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What does a Director of Engineering do? (hashtagcoder.dev)
307 points by shalotelli on April 15, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 107 comments



> I used to think hard work leads to promotion. This is because I didn't understand why different positions exist outside of a title change. Now I see things a bit differently. If an individual on my team is working hard, I'm going to keep them where they are because they're getting the job done. Rather, I'm looking to elevate my 10x engineer - not the one that's the doing their job well but the one thats mentoring those around them to do their job well too.

An excellent point. This misconception that hard work leads to promotion is widespread, and management doesn't often do enough to dispel it (if they are even aware of it themselves). I think an important step here is to identify the concrete behaviors and competencies needed to advance. In the words of Randall Koutnik: "What does it take to succeed at [your] company beyond 'hard work'?"[0].

[0]https://rkoutnik.com/articles/Questions-to-ask-your-intervie...


I'll tell you what amazes me: If you look at any reasonably large engineering organisation they will likely have guidance published from HR stating what the criteria are for different job roles, and they'll actually be pretty similar across different organisations.

You might be a Senior Software Engineer at one place but called a Staff engineer at another place, but they're broadly comparable, and the seniority criteria show a very clear progression: the more senior you get the more influence you are showing across the organisation, whether that means managing larger projects, mentoring other staff, consulting with other teams on best known practices, or influencing other parts of the company inter-discplinary projects.

Almost every large organisation will have a neat table telling you exactly what attributes you need to show. They all show that progression - more influence on the organisation as a whole.

And yet every single review cycle there's always a portion of engineers who think they deserve a promotion because their personal work was high quality. It's like they haven't read the job spec of the job they're applying for. It's amazing.


I've worked at those kinds of organizations, read the documents, put in the work, and got promoted...by switching companies :).

In my experience, the companies that do have those documents (and not all do) don't actually really use them or make much reference to them in 1-on-1's or reviews. That's because management's perspective is that they are interested in how well you are doing at the job they hired you for, not how you are doing in the job you want.

In the few cases where I've seen people promoted within a company (which pales in comparison to how often people get promoted by switching companies) It was always because management felt that there was a new role that needed filling. Certainly some of the time those people earned those promotions (though not all the time) but the actual driving factor here was (perceived) business need.


In my experience, I've seen plenty of promotions from within (and experienced my fair share as well). They just take a while to happen. But then, I've been at multiple companies for over 5 years. That's probably about how long it takes to watch someone grow from an individual contributor into a leader, including leadership skills as well as building reputational and political capital across the organization.

Patience is a virtue.


> Patience is a virtue.

Your anecdata doesn't align with actual studies that indicate frequent job changes as the optimal strategy for maximising income.

Your loyalty isn't worth anything to your employer in the current market. Those times ended several decades ago.

Here's some counter anecdata: after graduating, I doubled my salary and seniority twice in 3 years with two job hops. If I stayed at my first employer, I'd be lucky to be making a third of what I am now and none of the career prospects that have become available.

I'm in my mid 30s and have a seniority level that lifers at my current employer hope to achieve sometime in their mid 40s if ever.


How many hops through the FAANG circuit did you make, if you mind me asking?


As someone who is not and has not worked for a FAANG or in silicon valley, I would say that the parent comment's observations are still (generally) correct.


I appreciate your perspective. I am not claiming that they don't happen (though in your experience it may be more common). I am claiming that when they do happen, the primary, initiating cause is a need on the part of the business/management to fill a role.

A person may be operating at a level that would qualify them for the new role for quite some time, but unless and until management have a need for someone in that role, the promotion won't happen.

That's why (in my experience) promotions happen more frequently when finding a new job: the fastest way to make sure the employee's readiness for a promotion lines up with business need is to find a business that already needs someone for that role.


Meh, it's been my experience that those charts are borderline worthless. The truth is promotions are probably only fractionally about performance. A lot of it is budget, creating pr/"buzz" [even if it's proportional to impact], did you happen to be on a revenue-generating team, is there any political risk to promoting you (e.g. would you say the type of things I'm saying right now?).

Maybe google or something is different (and I doubt it), but that's less than 1% of engineers.


what makes the difference is:

- your boss is influential (politics)

- you are lucky enough to work on a high impact/ high visibility project

- you play yes man with your boss and please them

- how long have you been with the company and the political connections you have made

... quality plays a very small role in promotions ...

In all the organizations I have worked for, I expected a promotion within the first 2 years (to then leave on the 3rd anyway :) ).

When that did not happen, I simply left and got a salary increase and +1 level anyway.

If you are lucky enough to work in a high demand field (like tech) and you are good at it ... you are pretty much in control.

Qualified people that get s*t done are always in high demand, just make sure to always be on the top and keep sharpening your skills ;)


> you play yes man with your boss and please them

You need to be able to read this one. I've gotten a lot of props for being someone by bosses can rely on to challenge them. But I also don't do it for stupid things, and if they seem to not be willing to flinch then I back down.


What is more amazing is their managers who have figured out how to work the system are not telling people that. Your job should be helping your people get where they want to go so if they can't get there tell them why.

I've wasted years working hard and trying to gain influence only to realize that the areas I was getting influence in didn't matter to anyone so I was condemned to get good jobs but no promotion. It has been hard to let go and find a path with real influence. Where I was going is one of those areas that only seen if not done. Lesson learned though : the guy who created the bad design requiring them to come in right before release and work a weekend is rewarded above the guy who wrote good code that works...


I tell my developers this repeatedly, in the form of "making yourself 10% better is not as good as making everyone you work with 1% better".

A few get it and shift towards a "rising tide floats all boats" mentality, the rest do nothing and are perfectly adequate, or agree with me then turn back to solely focusing on self-improvement.

The kicker? That 1% universal imporvement is soooo much easier than 10% or even 5% personal improvement. You can help your team become more effective just by (1) commiting to the act of (2) giving a sh!t.


The 1% contribution to others is good for the manager, because he gets to take credit for the entire team. The 10% self improvement is good for that individual, because he can leverage that into a better paying role.


It depends on where you are in your career. If you are a below average developer, do like they say in the airplane and "put on your own mask before assisting others." If you are an above average developer, you will be noticed by being the person who helps others more than solving every problem.

At some point in your career, your influence by your own two hands reaches a plateau. You are a senior engineer. How are they choosing the tech lead?

I can speak by experience that the tech lead is often not the most technically proficient on the team. They are the one who helps others the most. They are the one who talks with the most people beyond their team. If I am looking for a lead, I am looking for the person who people look to for help.


> I can speak by experience that the tech lead is often not the most technically proficient on the team.

In my experience, this is mostly true. I've worked with some tech leads that had really average skills, at best.

> They are the one who talks with the most people beyond their team.

You're almost there.

Here is what I've noticed, about those who do get promoted (to tech lead and beyond): they get noticed by being the loudest in the room. They do presentations, they organize meetings (that they lead), and they are in the spotlight. Never giving it up to anyone. Me, me, me.

None of that means they are worth a damn, though. Some of these same people have led the company down technical dead ends or strapped the company with expensive tech debt and maintenance. Managers won't care though because that's their guy (or gal). Managers are really poor at recognizing bullshit and really good at justifying decisions they have made. Beyond covering their ass, it's really hard, psychologically, to admit you've really screwed up. And even harder to undo that mistake. This is how companies go under. All the time.

Very few of the tech leads I've witnessed actually help their coworkers. Especially once they've made the promotion. They tend to just vanish at that point, and camp out on projects they want to do and screw everyone else. Out of 10 tech leads, I'd say the ratio is maybe 2-3 good ones.


I've been there and only learnt that this "wait to be chosen" attitude never pays off. It's rewarded, but the reward is a pittance compared to what that energy could buy.

My advise to myself 20yo would be: learn how to deal with people, learn how organizations work, build capital and get onto the money side of things; but don't let your ego get tricked into the shiny tech lead and manager titles as those are only mirages of wealth.


> I've been there and only learnt that this "wait to be chosen" attitude never pays off. It's rewarded, but the reward is a pittance compared to what that energy could buy.

Wait to be chosen is the opposite of what I think most people are saying here.

You have to actively find out what is important to your organization and how to make both yourself and other people better in those areas.


If what you care about is money, why do tech at all? Sure, it pays well, but not ibanker-well. The replacement-level investment banker is doing to make a multiple of all but the best-compensated engineers.


It was an easy way to make some initial capital. I would've done that in the banking sphere if I could.


Unfortunately the flipside of this is very common as well - you are a senior team member, improving those around you and should be promoted and/or given a raise. That allows the manager to let you keep doing it for free, and either (a) sit back and not do their job or (b) influence up and take credit for it. Its a two way street and many places/people in power are happy to take advantage of you trying to do good work.


I really like this perspective, going to keep it in mind.


I spent many years deciding promotions at a big tech company, including for Sr managers. One thing we always looked into was were they growing the talent on their teams, mentoring, growing skills, and getting people promoted. People understood this was one of the criteria for manager promotions, so they spent time on it (and documented it).

Like any other job, people tend to respond to what they are told will be the evaluation criteria.


What kind of documentation do you look at, and how do you document that sort of thing?


> Your job should be helping your people get where they want to go

This sounds nice, and from the perspective of the direct report, sure, this is the mindset that you want your managers to have. That said, your manager isn't necessarily incentivized by the company to optimize for this. What's best for the employee isn't necessarily what's best for the company.


Which is why employees are disincentivized from trusting those managers.


You can tell employees this stuff over and over, some are just not ready to hear it.


People with this "help others" mindset lose competition against their more ruthless peers. If you had a business, would you help others to compete with you?


I've worked with someone who couldn't tell the difference between a coworker and a competitor, and I hope I never do again.


How do you tell the difference? I am not aware of having ever worked with "competitors". My coworkers are my team mates, so naturally I help them when they get stuck.


I would fire anyone in my organization who saw themselves as a ruthless competitor against their peers.


Then you should start with Senior Management and especially the C levels. What was that quote from the office? "There's only one person in charge in every office and his name is Charles Darwin"


Would you rather have your organization be filled with engineers that output high quality work or so-called Staff Engineer influencers?

Personally I would rather most to be the former. Doers are important (probably the most important) and should be rewarded, IMO. Hard work and no promotion leads to quitting.

Getting promoted to Staff etc is more about being put on important projects, building relationships with managers from other teams (i.e. reminding them you exist come Promo committee), and tooting your own horn a lot. IMO, this is not necessarily related to how good you are and perhaps not as valuable to the organization as much as we think.

Personally, I've gotten promoted (or recently, not laid off) basically because my team was selected to work on the fancy new project. Probably some other guy in a different team didn't get a promotion because he was just on the wrong project.


Organizations that are filled purely with "doers" who don't make their coworkers better provide a great perpetual need for people to come in and clean up the mess later at often higher pay. :p

But maybe there's more than just "sloppy isolated doers" and "no-code-writing influencer staff timewasters"...

A doer who does help everyone around them keep the codebase clean too... well... yep, that's the influencer part. So yeah, definitely want that.


In my experience, there are few of those type of valuable influencers around and they have a limited career path. Maybe a promotion or two above standard engineer, but that is it.

Those that rise higher to the very senior positions are are able to promote their image, regardless of how much value that actually provide, and in fact they often provide negative value. That is in IT structures. Our primary mechanism for promotion at Big Corp is "influence". But influence is measured in a completely stupid manner by people who have been promoted to senior positions via the same completely stupid process.

People who come up with a "risk reduction" methodology and manage to sell it to someone senior, that requires all engineers to start adhering to this new methodology, which provides very little risk reduction but negatively impacts a huge amount of productivity, is very likely to get promoted.

For example, one person may have inadvertently done something stupid on a production host such as running CPU intensive operations on huge log files. So instead of looking at the correct fix, which would be to immediately form a small, very capable team of engineers tasked with going across the firm and helping teams get log files streamed off correctly, so engineers have very little need to go onto prod hosts, nope, some person with "influence", will decide with no consultation and no notice that all engineer access to prod hosts is gone. So now to support our applications we have to ask a support team to transfer large files around our network in an ad-hoc manner just so we can perform the analysis we need. Not only is this not much risk reduction, it completely hinders engineers ability to do a good job, which negatively impacts the company.

Yet this person if he isn't already senior, will be able to in the yearly review hugely sell his "risk reduction" exercise and will almost certainly be seen by the other idiots as someone equally capable as themselves and worthy of a similar position.


Great comment, I find that many influencer types aren't actually capable of doing the jobs of their juniors and reasoning about low level systems. Promotion systems don't differentiate between having influence and having good influence. Also, sometimes the hard problems that have the most impact and real org wide influence aren't at the visible influencer level, but instead related to low level "grunt work" problems. A lot of the principal engineer and sr engineering manager types aren't actually worth their salt and can't solve hard problems, instead relying on others to do the work and then participating in high level meetings so they can take the credit.


It looks like we have been working at the same company.


Pairing code, code review, Friday learning seasons where everyone pitches are often far better than organisational concept of mentors.


> And yet every single review cycle there's always a portion of engineers who think they deserve a promotion because their personal work was high quality. It's like they haven't read the job spec of the job they're applying for. It's amazing.

I have found in my career that most engineers don't read anything. Emails, HR docs, AC, nothin. The first to get mad and the last to think that they could adjust their behavior.

(I am an engineer).


> It's like they haven't read the job spec of the job they're applying for.

Amazingly, some organizations do not hand every new hire that document on day 1, so that they understand what different roles entail. Sometimes managers don't even know about that document, and discover its existence because someone asks about it, who in turn was told by a mentor who happened to know about it.


I don't understand why people want to be promoted. I've worked for the same company for nearly 2 decades. I'm basically doing the same job as when I started. I don't want more work or more responsibilities. I'm happy staying in my groove. In that time my pay has more than doubled. Recently my boss informed me that they were giving me a 15% raise. I didn't ask for a raise. I don't have to do any more work. Frankly I've felt for awhile that they are paying me way more than I deserve and I was astonished that they wanted to give me 15% more out of the blue. Maybe I lucked into an unusual situation, but I work for a huge Fortune 150 company and my situation seems fairly typical here.


From my experience that is indeed a somewhat unusual situation.

The companies I have worked for in the past and those where friends and family work tend give "raises" to match inflation and sometimes a bit on top.

There are also plenty of companies that dont raise your salary at all unless you get promoted.

I think that is part of why many people advise new graduates to change jobs every 2-3 years for some time as often the salary of the newly hired tends to reflect the current market rate.

I have had instances where newly hired people with less experience than colleagues received 20% more salary simply because they were new. This is for the same job and productivity level.

Your standpoint on promotions is perfectly fine and even healthy. Not all people want to get promoted and as long as your are comfortable in your job and like, or at least not mind, doing it, thats okay.

Your boss and the company you work for may very well genuinely care about you. They may have also raised your salary because your are extremely knowledgeable in your area and cant afford to have you leave the company. They could also very much underpay your current market rate and raised your salary to match what other people are earning in that position. No one except your boss can answer that.

Leaving a company that you like working at is a risk and can backfire. I did it once and regretted my decision. Other times it can be a great decision and expose you to new things that you may end up liking even more than your current job.

At the end of the day that decision is squarely on you.


I would be happy to be in the same role for the rest of my career if it meant that: a) I got to work on different projects across my career b) The company I work for was happy to invest in my development and learning (through paying for courses/certs/self-learning time and importantly c) I got regular pay rises.

Sadly, the order I listed those is in decreasing order of how likely each company is to offer them. So many companies are reluctant to give out pay rises (and I'm not talking 2% inflation rises that only ensure you stay above water). There's almost this unspoken principle where if you agreed to do a job 5 years ago for one price, why should you want more to do the same job 5 years later? There's no notion that maybe your institutional knowledge is worth something, or you're a better engineer now, or the company will be worse off if you leave vs. if they hire somebody else.

And so, people more often than not move companies to get a raise. Gone are the days where you can start at a company as a grad, and work there till you retire. I wish those days were still here, but they're not. Every time I got a raise it was because I moved jobs.


This is a good attitude. Promotion is not just "more of the same" but is really moving to a different job and it may not be a job you like better.

That said, people want to get promoted largely for some combination of increased status, power, and income. I don't think it's worth taking a job you dislike for these things, though. Life's too short.


That’s fine as long as you are able to keep that position but leaves you increasingly vulnerability to chance events as the years pass. Entire companies have imploded despite being made to appear healthy, like Enron. A personality conflict with one well-connected person could have them try to push you out. Any number of things. If two hypothetical people competed in the job market with similar skill sets but a twenty year age difference I know which one I’d expect to see hired first.

I’m sure that’s not actually true for you anyway since it would be really hard to not gain an immense breadth of knowledge from twenty years of constant industry exposure. Breadth might not pay as well as depth, but you probably aren’t giving yourself enough credit if it felt so gradual.


I feel the exact same way. When I have 1:1s with my manager the topic of career progression often comes up and I kinda feel bad saying I'm perfectly happy as a sr engineer who is dependable and does good work.


I think of it as there are 2 ways to grow your career. Vertical and Horizontal. Vertical growth is another name for promotions. It involves having more people reporting to you. Horizontal growth is gaining new skills/technologies/knowledge/etc. I prefer the second, and so far my company has rewarded me financially for doing so.


For me, promotions me more autonomy rather than more reports. I think the essay *Implementers, Solvers, and Finders"[0] expresses this well.

[0]https://rkoutnik.com/2016/04/21/implementers-solvers-and-fin...


Hey, you do you! If you have reached equilibrium in that you are happy and fulfilled and also a productive member of the team, that seems great for all parties involved.


You have to work hard at the right work.

Many people make the mistake of working like a donkey, or burrowing themselves as essential parts of some process.


Nah, the idea that "one that's mentoring those around them to do their job well" can lead to promotion is also just an example out of many.

My experience is that the biggest promotion driver is always the product success. And the product success also vary between organizations. I've seen a huge project promoted people in the process, but in the end was entirely canceled and delivered minimal value, while the promoted folks wisely left the team. While in other places, if the product ends not getting their customers happy, execution excellence is not rewarded much.

If product success is not easy to get, the team can be very excellent, but wont have much growth space in seniority. That has nothing to do with their personal skills etc.


I think hardwork generally does lead to promotion up to a certain point. My company will allow you to go from a 1 to a 2 on good contributions alone and time. Going from 2 to Senior takes additional time, but is more than just technical. It's about how well you can train other members of the team, work on special projects of difficulty, work without direct guidance, give regular feedback to management, work across department barriers, deal with customers...etc. It also helps if you're persistent.


I think it's time that our industry retired the notion of the 10x engineer the same way we don't use the terms "rock star" and "ninja" anymore.


Variability of productivity between engineers is a real thing. Even when I've been on teams where everyone is fairly competent and senior, I've seen folks who really stand out.


The answer varies wildly based on the size of the company. At smaller companies, they tend to oversee hiring, technical work, and act as managers, but don't necessarily have budgetary authority. At larger companies, they tend to have more authority and involvement in larger strategic efforts; they tend to be "managers of managers."


Depends on the company. When I was director at a large social network, i didn’t have much authority around my budget or headcount. That was made by the VP. When i was a director at a startup which was the highest technology position, I had full authority over everything. I also drove the roadmap and attended board meetings.

The real way to determine your role and authority is measuring from top down. How many steps are you away from the CEO. Titles don’t mean much.


Absolutely this. There's a huge difference between a real Director of Engineering at a FANG-size company versus a "Director of Engineering" who is just some kid who decided to call their side-project a startup and give themself a hugely inflated title.


There are also FAANG-sized corporations that give director titles to individual contributors because it's the only way to get them into a salary band where they can be paid a competitive rate.


It's not as simple as company size, it's responsibility and authority.

Necessarily the nature of the job changes a bit if you are a the head of an organizational unit of 600, or 60, or 6. But it changes fundamentally if you have ultimate budget authority, hiring/firing, etc.

Agree there are a lot of somewhat ridiculous titles in early stage startups (ever seen a 5 person company with 3 "C" levels?) but even when you are small (but growing) there is a role distinction between exec and non-exec roles, and there is a difference worth drawing between director-in-name and director-in-fact positions.

If you are truly acting as a director of engineering, I'd expect you have broad authority to act; you don't ultimately decide your budget or technical goals (but you should be involved in determining both) but within those constraints you have most of the decision making responsibility for how & who.


The case in between is the developer who's been with the company the longest (>2 years) and so just gets bubbled up the chain into the CTO role while the dev team consists entirely of graduates/juniors


Totally agree. My experience has been interesting because I've grown with the company in this position so I've seen both sides of it. I'm now getting to the point where I'm elevating myself out of the day-to-day "now" and focusing on future strategy and whats "next"


Good insights.

Small nitpick, I have no idea what the terms "EOS" and "L10 meetings" mean.


Jumping on here as this is a widespread issue in tech writing.

"The first time you use an initialism or acronym in your document, the words should be written out with the short form placed in parentheses immediately after."


There's a whole tag to handle it in HTML. Don't have to reserve it for only the first instance.


Huh neat, I didn't realize there was a HTML tag (<abbr>) till just now, thanks!

EDIT: Just spent the last 45 minutes adding it in on my sites in various spots, hopefully this helps the readers.


Thanks for this tip. Writing in this form definitely doesn't come naturally to me so it's great to be learning not just about the topic but also on how to better my communication.


It will also help with SEO



Unless I'm missing something, the "WHAT THE HECK IS A LEVEL 10 MEETING?" post doesn't actually answer "what the heck is a level 10 meeting?".


It looks like managerial consulting claptrap. Don't trust a methodology with an ® next to its name and an accompanying book series.


haha! once you get through the nonsense the concepts are actually really useful


> once you get through the nonsense

I'm not going to trudge through clear marketing/sales copy to get down to a few common-sense nuggets of information. Stuff like this is clearly a sales pitch for books/courses/etc vs. any sort of real-world education around management and entrepreneurship.

Typically when it gets implemented in an org it's just a cargo cult "Simon Says" game that'll get ya fired if you don't drink the koolaid.


You cannot even attend a Level 10 meeting without being 10x. With Level 10 technology, and 10 10x people, you're looking at a minimum of 1000x productivity.

With Level 10, you basically elevate your team and meld them into Chuck Norris.


So for me to elevate myself into focusing on whats next I have to make sure whats going on now is being taken care of. I see absolutely no value in micro management and if I don't trust my team then I've set them up wrong. BUT I still want to have a pulse check on how they're doing and what I can be doing to help them because I'm still driven by my mission to create a great engineering culture. The L10 meeting is basically a weekly 90 minute session where we go over our metrics that matter (a scorecard that we use to track system health, successful outcomes etc), set and recap any todo's that we've set for the last 7 days (and I emphasize that these are the absolutely essential things we have to get done to keep things running, not extra things on top of existing work) and then time to remove any major blockers by discussing and solving them. Overall, we need to take ourselves out of working in the business (not talking about bugs etc - we have a separate session for that) and work ON the business (infrastructure, identifying current gaps and weaknesses on our team, resourcing etc). It really helps maintain transparency all the way down and also keeps my people empowered to do what they need to do. At the end of the day, I hire smart people to solve the hard problems, not to tell them what to do.


The first rule of Level 10 meeting is you do not talk about Level 10 meeting.


Your not alone. I didn't read far enough into the non-answer to find the answer.


Haha, I had a consulting client where a VP exec kept referring to "L10 meetings" (which were for the leadership group only), and the devs thought it was an attempted abbrev like "i18n" for "internationalization", or "a11y" for "accessibility".


Yeah, L10n actually does stand for localization.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internationalization_and_local...)


Thanks!


EOS is the framework my company uses to keep every department rowing in the same direction. It's been an interesting experience, especially for me with a background in engineering in learning to put my business management hat on and having to focus a lot more on non technical initiatives. You can find out more about it here if you're interested https://www.eosworldwide.com/

One of my favorites quotes in the book "The 5 dysfunctions of a team" is

> A friend of mine, the founder of a company that grew to a billion dollars in annual revenue, best expressed the power of teamwork when he once told me, “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”


Interesting, thanks for clarifying. I run a small 8 person software team in a software-is-secondary business, so articles like yours are helpful for me as I discover new terms and approaches to leadership.


Definitely check out the EOS framework and also OKRs. Those are the 2 that we've tried out so far - we found OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to be a bit too aspirational for us but EOS so far has given us a toolkit to lead and navigate going from a start up to a funded high growth company. They're applicable regardless of business model and industry.


Rocks. I also don't know what rocks are.

Well, except things in the dirt.


I used to be told that I should be setting additional goals aside from my day to day work. “What more are you going to contribute this quarter?” That definitely didn’t make sense to me. What does make sense is using the SMART framework to define things I’ve identified as absolutely crutial and most likely the things I’m going to be doing anyway. The benefit is by verbalizing them somewhere I can start digging into if what I’m planning to do cures a symptom or the problem itself. It also allows me and my peers to track it and help keep me motivated and on track. Finally it holds me accountable so that I continue to provide value. The end result is that my contributions and value to the team are public and I’m able to feel a bit less of an imposter.


I don't see "retention" of talent in here but "recruiting" is. Is your team rapidly growing, or do you have high turnover? Recuriting is a costly activity compared to retention.


Really good observation. I think retention has become a side effect of happiness, culture and efficiency. We've had low turnover so it really didn't cross my mind because I'm not actively trying to convince people to stay. My takeaway here though is to not take people for granted. Although we have regular 1-1s, sometimes people don't talk about the little things that chip away at them and become big unless they're explicitly asked.


> My personal mission is to create a world class engineering team that create world class products. This starts from the individuals

How do people in positions like this manage to keep track of individuals when the numbers could be in the lower tens to hundreds? Perhaps is one of the traits that makes one a good director? It seems like something like [1] but for tracking office relationships could be a good idea.

OTOH, it maybe that people that matter the most naturally flow to the top of the director line of sight, or that they are making a bigger effort for that to happen :-).

1: https://www.monicahq.com/


Foster teamwork and communication. Fix or help fix problems as they happen. Engage teams to plan and deliver. Deliver on organizational responsibilities, objectives, and goals. Listen then speak.


Titles, titles, titles... 90% of companies don't need 80% of the titles they use. We like to mimic the giants and the unicorns but the reality is those positions overlap so much in smaller / medium sized startups where one guy is doing the job of 2. We need to grow our organizations and the culture strategically and only when necessary. This will also save people a ton of money.


> "If I have strong executors but am lacking in people leaders, I bring in someone who has that focus"

I don't understand how people who can not execute and lack technical expertise will be a better fit for engineering leadership than those with strong technical skills ?


Doesn’t most of this also describes an engineering manager? What’s the distinguishing role of a director vs a manager?


In many orgs a director level role manages managers. And there is definitely a different skillset as it goes beyond management into leadership.


Right, but the article doesn't really talk about that aspect of the role. So to me it seems to just describe the role of a manager and part of the role of a director.


Nice write-up, but it feels like I'm missing some important parts of the picture. The company seems to have a lot of layers for its size. How big is the company and how is it organized? What does this person consider to be their team and their peers? How many direct and indirect reports do they have?


I really enjoyed this post, thanks for the writeup! Wondering if I can shoehorn some of these concepts (EOS, L10) into my dev team which is a part of a large enterprise?


It fits really well into agile because they deal with different aspects. For me it's just a way to empower my team and keep them unblocked to do what they need to do. It starts with trust and goes from there. If you know your team, you trust them and they're the right people in the right seats you know you're heading in the right direction. We've created a culture where they manage me (meaning they tell me what they need from me not the other way around) and they're accountable to each other not to me (if the DBA needs time off, he makes sure his team mates have what they need - it doesn't effect me except for tracking outputs and if I'm setting them up with what they need then this is already handled anyway). If you use some of these concepts properly success will become a side effect of having an efficient and happy team.


Great write up on a vaguely understood job.

I would add, at a larger company, the director also takes on a lot of the burden of organizational navigation/representation.


Great piece explaining a poorly understood role. What tool did you use to build and export an SVG mind map?


It’s a cool tool called markmap https://github.com/dundalek/markmap


Thanks!


Posts like this are why I love HN.


TL;DR: not much.


> Owneship

Director of Engineering does not use spell check


Why the snark?


Because what would hackernews really be if not for constant superiority complex in the comment section


Guilty as charged


There are many jobs where a lack of attention to detail (i.e. spelling) on your resume will get you tossed aside from consideration. It's not unreasonable to request a Director of Engineering be held to a similar standard on a public-facing document like this.




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