome to the new world and you know so basically in order to to get that going while simultaneously growing.
You really got to just crisply impart your system if you will and be clear about the expectations and see what sticks.
If I’m if I deliver more time flexibility though.
I think learning sticks a little bit better if the if you’re not just telling someone what to do like if they are learning through an experience.
But sometimes you don’t have the time to do that you certainly don’t have time to do it if you need to build like five new managers and in 2 weeks.
I think a good carler to that is what are the things you identify an up-and-coming individual contributor that you think will make them a good manager.
Yeah I mean you usually like when I shut it right there was this you guys are probably heard this,
there’s a bunch of people call themselves tech leads I think in the you know he death of the universe the Cockroaches no one will know what a tekli it is and so anyway there’s people call themselves tech leads which.
Basically was people who.
[1:14:07] We’re doing some level of of architecture and project coordination and decided to use those folks,
as the kind of seed for a new management team so first I think month or two on the job,
I spent a lot of time with those folks just talking about what management meant showing him like jira how to do ticketing talking through the workflows there was.
[1:14:33] You know.
It was a lot of Selena latent Talent like one great thing about read it was when I showed up it was only people didn’t know how to do all these things it just hadn’t ever been,
presented as important,
and a lot of like latent Talent unlocked there’s this guy that works your name Prashant who turn out to be like some Dro Wiz and just really dovinh to it and help me.
I don’t turn out to be just like a total Wiz on helping me like not only Define the process but then he was an advocate in my guinea pig for it for the rest of Jurgen ization.
Great I saw you had a hand up yeah I’ll give you.
Try to make it real short to probably the toughest like turnaround job ever had was.
[1:15:25] I had to take over a mobile development team they were working on a mobile version with IOS app.
That was themed to look like a Windows app like a Windows mobile app dumbest thing I’ve ever seen and.
So I made a couple mistakes there but I can tell you roughly what I did when I took it over first you do a big all hands with the team there’s my first mistake.
Because this is the first turn around that I had had to execute and I didn’t realize.
That the people who are being sucked into my organization would necessarily be happy if so,
I show to this meeting and I’m like hey guys I can’t wait to work on mobile with you I know you’ve had all these problems in your app sucks but I’m here to turn it around it turns out that didn’t go over really well.
So I had to kind of back off a little bit and then what I did more tactically after that initial meeting.
After the damage control was I spent a lot of time just meeting with the key leaders so I talked to the existing managers.
New you’re so fine like in the first 90 days people will come to you with a lot of ideas themselves like the first day on the job all the political players were come talk to you.
So you don’t get to know them but then the second to you know I guess second day to the 10th day.
You can people who aren’t necessarily political players they just genuinely have concerns and opinions about the product so that second [2:10] today.
Just write down everybody is telling you cuz they’re going to clam up eventually as they kind of realize your new Authority in in the orc and I came up with a plan.
[1:17:05] For that mobile team that once I understood the problems with the the technology and then the overall product strategy these guys didn’t want to be building like a Windows app on iOS.
It was fairly easy to come up with like a go-forward product plan that would resonate with the team.
The other thing that was more challenging though is understanding how damaged the team is like so.
When you inherit a new org you really have to spend a little the time figuring out who’s going to support a management change cuz even if the team wasn’t going well if the old man who got kicked out.
A lot of like not a lot of times all like pretty much all the time like personal relationships can Trump like.
Poor business decisions like they may be making a crappy product they love working for that guy so you have to figure out all those people and make sure that they’re bought into you as a leader they like your style and.
Senator bought into a vision that you need to put together really really quickly I think that the way that all ended was.
We we rebooted the product about 45 days at Lagoon completely redid it and time for one more yes.
[1:18:10] Jeremy just repeat the question for how do you build your leadership bange to build up forces hiring over.
I think it depends right so.
[1:18:21] In a raise not lemonade stand so you have to have to be really careful sometimes about who you put in what particular positions and.
[1:18:30] You have to be able to identify people that you can like take a bet on in and Leadership is anytime you put someone into a management or director position.
Your you are in essence taking a bet that they can they can leave that organization.
The way that like to build that bench of people to take bets on as I try to be as inclusive as possible so.
[1:18:53] For example at my.
Management team or city of my staff meetings for very long time while I was here read an actual included all the managers and and not just my staff so they can understand like you know staff-level conversations.
And then we have these kind of weekly execution of use that are are primarily around talking about how a particular team is working its the the intended audience is really just the manager in the p.m.
But I like to encourage people who are running key projects to to come to that meeting as well so I like to get basically people were Proto managers or Proto directors.
Continually exposed to like the day-to-day of what it would what it would be like in the maybe even throw them a few opportunities every once in awhile to to step to step up and.
Note if you do that enough you know you end up with a nice bunch of people that you can pull from.
[1:19:47] Great well I think we’re should have out of time for the Q&A as well as the event there is still I think some beer left and some food I think the session ended about 9 so if anyone sticking around we have a couple of more minutes maybe 20 minutes or so to ask.
Your Nick any questions.
Or sending me resume so but I do want to thank again Reddit for sponsoring this I want to thank the San Francisco engineering leadership organization and Jerry thank you very much for putting the song.
Nick thank you very much for your time and see vanning I very appreciate it yeah thank you guys.