March 16, 2020
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I started a new job 6 months back and a lot has happened since then. I signed on as a junior dev and have since been given more and more responsibility. Including (but not limited to) deploying and releasing after hours, shared responsibility with the resident senior devs for reviewing pull requests, and aiding in the creation of new processes and overall advancement of our company’s software development process and culture. How soon is too soon to ask for a raise after starting a new job? Listener Andrew asks, As a military veteran of 8 years, I have the opportunity to enroll in a masters program for little to no cost, but I’m not sure what kind of program to choose. I’m a web developer and also serve as my team’s ”Agile Owner” (kind of like a Scrum Master) which I really enjoy. In fact, before I got my first dev job, I trained in Scrum to try to get a leadership role in the software industry and use my bachelor’s in engineering management. It seems logical to continue in that vein and choose an engineering management masters program, but I enjoy being a direct contributor and applying my Agile training without any real responsibility as a manager would have. I sometimes think I should go for a masters in computer science and double down as a technical knowledge worker, but I fear I’d be in way over my head since I don’t have an institutional computer science background. On the opposite end of the spectrum, part of me thinks I should get an MBA like some friends from college to hedge my bets for climbing corporate ladders in the future. On top of that, lately I’ve been very interested in learning more about design. I’m just not sure what to do, and I have a habit of making big decisions with my head instead of my heart which sometimes leads to 8 years in military service which I don’t much enjoy, so I’d love any advice I can get. Thanks! Soft Skills Eng is my absolute favorite software industry podcast.
March 9, 2020
🎉🎉🎉 Celebrating 200 episodes! 🎉🎉🎉 In this special episode, Dave and Jamison share crazy work stories contributed by listeners to celebrate 200 episodes of Soft Skills Engineering Right out of graduate school I was in the process of interviewing and got through two phone interviews to get the final in-person interview at a location-based startup. The office was mostly sales but also had a small dev team. The in-house recruiter gave me a rough itinerary two days before: get there at 8AM, have four hour-long interviews with the team, then possibly a coding “quiz.” I was skeptical of what the quiz was but all she said was that everyone who got through the other interviews wouldn’t have a problem, it was multiple-choice, and it would take less than half an hour. I get to the office 20 minutes early but have to wait 45 minutes more for my first round of interviews because an internal meeting went over; the recruiter apologizes and asks if I want breakfast, and I say I’ll take something small like a bagel; she says okay and disappears from the room never to return with food. I get through the culture interviews just fine, though I thought it was a bit odd that several of my interviewers (including a VP) brought in their catered breakfast/lunch into the room but never offered me to get some and I had to go find my recruiter so I could get a cup of water between interviews. The final interview was with who would have been my boss: the senior engineering lead. She proceeds to ask me the normal bank of engineering questions and then lets me ask anything. She starts sending me the vibe that the engineering team isn’t really respected and that as a junior I’d be expected to put in overtime and be on-call on weekends without comp-time and without being able to have a say in when I would be on-call. Then I get some seemingly weird questions: Do you work well with loud noises? How noise canceling are your headphones usually? Is it okay that I would develop on a Windows machine? The engineering lead takes me to the recruiter’s office so I can wrap up the day but the recruiter had left early and nobody knew where she had gone so I was escorted to the front door by a receptionist and left. I didn’t hear back for a week and got a call late in the evening saying they had moved on with other candidates. A few days later I got an email from the engineering lead apologizing for my experience and that they were revising their hiring process due to my experience. Hi Dave and Jamison, I have a crazy work story to share for your 200th show! In my first role as a developer I was working for a small agency building websites for clients. One day I was uploading a new site, which involved FTPing into the server and doing all the config myself. I didn’t really know what I was doing, all of this terminal stuff was pretty alien to me at the time. For some reason or another I needed to change the permissions on the files for this site, so I uploaded it to the server and ran a chmod, (which was a brand new concept to me - luckily Stack Overflow had my back. OR DID IT?) Anyway, when I ran the command, my terminal went crazy and way more files went flying up the screen than I had for my website, so I thought ““that doesn’t look right””, hit ctrl-c and went to lunch, thinking I’d fix it later. When I got back from lunch, everyone was rushing about like headless chickens. Everything was down. When I enquired, it turned out that for some reason everyone was locked out of the entire server. After several hours it turned out that all of the permissions for every file on the server had been changed and nobody had any access to anything. Also, every client site had been brought down in the process. To make matters slightly worse, when I enquired about backups, it turned out that the main server WAS the backup server, because the main server died a couple of years before and nobody had bothered to fix or replace it. Whoops! I didn’t fess up - I was too scared - but coincidentally, a few days later I was fired. Oddly, during the firing, no mention of this incident was made and to this day I have no idea if the two were related. At the time I was devastated, I thought my career was over and I shed tears over how I was going to be able to provide for my family. However, in less than two weeks I was in a new role with a 25% pay increase, and my career has bloomed ever since. So 👍🏻 I guess! And here ends my tale. I hope you enjoyed it - it was devastating at the time, but now I can look back on it with both amusement and bemusement. Thanks for all of your work bringing this podcast to us for 200 weeks, I hope you continue until you also accidentally lock everyone out of your own servers. This is a crazy interview story. It was with a healthcare tech startup. The building was across the street from the healthcare tech company where my wife worked. After meeting the 9 people on the team and doing some white boarding, I met with the CEO. When he asked why I was excited to work at his company, I mentioned in passing that my wife worked at the company across the street. CEO then says “Oh, wow. They just announced that they are going public.” At this point, the company had not announced that they were going public yet, but my wife already knew about it and told me that it wouldn’t happen for a few months. I demurred, but the CEO pressed more “Yeah, I saw it on the news this morning.” Yep. The CEO of a company that rivals my wife’s was asking for insider trading information. I actually had to rehash my conversation to my wife’s boss to make sure I didn’t give away anything important (which I fortunately did not). After that, I decided I would never work for any company in the same industry as where my wife works. About 7 years ago I was looking for a side income. A fellow engineer I worked with told me that the park he spends his weekends at was looking for someone to build them a website, run some wires and a bunch of other IT odd jobs. I was interested so I made the drive down to the park which further confirmed my suspections of my co worker: it was a nudist facility. I sat in my car for a few minutes to consider my options and walked in. It’s weird how being the only clothed person in the room made me feel so awkwardly naked. I spoke to the owner, shared my resume, and my co worker showed up (naked) to vouch for me. I got the job but only under the condition i ““wore the uniform””. I agreed and worked there over the summer weekends for a few months doing everything in the buff. Being near the beginning of my career I wanted to put this on my resume, but didn’t want to expose the private parts of this job. I ended up listing it as ‘contracter’ with just a note: references available on request. The company I work at is a privately owned B-to-C e-commerce shopping platform. Over the past two years the non technical management has been trying to position themselves to be bought out. Their strategy has been to create a new layer of director level management and hire in candidates directly from FAANG with the specific intent of injecting “FAANG” culture into the company. I guess the thought is - if you want to be acquired from a player like FAANG, then become a mini FAANG. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been working out so well. The 💩hit the fan. The new director have absolute power, and as it goes, ““absolute power corrupts absolutely””. The new Director of Engineering did a culling of senior engineers and managers that raised any questions to initiatives proposed by the director (you know, healthy project analysis probing to make sure potential risks are considered). One day, 15 devs were let go. These were senior engineers with years of domain knowledge. Not surprisingly, the platform started to have issues. Payment processing integrations started going down, checkout processes needed maintenance - but… the domain knowledge was gone. In the usual “throw more people at the problem” approach, everyone was assigned pager duty, even for systems they didn’t know. The system got so bad that the director resorted to shutting off one of the major payment processing integrations since it couldn’t be fixed. This had repercussions of course, and we started losing completed checkout conversions. The rest of the senior engineers were leaving voluntarily at this point. Now that the ship was pretty much on fire, and the engineering department pretty much destroyed, we found out that the director was applying to another job at the new Twilio office in the city 😂. We found out he got rejected because his reputation had preceded him and the recruiters at Twilio had actually heard about the mayhem he was causing at our company. But it gets better! One of my coworkers thought it would be a funny prank to put a Twilio sticker on the director’s office window. Nope, my colleague was promptly fired. We later found out that the director was so pissed that he ended up going through the CCTV surveillance recordings to see which employees had entered the building early to find out who put the sticker on his office window 🤦🏻‍♂️. Had a manager who had transitioned to IT help-desk work from teaching elementary school and then worked their way up to manager over a large development team. They never let go of the elementary teacher mentality. The highlights were: Requiring multiple forced-fun team activities a year, like cubicle decoration contests. Playground level nick-names for everyone on the team. (Think banana-fo-fana level rhyming). All team members got emoji stress balls, and were required to place the ball that reflected their daily mood on the wall of the entrance of their workstation.
March 2, 2020
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I work at a large public company. Two years ago, they hired a new CEO who immediately started a development center in a different country. Much of the knowledge transfer is complete and this new team outnumbers us by 3 to 1. It feels that we have lost much of our influence. They turn out decent work and cost less than 1/10th to employ. I am ramping up a job search but in the mean time what steps can we take to keep influence and control? Also, is this the future for the industry in the US? Hi Jamison and Dave. Your voices have been bringing sanity into my head for the last 2 years. I’d like to get your thoughts about something that’s driving me a little crazy. I work for a company based in Europe, and work in the Asian office. The Asian office, and only the Asian office, has a fixed time schedule. To overlap with Europe, the Asian team has to be at the office from 2PM to 11PM. However, the European team comes in at 10AM and leaves at 7PM. When our team mates in Europe decide to do overtime, we have to stay later to work with them, often very late in the night but I tolerate it because I love software development. However, whenever we have company “fun” events, the Asian managers schedule it in the morning so that our regular work schedule won’t be consumed. So we’ll do badminton or wall-climbing from 9AM to 12 and then have to do the 2PM to 11PM shift. This is very tiring. The events usually happen every two weeks, but our schedule makes me dread them. It’s even worse if the “fun” events happen on the same day as the overtime. At the end of work, I feel like a zombie! Is this reasonable?
February 24, 2020
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: My manager smells really bad! Sometimes so bad that I can’t bear to be in his proximity. I am not sure if it’s his breath, or body odour (probably both), but the smell is very foul on a daily basis. He has been with us for quite a few months now, but I am not sure if anybody has mentioned it to him, because the situation hasn’t gotten any better. I’ve also retrained from speaking about it with anyone else. He’s a good guy, and a very hard worker. I want to build a better relationship with him, but his smell is literally getting in the way. How can I help this situation? I can never tell him outright, but he’s the worst smelling person I’ve ever met, and have to work with. But I do want to work with him. Help. Hey friends, thanks for such an engaging and helpful show, it makes me happy to see every new episode pop up in my feed. My question relates to the politics and drama of a restructure and whether I should follow the time honoured tradition of ‘quit your job’ or stick this out. Six months ago our new VP of Engineering was hired to work remotely in a city across the country and decided that the first order of business was to restructure our three Engineering teams into one mega team with new management and a matrix structrure. This meant 15 Principals, Senior Engineers and Product Managers decided it was ‘time to move on to a new challenge’ and are now being replaced by the VPs ex-colleagues in the city across the country. All our processes are being thrown away to do things ‘their way’, new Jira boards, new Confluence pages, new file locations, new AWS accounts, new hiring processes, new everything. The new folks are getting the pick of the exciting and high profile projects while those of us who have been around for up to ten years and hold the institutional knowledge are left monitoring and maintaining the fragile work that could really do with some help from the Principals and Seniors. Is this all part of a standard restructure after six months? Should I carry on trying to put on a smile and fall in line or run away as fast as I can?
February 17, 2020
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Help! I have a co-worker who can’t get to the point. They keep rambling, throwing in useless jargon, with veiled bragging of their knowledge and accomplishments, and answering questions that weren’t asked; and all in a very monotone voice. My brain starts to zone out now every time they start in to “explain” something. They also somehow survived at the company for 8+ years and have recently become a team lead. Our paths don’t cross every day because we work on separate products, but I am interested in their team’s product and might want to join them in a year or so. What do I do? Listener Zezima asks, Hi! I’ve been at my current job for about a year and a half now. My boss says we should be getting more money and investors and will soon give everyone a raise. I’ve seen many people being hired and others given a raise but have not yet received one myself. I recently started applying to other jobs. I don’t want to leave but want to learn my market value and get a slight increase. I was demoing some work in a meeting, and sharing my screen to do so. As I went to upload an image…. my RESUME file is open. resume,coverletter,resumeadobe,resumeTesla. I mashed the cancel button and bounced in to panic mode but continued like nothing happened. I hear some typing shortly after closing. Did they see it? Are they talking about me…? Do they know I dont want to leave but just want some sort of compensation? These questions are going through my brain and I have no clue what to do. Should I call up the people in the demo and have a heart to heart?
February 10, 2020
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hi, thank you for the great podcast! I work for a software consultancy as a senior product manager. For 5+ years, our team of 40 designers, developers and QA has designed, built, deployed, and operated a large SaaS platform. We are passionate about evolving the product, know the domain well and managed to improve a lot of processes in the client’s company. We go way beyond “just development”. The problem is that the client’s internal staff treats us poorly, especially when it comes to product decisions. As a product manager, I have all the responsibilities of a respective in-house specialist, but almost no power. When I refuse to prioritize a feature that does not make sense based on data and user research, the client’s customer success reps go crazy and escalate it to the CEO. I have seen email threads where internal employees call us “offshore resources”… How can I change this situation? I don’t want to leave this job because I really like the product I am working on, as well as the team. Thank you! Connor asks: “I recent round of layoffs at my company has me thinking about my future as a software engineer. Every layoff I’ve been through, the more tenured employees are the ones let go. I also, generally speaking, haven’t seen a lot of older software engineers (50+) in the companies I have worked for. I love programming, but can I reasonably expect to stay employable in this field for the next forty years?
February 3, 2020
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I’ve had the role of tech lead informally for the past two years at a fast-growing tech startup. We were a team of 6 developers, and now we are 16. Recently, we had a department meeting in which the Software Development VP communicated that we have 3 teams and I was the tech lead of two of them. I was surprised. He hasn’t mentioned his decision of splitting the teams nor that I’ve been officially promoted to tech lead. I was expecting a one-on-one where he would “pop the question”: Will you be my tech lead? I asked him privately if that meant I would be officially promoted and would have my title changed. He said that he was going to have this conversation with the HR Manager and would get back to me, but potentially. He doesn’t spend time on one-on-ones, nor is he very good at managing people although he’s good technically. How weird is this situation? A manager tells his team that they now have a tech lead along some org changes. I haven’t been informed, haven’t had my title changed yet, and haven’t been offered a raise yet. Hi! I love your show and have been listening to it almost since day one. I was an engineer for about 10 years, and I’ve been a manager for about 1 year, and I love my team. They’re high performers, we have a high level of trust. I also like my boss! But the larger org has some issues, and in time-honored Soft Skills Engineering tradition, I plan to quit. I would like to stay in management. So I have these questions: 1) My employer is a very large public company. How much should I care about negative headlines and Wall Street’s opinion? 2) How long should I stay in my role as a manager before looking for a new job? 3) How do I message this to my team when I leave?
January 27, 2020
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hey friends, thanks for such an entertaining show, I look forward to it every week. My question relates to ‘leveling up’ as a developer. I’ve been getting nice feedback for my work on projects and the blog post updates I’ve been writing along the way. This has been noticed by colleagues, managers and the local meetup organising committees in my city. I have now been asked to speak at a number of events internally and in the community. While I am very flattered they enjoy my writing I am not interested in hitting the local ‘speaking circuit’ and would prefer to focus on building, writing and mentoring without getting up on stage. Is it ‘ok’ to say no to speaking when it simply does not spin my wheels or is this a mandatory ‘thing’ I must get on board with to progress my career? I am a tech lead on a team where, for the most part, people are friendly, optimistic and professional. There is one engineer who is mostly upbeat and has shown real potential but in certain contexts, e,g, retros and the odd technical conversation becomes a crippling black hole of negativity. The person in question is quite young, relative to the rest of the team, has only ever worked at our company, they are well compensated and have great opportunities to work on exciting green field projects, every developers dream right? What could I be missing? I don’t want to lose this person but I can’t help but feel that they need to grow in maturity and somehow, despite pointed feedback, that’s not happening here. What do you think I should do to stop the chronic pessimism, which I’m afraid if not rectified soon will lead to more victims?
January 20, 2020
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I’ve been recently looking for summer internships and I have had a couple of video interviews. I don’t consider myself an interview rookie since I’ve had my fair share but there is one question I can’t understand whether to answer honestly or not so here it goes: “Are you applying to other job opportunities?”. The question is kind of stupid since no one puts all of its eggs in one basket but on the other hand I’m afraid answering ‘yes’ will make it seem as if I don’t care about the company (spoiler alert: I don’t really care :)). How do I answer honestly to this question and at the same time make them feel like they are special? By the way, love the podcast! Hi guys! I just started listening to your show and I already have experienced a steep improvement from a puny 10x dev to 11x one. My question, if you’ll be kind enough to answer is: How do I convince my cheapskate boss to sponsor me flying across the pond to give a talk at a conference I was selected for. Should I sponsor it myself in case of a decline? Should I hint at a possible job quitting if I am declined (I am currently seeking a new job)? Should I go forward with the talk if I do quit and the content of the talk is largely about the job I did there in the last couple of years. Note, I am widely regarded as an excellent employee by my superiors and colleagues. I earn quite a bit less than my current value and I am currently back, looking for a job. That’s it from me, love you guys!
January 13, 2020
Hey, want to use Dropbox as your app’s production database? Well, check here. In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hello Dave & Jamison, first of all thank you for the show! I recently moved to a tech lead position and as such I will be asked by many people to provide feedbacks for performance reviews and promotions. Do you have any tip on how to provide good feedbacks, especially in the cases where you don’t constantly work with the interested people? Hello, guys! Thank you so much for the amazing content produced. I really enjoy the show. Thanks for the laughs and the knowledge.” I am a backend software developer working on a multidisciplinary team. There’s this other developer that really gets on my nerves. To maintain my sanity I am asking to change teams, and people keep asking me why I want to change. Should I tell my manager the real reason or is it better to say that I want new challenges? Maybe my manager can solve the problem and no one else leaves the team (I am not the first one to leave for this reason)
January 6, 2020
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I’m an introverted person but am not afraid to present my work and have strong 1-1s. For the past few months, I’ve been working on a project with a coworker who is very extroverted and expressive compared to me. During meetings with higher ups to present our work and progress, he overpowers me in conversation unwittingly. Most of the time, I feel he does a good job but other times I notice that he makes claims without gathering all the data. I’m much more deliberate and will let people know if I’m uncertain about something; But he is willing to just say something outright then later apologize if he was incorrect. I want to make sure that in meetings, I don’t come across as weak. I’m pretty confident in my technical ability and am polite at work, but don’t think I come across as very approachable due to my lack of expressiveness. Is this something I should work on? Hey Jamison and Dave! I absolutely love your show and have listened to every episode. You guys keep me company on those commutes to work and keep me sane. Every quarter, we have an organization-wide demo. Usually, it’s one person demoing the feature - usually the person who has been working on it most recently. For some of the features, I put in a lot of hard work and time into the feature but was later moved off to another project after completing my part. Essentially, I wrote the foundation of the whole feature. However, everyone has long forgotten that I ever contributed to it and I only found out it was even being demoed on the day of. I feel really disappointed my efforts aren’t recognized, but is it too petty to care? From a career standpoint, I worry that the person demoing will get a lot more visibility from leadership and it will lead to faster career growth for them. What are your thoughts? Thanks!
December 30, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: My company is a startup and they’re super unorganized. I’m a junior-mid level engineer, and when I was onboarded, there was no documentation for how to run anything. I wrote a bunch of documentation and also made some PR templates to try and organize PRs. I’m super annoyed because things are constantly being messed with in our schema, and I don’t realize what we’ve changed until it correlates to a different issue that I’m trying to fix and then have to redo the fix because there’s this new change. What can I do to help my company? I’m a lead engineer at a small but growing startup. I work primarily on skunkworks projects. My teammate and I are feeling constantly underwhelmed by the performance of the rest of the engineering team, who are working on the core app. Their work causes limitation for us, makes the engineering team look ill-equipped, and we cant seem to make old dogs learn new tricks. How do we make it more apparent to the team, and the rest of the company, that it’s time to “level up” the engineering domain as a whole.
December 23, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hi, I’m a software engineer who’s recently been promoted to a technical lead. I accomplished this mainly through work ethic, dedication to improving my skillset, a couple of large/notable projects, and some minor internal networking. After going through the promotion process, it’s become apparent how valuable it is to establish strong relationships with peers and seniors in your field. What advice or recommendations do you have for establishing these relationships within a company and how would you go about seeking a more senior engineer or leader to mentor you? Also, thanks for all your hard work - been listening to your episodes for the past 6 months and finding them very enlightening! I just got my annual performance review at work. The overall rating was “meets expectations”, but I worked really hard this year and thought I did great work. I was hoping for a higher rating than that. Maybe worse, this means I got a smaller raise than I expected. The review contained some suggestions for improvement. I feel pretty demotivated by the whole situation. How do I get out of this funk? You can get in touch with Jeff Leiken at
December 16, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I work in a charity as an iOS developer and there is so much drama in the office about anything. I am so scared to talk with my backend engineer about work that we created a non-company slack workspace. This is how we communicate, even though we sit right next to each other. Please send help. I work in a company that’s around 10 years old with 1800 employees that started implementing agile methodologies a few years ago. It was great and improved the work, but now all the agile coaches are pushing to have physical boards and doing things apparently just to justify their own existence. I agree we all should try new methodologies but shouldn’t it always be based on a problem we are trying to solve? And shouldn’t all the team be on board with the change instead of just doing it because the agile coach wants to?
December 9, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hello there! To say things pretty directly, I hate the recruiting process in software engineering, especially coding tests on whiteboard during interviews. It makes me very nervous and I already missed a job opportunity because I could not handle my stress correctly. Plus I think that the problems asked in those interviews are irrelevant to the day-to-day job, which means that I need to study again sorting algorithms and tree balancing every time I want a new job. How do you deal with those interviews? Do you do heavy preparation? Do you think that the interview process is stupid too? Should the permanent access to StackOverflow be stated as an elementary dev’s right :D ? Thank you very much, keep on the excellent job :) I’m in my mid 30s and have been coding for about 20 years, I have a non-technical bachelor’s degree and have had a fairly varied career. I did freelance web development work throughout college, and then after college had a couple of different jobs as the sole in-house web developer for two different small media companies. After that I spent some time running my own web dev/design business with some partners, freelanced some more, and then finally decided to get on the career track about 4 years ago. At that point, I ended up taking a remote developer job at a small company of about 8 people with no real hierarchy or management structure and worked there for 3 years. About 6 months ago, I moved on from there to what now feels like my first “real” job at a tech focused company (still remote), and while I’m happy with the work and compensation, I’m realizing that I’m at the bottom of the software developer hierarchy and there are many people above me who are a fair bit younger and, I assume, less experienced than I am. I don’t mind being subordinate to younger devs, but I do feel like my career is a good 5 or 10 years behind where it should be because until now I haven’t worked in an environment where it has been possible to earn a senior, lead, or management title. I’ve been coding for a long time and am very interested in moving up the ladder, leading a team and working more at the product level. Do you have any advice for how I can accomplish this quickly and make up for lost time - especially considering I’ve only been here for 6 months?
December 2, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hi! I am 29 years old and a couple of years ago I decided to turn my career around by going from teaching history to frontend development. After 2 years of education I am now doing my first internship in small but established company. I have the feeling I will soon be offered a full-time position. How can I ask for the best job offer (salary-wise) accordingly to my age but few experiences? I don’t want to be perceived as ungrateful, nor be exploited and get underpaid. How do you know that you are a senior engineer? Not just the title you are given, but when do you really feel like one? Some people relate this to experience, but you can be coding or doing crappy stuff for 10 years so for me this is not the answer.
November 25, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hello! I am the only principal architect in my department. In addition to technical and delivery obligations, I am also responsible for mentoring of engineers. Recently, I reviewed some very lackluster customer facing presentation materials drafted by a junior engineer (for which I provided templates and talking points) and informed them this would need to be worked again from scratch. I received verbal confirmation that the effort was indeed lacking, and that they would take a different approach. Imagine my surprise when I was pulled into an HR meeting by my manager, telling me a formal complaint was filed for my being ‘belligerent’. Also mentioned to me was that this engineer would be leaving the company because they couldn’t possibly continue to work with me. Now might be a good time to mention we are a completely remote team and this is the first negative feedback this engineer received from me (due to having only been on the team for 2 weeks at that time). This individual has moved into a different group which I work with often, but now I’m concerned about having someone on the team who cannot handle direct (but professional) criticism. How do I handle this professional relationship going forward? P.S. this engineer is nearly 40 and we are consultants in 100% customer facing roles. Hi Soft Skills Advisors, I think I may have been ““soft demoted”” at the start-up I work at. I used to be part of the senior management of the company as the most senior technical member of the staff. However, due to a series of unfortunate mistakes on my part (both technical and managerial), I seem to be no longer trusted or included in any discussions or decisions. I feel like I’m demoted from my position in everything but official title. And yet, everyone in the senior management reassures me that they still very much value all my contributions. Is it time to take the time-honored soft skills advice and “quit my job”, or am I just being unnecessarily emotional and paranoid here and it will just take some time to rebuild trust? (I’m paid a good salary and still have my stock options, etc.)
November 18, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: How do you quit when you’re indispensable to the team? I am the lead developer at a startup. I have a small team of 3 developers under me. I am essentially the “person who wrote all the code”. I have an offer from another startup for more money and more percentages of the company and they want me over there asap. I’m afraid to quit this startup as I fear that it’s not yet at a place where it could survive without me. I realize that sounds super egotistical but unfortunately I don’t have a successor ATM and none of the other developers are at a level where I could potentially train them to be my successor in the time frame I have with the other offer. The other sticky thing is that the current startup probably doesn’t have enough money to hire someone at my level for what they’d actually be worth. I, and the rest of the team, are severely underpaid, as this is a bootstrapped startup. Love your show, would love to hear your guys’ take on this. I recently interned at a local factory to help clean up some broken 20 year old databases. After remaking them, I quickly became a rising star and word spread fast of my aptitude. I was offered a full time salary position, in which I was able to negotiate for some special privileges and a cool title: software engineer. I am having an awesome time building little tools for various departments while learning different languages. I’ve been very fulfilled with the projects and recognition I’ve been getting, there’s just one problem: the IT department absolutely despises me. They see my sole existence as an affront to their entire structure. I am a part of the engineering team and work very closely with product and process engineers, which is apparently hurtful to their ego. Lately, IT has been actively obstructing every project I work on and refusing many requests, sometimes with obviously false excuses. I do not have admin privileges, I have limited internet access, I’m not even allowed to have my email password. It’s at a point where I start getting serious anxiety when I need to see IT (e.g. to install a framework or IDE extension). How can I navigate these awful encounters without letting it harm my view on the rest of the job? I am feeling like I need to wage war but I want to retain my golden boy status.
November 11, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I work in a small team under 10 people on a new project that should be shipping soon. I have a manager who is leading this project, and I’m the most senior developer on the team. My manager tries to help with the project by writing code, but does it rather poorly. When he wants to implement new functionality, he creates a new branch and brews his code in this branch for 2-3 months, constantly complaining how hard it is to write code in our codebase. After he is done, the resulting code is unreadable, unmaintainable and untestable. He doesn’t write unit tests himself (which is weird, considering he was working as a QA before for several years) and usually breaks good portion of already written ones. I always have to go to his branch and refactor his code so it’s at least testable, fix broken unit tests and write new ones for his functionality. He always makes it look like our codebase is hard to work with, though the rest of the team doesn’t have this problem. How should I deal with this situation? I tried speaking to him directly, but he is pretty stubborn and thinks that he is doing everything perfectly. I can’t talk to his manager, since we have a pretty flat company and his manager is the CEO who I don’t have a direct access to. I work in a digital agency as part of team of 5 front end developers with varying levels of experience. We don’t have a senior / lead / director, it’s pretty flat. I have been told by management that we need to work on peer to peer mentor-ship because each of us have been guilty at some point of spinning our wheels on some problem when we should have reached out. The problem is we all work on different projects, there’s never 2 ““fed””s building the same site, and each site kind of feels like it’s own unique bowl of spaghetti. If you have any pointers about breaking out our code bubbles that would be amazing! Love the show, I hadn’t given non technical skills much thought but you’ve opened my brain! Thank you!
November 4, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: My team often goes out to lunch; I almost always bring a lunch from home. They invite me to come with them, but it feels weird, since I won’t be purchasing a meal from the restaurant. Should I swallow (pun intended) my pride and go with them anyway, or decline their offer? I would bring lunch less frequently, but it’s difficult to predict what days they are going out together. I’ve been a software engineer for 7 years and it recently occurred to me that product management would be an interesting and fulfilling field that I’d like to give a shot. Is this something I should discuss with my engineering manager or director, or other product managers at my company? While I think it’s possible these people might be able to help me, my anxious mind can think of many ways that advertising I want help transitioning out of my current role could go badly. I also happen to be fully remote, so I don’t have many opportunities to bring these things up in more casual settings. I doubt I’d be able to get hired as a PM at another company without prior experience, so getting help from co-workers or management at my current company seems pretty important. Do either of you know anyone who’s made this jump? Any tips on getting help without pushing too hard or creating problems for myself?
October 28, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I recently took a job at a start-up as the only front-end developer. The distinction of front-end and back-end is new to me as all of my previous experience has been full stack development. Most of my work can only be started once a back end developer has done their part. There is only one back end developer who just so happens to be one of the co-founders of the company. Because he can’t exclusively dedicate his time to back-end work due to his other roles with the company, I am left sitting at my desk writing to you guys trying to figure out what to do with all this free time I suddenly have. I’d like to stay busy and not just look busy. I’d appreciate any advice to help get me busy again! Hey Dave and Jamison, love the show. Quit my job twice since I started listening so I’m a super fan. Long story short, I think I’m bored with coding(?). I just see everything as moving JSON around. Putting it in databases or putting it in queues or on a screen. I’ve done mobile, I’ve done backend, I’ve done front end, and it all just starts to look the same after a while. As an industry I feel we’ve solved the hard problems and now its degraded to this. What do I do next? Do I find a software product where the JSON moving around excites me (for example, a social good or cutting edge product) Do I look at something very different like embedded dev or games dev? (No JSON there!) Or do I look to tech leadership or people leadership? These options appeal but I’m just five years into my career and 26 years old and of course no one takes me seriously, naturally. However, I have been very deliberate and been very intense about my career, but now I’m feeling a bit done with coding. Team velocity problems interest me more than JSON APIs. People interests me more than code. I’d love to hear any of your thoughts on this! Thanks :D Keep up the great work.
October 21, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: How do I inspire attention to detail in my co-workers? I’ve been frustrated with another developer on my team who pays a lot less attention to detail and it results in many bugs that I end up fixing, and sloppy commit history which makes debugging issues more difficult. I received a suggestion from a mentor to reframe my thinking from: I failed to enforce good practices, to, I failed to inspire good practices. Having approached the zen master, I’m hopeful for your additional advice / humour, what are some actions that I can take to help me on this path of inspiring vs enforcing? I am planning to move to a new city for my significant other to get another job, and will likely need to leave my current job to do so. Should I tell my manager up front when we start looking for new jobs or wait until we are actually moving?
October 14, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hello! I love listening to your show. I often relisten to old episodes. I’m a Front End Developer at an IT consulting company. I will be reaching my 1 year anniversary at the company in March (it’s September right now). How do I talk to my manager about a promotion? I would like to become a Sr front end Developer. I have never had to have this conversation because I have always changed jobs before reaching 1 year with the company. I need help on how to start the conversation. Thank you! A member of my team asked for a promotion; we discussed and it was decided that if we worked on a set of core skills we could push for the promotion in a few months time. Since this conversion they have lacked motivation and productivity has dropped. What should I do now?
October 7, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: One of my co-workers never does their job in time and always postpones things. We are both leaders in the company. Especially when we depend on each other, it becomes really difficult. I tried many things like taking over their tasks, reminding them (in person, in Slack), escalating to their manager etc. None of these worked. As a different strategy, I organized a workshop with leaders to brainstorm how to collaborate and work together. That was really positive. We talked about each other’s responsibilities. This person was active in the workshop. Contributed and also agreed on many things. I felt really positive after this. :) But then shortly after, I ended up with frustration again. Nothing actually changed. Agreeing is easy but taking actions is not. Please give me recommendations other than quitting my job or waiting this person to quit. 😅 I work remotely for an on-site company. How do you manage that relationship?
September 30, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I started working at a big fintech company doing cutting edge work. I was given a ton of responsibility (owned a major component, built it from scratch, manage external relationships with vendors, had a team of 3 engineers, filed a few patents). I was extremely successful at this role but I was working 60 hours a week. Even though I was successful, I felt like I didn’t have good work life balance. I left and joined a well established tech company with 600 engineers. I’ve been here almost 1 year now and looking back I’ve only worked on menial feature work and software maintenance. Now I work 30 hours a week and have great work life balance. I feel like I gave up a great opportunity with my old role. How do I make the most of this role? How should I tell my manager I’m not happy? should I just look for a new job? How and when do you ask about or gauge work life balance in a job interview? I recently got to round 4 of an interview and a developer told me that a person wouldn’t do well at this company unless you put in a lot more than 8 hours per day and the CEO rewarded those who stay late at night. This indicated a bad work life balance to me so I didn’t proceed any further. Does it look bad to bluntly ask an interviewer “what’s the work life balance like” or ask about this in round 1? Do you think I am lazy?
September 23, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I am a junior developer with a low salary but I’m happy with my job. Recently, a personal/family problem occurred I needed more money to pay for it. I am three months away from my EOC (end of contract). I’ve found a job referral from my dear friend with higher salary and more benefits and I’m planning to apply. But after told my manager about my plans on leaving they told me they wanted to assign me to a top priority project they thought I could handle. I am so worried to disappoint them. They’re offering a raise but it’s not close to the other job. I’m afraid to ask for more because I don’t feel confident with my skills and I believe other people deserving it more. What are your thoughts? Hi guys, I am starting up a company in a few weeks together with a friend of mine. I’ll be the only developer in our new firm (for now!), while he’s got the domain knowledge. I’m not so worried about getting the tech stuff up and running. I get no constraints when it comes to the tech stack I choose, which is fantastic! What worries me is how to get into this brand new domain as quickly as possible, so I am able to deliver some value (MVP). Do you have any tips for how to go about this? I know I am not going to be an expert in the field, so at some point I just have to accept that and start coding. Anyways, I’ll learn more on the way.. Thanks for a great show btw, Regards from Runar in Norway
September 16, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hi Dave and Jamison, thanks for the awesome show. How should I conduct myself at software conferences when my dev community heroes are in the midst? I recently attended a conference where one of my developer heroes was in attendance and I was really looking forward to meeting them. I couldn’t muster up the courage to introduce myself. What do you do in these situations to break the ice and not come off as a creeper or a nuisance? It’s a weird feeling to hear someone’s voice on a podcast every week or read their blog posts and feel like you are best friends with them while knowing that the other person has no idea who you are. Am I overthinking this? Recent new listener here and I must say that I love the show and to keep up the good work. My question can possibly be answered with the standard soft skills answer BUT I have my reservations about quitting my job. I work at a consultancy doing work in a niche web development framework that interfaces with an old monolith ERP system that I’m just not excited by but I am very good at creating web applications in. I know eventually these skills will become obsolete, and I had a new job opportunity recently that I decided not to take. Am I being stupid? Should I stay in the niche and hope I can get a newer job in the future where they just accept I can learn new tools?
September 9, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: “I’m into my second job of leading a team of software engineers and want to level up my coaching skills. In my first role I accidentally fell into the deep end of management “fun” by taking on a team of 10 people. One of the big problems I faced was being the “go to” or “sign off” person for a lot of different things, and I perpetuated this problem by showering people with my incredible answers (based on my obviously incredible know-it-all-ness) and thus reinforcing my goto factor. I was aware of coaching as a concept then, but didn’t incorporate it into my leadership style, which I believe contributed to my eventual burn out in the role. Over the last year in my current team lead role I’ve been much more deliberate about various aspects of leadership, but my coaching prowess is still struggling. When I’m asked questions by my team, my default response is to jump to a specific answer based on my own opinion, and it’s only afterwards that I slap my forward and yell out “missed coaching opportunity!” (as people near me back away slowly with concerned looks on their faces). What are some effective techniques to try and build a habit of using coaching as a primary means to help my team work through problems? I just became a technical lead for a team at my company. I’ve never held a leadership role like this before. Do you have any advice for how to do a good job?
September 2, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hello! Love the show ❤️ I’m 6 months into my career as a software engineer at a very large company. As a new engineer, I’m often lost and confused, especially since my team is working on a green field project. My mentor is very helpful and patient with me despite all of my questions. I’ve thanked him countless times and publicly called out his support at standup and in front of management basically everyday. But I still feel like this isn’t enough. He’d never say it, but I know I’m such a burden to him and slow down the team. Other than quitting my job to alleviate him from my near-constant “Please help” messages, how can I: 1) show him how much his support has meant to me and get him the recognition he deserves 2) stop being such a drain on his productivity/life Thank you!! I’m a Senior Software Engineer, and I played the salary game with a recently promoted Mid-Level engineer on my team, who, in a gross violation of the rules, not only volunteered his own salary, but one of another Mid-Level engineer. In retrospect he was a bad one to play the game with. Anyway, it turns out they’re both really close to me now, and are both making a good deal more than I was 5 years ago when I was promoted to Senior. This is mostly (maybe entirely) because I was a horrid negotiator when I first started at the company. It was my first ““real”” job, and it turns out I really lowballed the company during salary negotiations. I’m pretty ready to leave the company (for reasons both personal and professional), but I’ve submitted a talk proposal for an industry conference that takes place 6 months from now. In order to give the talk I’d need to still be employed by the company, so rather than ordering the Soft Skills Engineering Special and quitting my job, I’m going to give it a shot and ask for a 25% raise. My question is what advice do you have for this conversation? I’ve read all the usual ““state your value, don’t make it personal, etc”” stuff, but do you guys have anything else that’s been effective in your experience on either side of this?
August 26, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I’m a Full Stack Developer. I feel undervalued at my current job and I am looking at other opportunities. Many recruiters approach me on LinkedIn with contract-to-hire positions. Usually this means the benefits are not as good as direct hire positions and that the company can just dispose of me when the contract is done (after 6 or 12 months, generally). Salaries seem to be higher when contracting, though. Have you ever worked as a contractor for a large company? Would you recommend it? How likely is it that companies use this type of employment as a way to temporarily hire somebody for a specific project and then get rid of them once it’s done? What signs should I look for to avoid such companies? Does contracting actually make a difference? I live in Oregon, where employment is at-will anyway, so I can get fired at any time without any warning. Hello, I’m a mechanical engineer from Brazil. I really love your podcast. As a mechanical engineer I don’t develop software but I believe the soft skills are important to everyone. I work in an American multinational company and I often talk or send e-mails to the engineers there. However, our culture is different so I don’t know how to behave or how straightforward, informal or political I must be. I’m always afraid of offending someone. What kind of things I never should say or do when dealing with Americans? We Brazilians become friendly and intimate very fast. Do you guys notice these kind of different behavior from different cultures?
August 19, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hey guys, love the show. I’m starting to realize that our QA engineer lacks some skills required to do their job effectively. It’s now starting to affect my work and I can only see it getting worse. I’ve tried approaching them about their work and given them some pointers on how they can improve. I’ve done several pair programming sessions as well. They are a bit stubborn though and I don’t think they will change until things get a lot worse when they realize their mistakes first hand. We are a small team and I’m the only other member of the team with automated testing experience. Should I be having a discussion with my manager about this? The company is pushing for more automated testing and if the problems are addressed now it would be easier going forward. I’m hesitant to say anything in case I open up a can of hate worms though or get them fired as they are a nice person. P.S. I’ve only been here a couple of months so moving jobs won’t be an answer for me on this one ;D Greetings from Germany, I am coming from the Infrastructure side of things, and we are a team of engineers with 0-3 years of experience getting into DevOps (tm). Often we encounter new tech-stacks that involve a lot of concepts to learn (like AWS, Elastic, CI/CD, System Provisioning). The way we approach these topics leads to some conflicts. Most of my colleagues like to jump into the water and set up production systems based on a mix of trial & error and copy pasting examples form StackOverflow. I on the other hand try to do things a bit slower by learning the basic concepts and applying them together with examples to get a deeper understanding of the system. My approach is slower but often leads to more robust and thought out systems. However it leads to my boss and my colleagues often eyerolling me for seemingly “overthinking” it. But I also see the appeal of the other approach, since it allows for fast results and pleases the stakeholders. But I see a lot of issues and often time consuming restructuring projects coming from that. Should I just give in and swim with the stream while i suppress my inner nerd cracking down on things? Loving your Podcast btw and recommend it to all my fellow tech nerds. :)
August 12, 2019
Vote for Soft Skills Engineering on the Hackernoon Noonies awards for best Dev Podcast! In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: How do I stop getting angry at other peoples’ code? Often when solving a complicated problem or implementing a feature, I have to modify or at least use systems designed by someone else. Often I find myself thinking ““Why did they do it like this??? This is so dumb!”” and literally getting mad in my chair. This happens no matter who wrote the code, and occasionally I discover that the author of the code was in fact Past Me. I know logically that everyone codes the best way they know at the time. So how do I avoid such a visceral reaction? Is this a common problem? Is this why many programmers seem to be Grumpy? My frustration often derails my focus and makes problems take longer to solve than they need to. What is the right etiquette for a code review for a pull request? I recently had an amazing code review. The reviewer pulled my branch, make a branch for changes he suggested and those changes all led to better and cleaner code. I felt the reviewer really tried to understand my design and test every suggestion before he wrote it. I felt that my code really got respect from the reviewer. However, a lot of my code reviews are just passive aggressive nitpicking like the comment formats are not right, the variable names aren’t clear enough. The worst was when I got a comment saying “this is already implemented” which after hours of figuring out what it meant was a different thing that would not work in my case. It seems like people have different ideas of what code reviews are and the etiquette and the expectations for it. As a reviewer and a reviewee, what should ideally happen in a code review process? Right now most code reviews are exhausting and infuriating experiences.
August 5, 2019
Vote for Soft Skills Engineering on the Hackernoon Noonies awards for best Dev Podcast! In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: One of my co-workers at the software company I currently work on has an ‘uncommon’ set of beliefs that include, among many other things, a strong mistrust of mainstream science. He is currently very concerned about the effect that Wi-Fi signals have on our health and wants the company to make some changes to our Wi-Fi hubs and our devices’ wireless connection usage. I’ve found in the past that it’s not easy to have a conversation with him about this type of topic. How can I be respectful to him and not undermine our work relationship while not giving in to connectivity inconvenience based on fringe-science beliefs? Hello! I love the show! The humor interjected into real advice (or real advice injected into humor?) makes thinking of boring and scary things like coworker relations or quitting your job sound fun! Everyone should resolve conflict and/or quit! I just started a new gig and I’m running into a situation I haven’t before. We have flexible work hours, but, unlike at previous jobs, people actually use them! I am meant to be pairing with another dev who is working quite different hours than me. I have a couple questions. 1) How do we communicate about this clearly? I tried to set expectations at the onset, but it seems we missed the boat. I asked when he works, told him when I work, and it didn’t seem this far off. But on a day we’re supposed to pair, he’s here an hour and a half after me, which means I’ll leave an hour and a half before him. 2) How do we make the time together the most effective? How can we turn about six hours of work into something meaningful, given normal distractions of meetings, bathroom breaks, etc?
July 29, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hey there. I don’t program I administrate in IT but you’re my favorite podcast, awesome job, never stop. I ran into a crazy situation that is WAY above my soft skills ability to deal with so I am seeking wisdom. I was working with someone from HR on a OneNote syncing problem. I asked someone to log in and let me look at the notebook in question that was causing an issue. I saw what I needed and then randomly clicked on another notebook so the problem notebook wasn’t open as I was trying to fix it. Later I approached the HR person to show me how they do something in OneNote. They opened OneNote and the page that opened up was MY employee records! OneNote syncs which page was opened last, which means the page I randomly clicked on when they were logged in on my computer was my employee record, and they knew it! They confronted me about it (not making too huge a deal about it). I tried to explain how I just clicked randomly and I wasn’t snooping, but it felt like everything I said only dug me deeper. I’m having trouble staying in the same room with them because of the shame (entirely internal) and I’m worried if I ever need to look at their PC again they will want full visibility to make sure I’m not snooping (not ideal). I want to make this right, but all I can come up with is honor based suicide rituals. What do I do? Your faithful listener, Stefan I’m an engineer in a small start-up. I work half of each week remotely, half in-person, as do the other engys. One of the other engineers is exceptionally skilled and experienced, way more so than I, but they are not very communicative when working remotely. The leader (understandably) becomes quite nervous as a result, especially since minor health issues have kept this engineer from working full throttle for a couple of weeks. What, if anything, can I do to help the leader trust this engy who doesn’t like to chatter on slack? I think they whole-heartedly deserve trust, and their work is already the backbone of this product. Part of the reason this matters to me is that the leader has expressed wanting to reduce work from home days to alleviate this issue. I love my wfh days, and I have been told that I communicate plenty well when working remote. How can I help alleviate the leader’s fears to protect another engineer’s independence and protect my precious precious remote time?
July 22, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: We’ve all been on that tour of that local startup that is showing you around their office pointing out all of the amenities. “Over there? That’s our foosball table!” You notice no one is playing it and the table and players all look very new and haven’t seen much action. You get down to the interview and at the end they ask you if you have any questions for them. “What is the company culture like?” to which they respond: “Did Derek show you our foosball table?” My question is what are the ways to ask this question without actually asking it? No one will respond to a direct inquiry saying: “Culture? Our culture is pretty garbage. You actually probably don’t want to work here at all, if I’m honest…” I’ve yet to find a good way to ask this question and wondering if you have any suggestions here. Love the show - keep up the good work! I have been lucky to have leadership opportunities in the past where I was responsible for the career growth, engagement, mentoring of a handful of team members. I recently started a new job where I am outranked by a recently promoted employee who is brilliant, but lacks some leadership qualities. To make things more awkward, this person does not take feedback well. However, I think I may be able to provide some feedback to help this person grow as a leader. Have you ever been in a similar situation? How would you approach this?
July 15, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I’m so glad I discovered your podcast last week! You guys are hilarious (I laugh to myself in the car) and you talk about issues that I have thought about since coming into the “adult world”. I’m a new CS grad and have started as a new hire at the company I interned with last summer. I’m on my third week of full-time employment but I still feel like an intern. One of my supervisors even jokes and calls me an intern. I know it is a joke, but I feel degraded. I’m the youngest (at 22) and the only woman on my team surrounded by people who have been on the program for 5+ years. The people around me are VERY technical. I have slowly been getting information about what the program does, but it still isn’t clicking as fast as I want it to (compared to what I had experienced in my time at university). I have no experience in and have not learned any of the concepts they have been talking about. I feel that my CS degree does not matter and I feel that I am not competent enough and don’t deserve my place at this company; I’m not as technical as the other employees. I feel that since I have said I have my degree in CS, people expect me to learn fast and be “technical”. Am I setting myself up with unreasonable expectations? How can I prove to myself and to others that I deserve to be a part of the team and the program as a full-time employee? My team works closely with another team, and the manager of that team is…difficult. Most of my interactions with him have resulted in him getting defensive and frustrated, and nearly become arguments. I try pretty hard to remain polite, but we usually don’t accomplish anything. I’m not sure that I want to mention this to my manager, or to his, because I’m worried that word will reach him that I ““tattled””, which will just make things worse. He’s also more senior than me and has been at the company longer, so if this conflict does escalate, I feel the company would probably take his side. I otherwise really like this job, so the age old advice of quitting is not an option here. Besides just trying to avoid any interactions with him, what can I do? Thanks for much for the help.
July 8, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I recently joined a startup. After joining I realized most of the engineers are gamers. They play games during the lunch hour, and if we end up having lunch together, everyone is talking about the game that they are playing or some news in the gaming circle. As a non-gamer and introvert, I find it different to join in their conversation. How can I join in, or bring the talk back to something else? I’ve been working as an Android Engineer for 7 years from the beginning of my career. I loved my profession but things started to go not so well with reaching of the senior level. Coding tasks became boring because I knew how to solve them before starting. Most of the time I was helping less senior engineers but it didn’t give me satisfaction. I tried to solve the problem by quitting my job. I joined a company with a team of only senior engineers hoping that it meant more challenging tasks. Things did not improve. Tasks are still boring and I don’t learn anything new from my colleagues because they are around the same tech level as me. I don’t think I’m burned out because I still enjoy programming when I need to use my brain for solving a problem. I don’t want to move to management because I like coding more than people. I don’t want to switch to another tech stack because it means a pay cut and I think that I’ll get bored again in a year or so. Is it some kind of quarter-career crisis? Is there a way to be an expert at the field and still like your job?
July 1, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hello, First of all, I love the show, thank you so much for the amazing work! I always think I’m going to be fired. I’m an extremely anxious person so I feel the need for constant feedback and for someone to tell me everything is alright. Minor problems send me into absolute despair. How can I deal with such anxiety? I frequently ask my manager during 1x1s if everything is alright and how I’m performing and he almost always says things are going well. In our 6-month performance reviews I get more detailed feedback on what I’m doing well and what I can improve. This makes me feel less anxious because I know exactly what my boss is thinking. Even if something has to be improved, at least I know it. Are there any indicators I can use to tell if I’m about to be fired or if my manager is happy with my work? I’ve told my manager about my anxiety and that I’d like constant feedback. That has helped, but I was hoping to get more detailed feedback. Preferably this feedback would make me able to tell, in a scale from 0 to 100, how well I’m performing. Thank you very much! Hey Dave and Jamison, love the show your insight. I have been having a problem on my team that I hope you can help with. We are a team of engineers that have internal customers. It’s a bit of a back end of the back end role. The problem is NONE of the other engineers are customer focused. They don’t engage with the real needs of our customer teams. Tickets come in, they do what’s in the ticket as it reads exactly and we end up with requirements getting lost, tickets needing to be reopened and our reputation going down the tubes. I have taken it on myself to engage with the customer and help them out. BUT, now I have become a glorified customer service rep and I can’t do much of my own work because I’m passing messages back and forth between engineers who don’t like to talk to their customers. My manager says the team needs training and he is going to work on it with them, but this has been going on for months. Should I take the Soft Skills advice of ‘Quit your Job’, or continue being a middleman?”
June 24, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I recently joined a new team to help rewrite a batch job whose source code has long been lost. After taking some time to learn the tech stack and the business problem, I realized that the current approach will not let us meet our nightly deadline. Even a very generous back of the envelope estimate suggests that we’ll miss it by two orders of magnitude. I have some ideas on how to maybe fix this… buuuttt… I brought my concerns and calculations to the lead project engineer who dismissed them outright. They did not offer an explanation for why I was wrong, even when I asked for one. I started a proof of concept to illustrate my point, but there were some weird conversations that suggested that I should just drop the issue. I know how to make a technical argument about my concerns, but apparently that isn’t enough. How can I get fellow engineers to at least take my concerns seriously, not just for this project, but generally? I’m only 3.5 years into my career, so is it just a seniority thing? Hi! I’m a software engineer and I’m currently looking for my next job. It will be my second-ever job, so this means this will be my first time putting the Soft Skill Engineering advice (““quit your job””) in practice. Woo-hoo! Anyway… Browsing the job offerings I often check Glassdoor to see what people are saying about the given company, and I found a lot of negative reviews. I imagine sites like Glassdoor are negatively-biased, but these reviews left me wondering if there is any way I can investigate how good or bad working for the company would be. Maybe through some questions during the interviews? Any idea? By the way, I love the show, keep up the great work!
June 17, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: How do I quit my first job if I’m working with a manager I love? I started my first full-time job about two years ago and I’m starting to think about looking for a new job, both because I am ready for new challenges and I’m ready to move to a new city. I have a great working relationship with my boss, so a part of me wants to tell her about my interest in finding a new job, both so that I could use her for a reference and also so that I can be honest with her about my intentions. She’s been a great boss and mentor to me, so there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to jeopardize our working relationship. But another part of me feels like I might be jeopardizing my presence in my current office if I make it clear that I am looking to move on, especially if my job hunt doesn’t go as smoothly as I hope. How do you deal effectively with rapidly increasing work responsibilities? My technical lead was recently promoted to management. Being both ambitious and the only Sr. Engineer without retirement plans in the next 4 months, I immediately stepped into the power vacuum and inverted a binary tree faster than all my coworkers to establish my position as new tech lead. After a few months the other senior engineer on my team retired, and I’ve ended up holding the bag for my new job responsibilities, my old responsibilities as a Sr. Engineer, AND the departed Sr. Engineer’s responsibilities. I told my manager how much was on my plate and that I was afraid my work output would suffer, and her response was to throw money hand over fist at me and promise to backfill both Senior positions within the next 12 months. How do I get through the next 18 months without losing all my hair? Are there any strategies to make sure the team doesn’t go up in flames when I forget about a key deadline? Or at least position myself so that nobody can tell it is my fault until I can make a subtle getaway in the brand new Ferrari I’m going to buy?
June 10, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hey guys, I’ve graduated with a CS degree 8 years ago, but due to circumstances I accepted a QA job because I wasn’t getting any other offers. Well 8 years later, I’m still stuck in QA and would love to move into development. I tried transferring within companies and applying to developer jobs, but the QA brand is holding me back. Any advice on how I can become a developer when I’m pigeon-holed in QA? Hi folks! I need your wisdom! Please help. TLDR: Senior as a Programmer, Junior as a Mobile developer. When I first came to my job as an intern, my manager asked me what I wanted to do more - backend stuff, testing, or mobile development. I went randomly and chose the latter. It became my profile and I’ve grown to really like it. Over the years, life has thrown me back and forth, I’ve been on multiple different projects not related to mobile, so now I can do… everything? Or rather, nothing. I know a little bit about .NET, a little about web development, writing Visual Studio extensions, IoT, machine learning, Unity game dev.. This is good because I can now quickly learn new things, know a lot of tricky stuff, know how to communicate with customers. I have a decent salary and good feedback. But the huge downside to that is that I stayed exactly at the same level of mobile development as I was 3 years ago. I know basic stuff, a little bit of advanced stuff, but I have zero experience in all the ““hot”” things like RxJava, Dagger, Kotlin. All the job vacancies I’ve seen require a strong knowledge of something particular: be it Android or iOS development, backend or frontend. I’m suffering from a huge imposter syndrom - yes, I have all the ““good”” programmer qualities, I’m smart, but I have no advanced or even medium knowledge in anything. What can you advise me? Huge thanks and… love the show! ❤
June 3, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Is it weird to have 1-1s but not with my ‘manager’? Management is planning to start holding ‘1-1s’ every 6-8 weeks for the development team. The purpose of these 1-1s: ~ ‘So you can talk about non-technical things, any issues with the team or things that are making you unhappy.’ But these 1-1s be with someone who is nominally ‘HR’, not our manager. Since it’s a tiny company, their responsibilities cover things like accounting and sales support. This person doesn’t have any people management or software product development experience, nor any experience in our product domain, and won’t really be our ‘manager’ going forward. Maybe I should just 🎶 quit my job 🎶 🕺. Then I’ll have new and unfamiliar problems to worry about 😅 Hello Jamison and Dave, I have a question on career progression, tech skills and moving into a new role. I’m a career switcher who has spent the last four years studying to move into a developer role. Over the last year I’ve been working on a technical project that has been delivered on time, under budget and ahead of schedule, a huge win for me and the team. However, now that it’s done my manager’s manager is looking at how the team is structured and who we need to hire. He has come to me and my manager to ask if I would like to move in to more of a Project Manager / Business Analyst role as I have done such a good job of the project roll out this year. I’m good at that kind of work, I do get a kick out of it, but if I don’t push forward to move into a developer role have I wasted the last four years retraining? Should I take the role and continue to push to be a full time developer on the team, or accept my fate but use the skills I’ve gained to be a better BA?
May 27, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I’m a hiring manager and sometimes have to say no to candidates who interview with us. How do I reject them kindly? In my current company, they only care about reputation of the company. They don’t care about their employees or values, they prefer to invest in other things. One time the CEO asked everyone in the company to create fake accounts in order to vote for the company for an Award. By the way, we received the award. But I don’t know how to feel about this company non-existing values.
May 20, 2019
This episode is sponsored by the O’Reilly Velocity conference. Register today and use discount code SKILLS for a 20% discount: In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I was unhappy at my job despite having a great manager, so I started interviewing around. Then my manager helped improve things considerably, but I ended up getting a job offer that was for a much higher amount than I’m currently paid. My company gave me a counter offer that I accepted, but now I feel like I somehow betrayed my manager and don’t know how to stop feeling guilty. How do I come back from a touchy salary negotiation incident like this and make things feel like they’re normal again? Compared to a smaller company which I used to work at, this new big company I’m working at seems to require more storytelling around the work that I do. I see people getting rewarded for exaggerating the effects of their work and being excused for their missed deadlines when they complain and blame the codebase. I hate to play this kind of game and would rather divert my energy on improving as an engineer and getting more code written. With all that said, I do understand the need for this and think it’s a valuable skill.
May 13, 2019
This episode is sponsored by the O’Reilly Velocity conference. Register today and use discount code SKILLS for a 20% discount: In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I became a manager a year go. I took over someone as my direct report who was not performing well at the time. On my first day, I gave a motivational chat to welcome him again to the team and continued to motivate him. But after 1 year, he is not improving at all. I give him clear feedback and set expectations but he just doesn’t change. This got to a point where it is stressful for both of us. And since I spent so much time on just for this issue, I fear that it adds to the stress and may affect my decisions. What should I do? I’ve just join the company as a Ruby/RoR developer. After half a year the architect presented new way of developing the product and said that from now all new features will be writen in Java/Spring Boot and we switch to micriservice architecture. But I don’t like Java, don’t want to switch (I have 6 year expirience with Ruby), what should I do?
May 6, 2019
This episode is sponsored by the O’Reilly Velocity conference. Register today and use discount code SKILLS for a 20% discount: In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hey! I love your podcast, you have definitely helped me improve my soft skills in my career. I am a full stack web developer and I have been pretty much loving it. Web development was not my original career plan though, I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Computational Mathematics & Computer Science, and I knew I wanted to be a software dev since working with robotics in middle school. I kinda fell into Web Development from my IT work study job in college. I have been doing this for 4 years, and I am ready to transition over to applying for Software Engineering jobs. How do I get over this scary feeling of leaving my safety net? How can I encourage myself that I can make this new career transition? There will be jobs I see posted, and I just wanna go for it, but I always get scared at the thought of leaving since it’s just so intimidating, especially coding interviews and interacting with new people, new workplace, etc. What if I end up regretting my choice? Any advice is appreciated! Thanks guys! I always look forward to your episodes every week - I share your podcast with my fellow nerd friends! I work at a bureaucratic company where we move fairly slow. Recently, I’ve been getting more and more frustrated with our code review process, but I’m not sure if this has to do with my quality of code. It can take weeks for one of my pull requests to actually get merged. Someone will review my work, I will make some changes, then they will come back some days later with a new truckload of very nitpicky details that they want changed. This makes me long for the days of me working at a startup where we had no code review, and no testing process, and it’s making me sad. How do you draw the line over what is reasonable code review and what is too much?
April 29, 2019
This episode is sponsored by the O’Reilly Velocity conference. Register today and use discount code SKILLS for a 20% discount: In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hello! Thank you for the show! What do you think about employee monitoring software? I received a message from a company about a job position and they use such software. It seems weird for me to make screenshots on my computer and to see what software I’ve use and what websites I’ve open. How do you feel about it? I’m a software engineer with about 2 years of professional experience. When I started working, I was motivated to learn all the things. I consumed technical blogs and podcasts in my personal time and proactively identified and solved problems for the team. Things recently changed. I can’t bring myself to care about work anymore. Curiosity used to come naturally to me but I can no longer summon curiosity about anything related to software development. A few things lead to this. 1) I got a lower than expected rating on my performance review due to an issue with my soft skills. I thought the feedback was valuable but didn’t think such a rating was warranted, considering my overall contributions. 2) Our team has spent the past few months writing code that didn’t ship. 3) I took the Soft Skills Engineering advice and got a new job. In order to do that, I spent many mornings and weekends preparing for technical interviews. After accepting the offer, I felt totally burned out. I very much want to be back to my previous, curious self by the time I start my new job. Unfortunately, I can’t take a long break before the start date. How can I get to a place where I feel motivated again?
April 22, 2019
This episode is sponsored by the O’Reilly Velocity conference. Register today and use discount code SKILLS for a 20% discount: In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I keep getting asked to interview new candidates. But my interview feedback history is pretty bad. I’ve said yes to hiring: Someone who’s super smart, but drives me absolutely crazy with constant argument and may cause me to take the time-honored Soft Skills advice and quit my job. My boss at my former company, who DID drive me to quit my job. My first (and only) hire back when I was a people manager, who turned out to be terrible, but I was told I had to keep him around because “it would look bad” to fire my first hire. What should I do? Is it acceptable to just keep turning down interview requests? I’ve wandered into a tech lead position, so I suspect I can’t dodge them forever. But I don’t want to keep suggesting bad hires just for the sake of getting more interview practice. Thanks for all the advice and the laughs! I’ve been a regular listener for a couple years. How long do I need to wait before bailing on a new job I don’t like? More than a month? It’s not totally miserable: the people are nice and the company has good prospects. But the technical decisions of the team lead to daily frustrations for me.
April 15, 2019
This episode is a rerun of episode 71 from August 2017. In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I’m sometimes an informal lead on project teams. How do I help the team get stuff done as a peer? How do I deal with burnout after an extended period of crunch time? Jamison mentions the blog post by Jamis Buck called To Smile Again where he talks about his experiences with burnout.
April 8, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hi guys! Big fan of the show. Here’s a question: What to do if I hate working in pairs? I’m in a tricky situation. I work on a great project in a team of great people We try to implement all the good programming practices. Retrospectives, cross-review, working in pairs.. I hate working in pairs. I am a typical introvert-programmer and the thing I like the most about programming is that you can sit all day digging around the code and NOT communicate with the people. Or at least not all day. But how can I say that to my teammates? “Hey, I would rather work alone than talk to you guys.. By the way, love y’all!” It seems impossible to communicate that to my co-workers without hurting them. And moreover, this is a good practice. Which makes me feel horrible because I feel super-tired after whole day of talking to people. Plus I also feel like somehow I take up their worst qualities: if the person is slower, I become slow too, or start making mistakes. Help!! Hey guys, big fan of the show here. Thanks for your advice and time. The company that I work for provides “tech teams” for hire. In other words, American companies that want to outsource part or all of their tech team to a cheaper location can hire us and get developers and PMs at a fraction of what it costs in the US. I ended up working with an established fitness company based in NY. Their management insists that we are “regular” engineers in their tech team and we should participate in their technical discussions, agile meetings and so on. However, their engineers seem to be on a completely different page and treat us like monkeys that can write some code. For the most part, I can deal with their condescending treatment and everything else they might throw my way. The problem is that the company is currently in a very intense project and they are all “stressed” which seem to provide them license to be extra rude BUT ONLY TO CONTRACTORS. Their managers brush everything under the excuse of stress but I’m sure that wouldn’t fly if we were “regular” team members. How would you handle this situation? Any advice before I lose my temper? I’m also afraid that getting rid of a contractor is much much easier than firing an actual employee.
April 1, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I have a lot of software developer colleagues who are 20 - 35 years old but none 50+. At what age does a software engineer’s career end? Hi Dave and Jamison, thanks for the great podcast. I recently started a new position on a small remote team. The co-founders are increasingly dismayed by my lack of Slack-question-asking, although I have reassured them that I’m not too shy and I will ask when I’m stuck. I have daily one-on-one meetings with one co-founder, where I do ask questions about the code base, story requirements, potential side effects of my solutions etc. It’s an open-source project with comprehensive and Googable developer docs, so between those and my debugger I can figure everything else out with a bit of research. A co-founder told me that he expects to see me asking one or two questions per hour, and strongly implied that I need to do this if I want to survive my probation period. I was actually let go from my last job at the end of my probation period due to “brisk communication style” and “not asking enough questions”, so I’m freaking out now. I don’t want to annoy my colleagues with a constant stream of inane RTFM-style questions, but I’m stumped on how else to hit my question target! Can you help me come up with ideas? Is there some big picture reason for this obsession with question-asking that I’m missing?
March 25, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I worked for four years doing web development for a company while I got my degree, and loved it. I eventually became the lead developer because I had been on the team the longest. I thought it was really cool. I worked with the team to make organizational tech decisions, trained new hires, held regular meetings to discuss projects. After about 6 months, though, imposter syndrome started sneaking in and I felt like I was making things worse, not better. I figured the team needed someone who actually had senior level experience, and the pressure was getting to me. So I bailed. I’ve since had a few people approach me and say they want me to join their early-stage startup in a technical leadership position. I haven’t outright declined, but I’m nervous about being put in a position where the stakes are even higher. My question is if the pressure of being responsible for everything ever lessens. Is it something that gets better as you get more experience? Is everyone in technical leadership feeling this pressure and doing a good job to hide it? What can I do to gain the confidence to eventually lead another team? How do you step into the meetup scene? I have not attended one before, but the idea of them is interesting. However, there is this feeling that I would not fit in due to inexperience.
March 18, 2019
Joining us this episode is special guest Nedda Amini! In this episode, Nedda, Dave, and Jamison answer these questions: My engineering career started out pretty promising. But along the way, I took a couple of unfortunate decisions and jobs, that instead of helping me grow as an engineer, were a big setback. When you career takes a few too many bad turns, how do you steer it back to where you want it to go? I work on product development with ~25 other developers, and management recently had us all embark on a journey to gain some level of CMMI appraisal. The goal is to deliver higher quality software at a more predictable pace. In practice this means that we got more processes to follow, more meetings to attend and more time-tracking fuss. I’m trying to keep an open mind because I, as a programmer, also have high standards for the product and it’s development. I’m scared that programmers are being turned in to factory workers stripped of any autonomy. These new processes don’t allow me to do anything without my product owner’s approval. I’m afraid that it will limit my creativity and ultimately cause my work and the product to suffer. In this kind of scenario, what’s your advice for a programmer who often gets inspired to remove tech debt, tinker with our dev environment, and otherwise make small improvements and refactorings that shouldn’t require management approval? What’s your opinion on the level of freedom that programmers should be provided in order to do their job well?
March 11, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I’ve been an engineer for about 5 years and in the last two jobs, rock-star programmers have made my life very difficult. I define rock star programmers as ones with ability to produce lots of code and implement features at a pace that dwarfs my own. In my last job, the RSP would constantly rewrite core libraries and I would have to figure out his design and rewrite my code to adapt to the new design multiple times. In the current job, the RSP is very uncommunicative but with his sheer productivity steers the project into wild directions that are always coming as a surprise. Half the time my work then becomes throw-away because I was working based on the previous design. Am I a slowpoke and I’m seeing a normal programmer as a rock star or are these programmers just slightly above normal programmers but creating lots of work for everyone else? Managers are completely starry eyed at RSP and so talking to managers seems like a bad idea. What should I do? How do you feel about sharing salaries amongst your co-workers? I’m about to have my yearly review and I get the sense that my raise (which has already been promised to me) will be underwhelming given how stingy the company has been previously. That is simply a hunch based on previous experience and the fact that our team budgets have tightened up in the past 6 months. Recently a co-worker let it slip what his salary is, and though I don’t like playing the comparison game, it made me feel underappreciated. I discovered that he was making the same salary I was, but for lower quality of work and less contributions to the team. I’ve heard some devs in other companies advocate for sharing salaries amongst their peers, but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea. Will sharing my salary and encouraging my co-workers to do the same, allow for myself and my co-workers to better understand our value and help us negotiate raises? Or will it simply foster resentment and division?
March 4, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I work in a flat organization. There aren’t really any titles, and very few managers. There is no common “climbing the ladder” here. What are options for career growth that will help me feel confident that I am progressing in my career? How do references work? I’m starting to look for a new job which means potential employers are going to be asking me for references. I’m not ready to let my boss know I’m thinking of leaving and aside from my current coworkers I don’t know who would attest to my ability as an engineer. I work for a small company (under 50) in an even smaller firmware department (about half a dozen). What am I to do?
February 25, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hi guys! I was faced with quite a dilemma recently. A few days ago one of my co-workers said he was sick and worked from home. But the next day he came to office, constantly sneezing and looking terrible, and for some reason finished the day in the office. The same happened the day after that. I didn’t want to be rude and I felt for this guy, but I didn’t want to get sick either cause I have some important tasks this week. What could have I done? I could not just tell him “go home you fool, you’re contagious!” I could say “Hey! I noticed you’re not feeling very well, why don’t you come to the manager and ask to work from home this week?” But I didn’t have the guts to do this. Besides, what if he couldn’t work from home for some reason? I solved this by lying to my manager that I’m ill too, and worked from home. What is the best solution here? Hi, I recently went through my company’s annual review process. The review went pretty much as expected, with things that I was doing well and things that I could improve on. However, I received some negative feedback which I disagreed with. I asked for additional detail and examples of this, but neither my manager, or his manager (our site lead) could give me any concrete examples. After some further discussion they agreed to remove the comment from my review, but I’m now left wondering why this feedback was added in the first place if there were no examples they could give me. Their explanation for this was that it was feedback for our team, am I wrong or is an annual performance review the wrong place for that kind of feedback? Should I be concerned that they actually do have feedback for me, but were unwilling to do so given my reaction? Is this enough of a red flag to maybe consider looking for a new job?
February 18, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: How do I deal with the manager on my team who is both not very technical and positions himself as the “boss” spending almost no time with the team (except dragging everyone into more and more meetings! 😡) . My manager upsets and demotivates the team but not upper management and is clearly trying to climb the career ladders as fast as possible. Obviously everyone wants the team to succeed but the friction is growing. Some team members already left with (maybe too subtle) hints at the problem. Should one stage a coup and take over? Silently manipulate people to go to into “the right” direction? Switch teams/jobs and see it burn from the sidelines 🍿? While testing my system at work, I was shocked how little security there was. Two issues exposed the entire system’s data by just changing the query string. Also every API call had no backend check on the user making the call. These are just two examples of many. This is at a gigantic multi billion dollar institution handling hundreds of thousands of people’s data, some of it incredibly sensitive. This fact will be known on my resume. This leads to my question: I am looking for a new job now, and wondering how much detail about these security issues is appropriate to share on a resume? I feel this helps me stand out as a newer dev, but would this be frowned upon by prospective employers that may worry I might overshare their own security issues? Thanks for all your help!
February 11, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions along with special guest Jonathan Cutrell:: I’ve been job hunting while employed (gasp), and I have a number of opportunities that have advanced to the in-person interview. Most of the requests I’ve seen have said that they’ll be 4-5 hours in the office (which seems fairly typical). The problem is that I don’t have unlimited vacation, and I feel dishonest taking so many days off. How can I navigate new opportunities without disrespecting them, or completely failing in my current responsibilities? Hey guys, great show (though I think, as with all shows, it could probably use more discussion of badgers [yes, I said badgers!]). I’m about to start a new job (I took the time-honored and hallowed show advice, though I’m leaving on great terms with my old job) and will be coming in as that fanciest of newly-invented titles in software, Staff Software Engineer. This is the only third time I’ve started a new job [not counting odd jobs in high school and college], and I’ve never stepped into a leadership role before when starting. What are the most helpful things you’ve done or seen other engineers do when joining a team in a technical leadership role? Thanks! Follow Jonathan Cutrell on Twitter @jcutrell and subscribe to the Developer Tea podcast:
February 4, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I have noticed one of my coworkers, a fellow senior software engineer, often interrupts people during their meetings with his comments and thoughts. While I’m not against voicing opinions during a meeting, he does it so often that he takes over meetings. Some of his points are off-topic. He’ll cut off the presenter or another colleague (who displayed good etiquette) mid-sentence, not letting them finish their thought and derailing the flow of the meeting. In our last meeting I tried to quickly respond to his interjections rather than let him finish so we can keep the meeting moving. I thought he would take the hint to think a little more before interrupting. Ineffective so far. I think next time I will recommend that all questions and concerns be held to the end so we can get through all the meaningful content before letting him speak. Any other suggestions on how to deal with people like this? Hi guys! I have a question about setting limits to your work. I hear that its a common practice among developers to set restrictions to their work like turning off slack notifications when at home, not staying late at work, etc. This seems like a healthy approach, and I like it. But I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m a successful developer, I love my job, and I love the work communication in our chat. I have no problems struggling through the workday, but I have problems not falling into work in my free time. I have a lot of friends, a lot of hobbies, I’m definitely not bored outside of work. But still I always have this inner desire to open and read the workchat when I have a free minute, or finish an interesting feature in the evening instead of reading an interesting book. I can’t say it makes me unhappy in some way or affects my private life - I still will go and see a friend if I’m invited and still will attend my yoga class on a normal schedule - but this ““desire”” distracts me sometimes and that’s not normal either. Am I right?
January 28, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: On Episode 66 you attempted to answer my question: ‘How bad can a Junior Front End Developer be?’ Well, I’m now 4 months into my new job as a Junior Front End Developer and it turns out, they can be pretty bad! I’m in this junior role I feel overqualified for. My peers rate me as a solid mid-level, and I’ve started to realize that I’m not really a “junior”. I think this can all be attributed to learning from really good devs at my last company. My best friend is a Senior JS Contractor (legend) and I talk to him about code and best practices everyday. Question: Would you ever hire someone at a mid-level role even if they only had 6 months of profressional experience? i.e. how much weight do you put on the CV? I love you guys, listened to every podcast! Thank you so much for the show, I’ve been binge listening to old episodes ever since a friend of mine suggested it. Your excellent, and often comedic, advice has been getting me through the work day and I really appreciate it! Onward to the question! One of the members on my team, who is more senior than me, often does poor work, and the rest of the team picks up the slack to redo the work, pushing out deadlines we would have otherwise met. I know better than to vent about this at work even though it is very frustrating, however now I’m in a bit of a predicament. Part of our annual review process requires us to provide feedback on each of the members of our team which is not anonymous. The feedback is used to make decisions about raises and promotions. This individual has mentioned that they expect a promotion to a team lead position in this upcoming review cycle, which makes me quite nervous. Should I be honest in my review and mention my concerns or should I take the much more comfortable route that will also protect relationships on my team of pretending everything is fine.
January 21, 2019
This is a re-broadcast of episode 73 from August 2017. We’ll be back next week with a new episode! In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: A developer on my team has been rewriting my code under the guise of “code cleanup” without saying anything to me. Is this normal? What should I do? How do you deal with co-workers who over-explain unimportant issues?
January 14, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Shan writes: “Awesome podcast! I’ve used your advice to better communicate with my employers which has been super helpful. I recently was working as an intern at a company where I did quite a bit of significant work. I left to pursue a Master’s in CS. I set the expectation that I would be available for questions, but not bug fixes during at least the beginning part of grad school. The company said that was totally fine and they would take any amount of work I could give them. I’ve noticed some bugs that have to do with what I was working on. I feel really bad for my team having to work on those bugs while I’m not. It is getting to the point that it is distracting me during the day as I see emails or Slack messages about them. I want to help them, but I just don’t have the time. I am also worried that the reputation I built up of being a solid engineer is damaged. Should I apologize to my teammates that have to work on my now legacy code? I have this feeling of having abandoned my team. Any thoughts on how to mitigate those feelings? I work as software engineer at a ~10 person software agency. During my last review my manager rejected my salary raise proposal arguing that I reached the top level for my current position. He said to get a raise, I would have to act as project manager to get commissions for new projects I acquire. I feel conflicted, since even though I like the idea of upping my game, I do not know much about handling this kind of situations with clients. What is your recommendation for developers getting out of the world of code and into the world of people? Bonus question: Ideas on how to get new projects from clients?
January 7, 2019
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: My boss is fairly new to management and has recently made some decisions which had a negative impact on my squad. While this was annoying, it didn’t cause any major problems - we worked around the issues and recovered and everyone including my boss learned from the experience. However, my squad has started criticising him pretty harshly in standups and retrospectives and it’s making me really uncomfortable. Often their criticisms are for things that he has very little influence over and it seems like they’re scapegoating him for the general dysfunction within the company. He’s a nice guy who is trying his best and I wouldn’t want him to think I’m taking part in these badmouthing sessions if word ever gets back to him. He doesn’t manage any of the other squad members. What should I do? I work at a big software company and sit in a room with about 20 people. Not all of them are on my project, and lots of them are REALLY loud. You know like in a stock market or something. I use headphones to listen to your podcast (well, not only yours to be honest) but usually that’s no help. I turn on music - still can hear every word. These guys somehow think it’s ok to discuss their work in our room instead of a meeting room (which we have plenty of), and do it loudly, while me and my team always go somewhere else to talk. I talked to these guys a couple of times about it. They laughed and said they would try to be a little bit more quiet, but forgot this promise 5 minutes later. How else can I handle this situation? I have good relationships with all of them (probably that’s why I had not been taken seriously), but I don’t want to lose them.
December 31, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hi Dave and Jamison, love the show and your advice, there’s no podcast quite like yours out there in the audiosphere. I’m a long time listener, first time question asker. “I’ve been doing a really good job lately. I’ve had feedback from my manager and my managers-manager that I’ve exceeded expectations and gone above and beyond over the last year. While the compliments are great to hear, I’d like to approach my manager about a raise to go along with it. Do I wait until performance review time in three months and hope that I get a what I’m hoping for, or bring it up now? How do I approach this conversation without sounding greedy, braggy and potentially asking for too much, leaving a bad impression when I’m on such a roll? I don’t feel like I can keep up at work, 😬, my team is super clever, young and all singles. They spend weekends, evenings and spare time learning. We are introducing a new tool or framework every couple weeks and it is exhausting. I am constantly learning a lot from them and the projects always go really well. 🤷‍♂️ - I’m not sure how to have a good conversation about it as they all love the learning culture. Any tips?
December 24, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: What’s the best approach to connecting with people who know about specific technologies that could help me if I have a question? And what’s the best way to cast a net via co-workers, friends, & family? The details of my situation are that I’m trying to build a PostgreSQL database from scratch, and I’m running into lots of problems. I spent 2 hours digging through the Postgres documentation, I asked questions on my University Slack channel, and even the PostgreSQL team Slack with no answers. I also reached out to my boss. But I still have no answers. In any case, I’m just happy I had the wherewithal to walk away after 2 hours instead of spiraling into an absolute rage and wasting my night cursing PostgreSQL. Should a team lead do technical work or restrict himself to people management? What are the pros and cons from each approach? HR in my company wants to change from a unified model of team and tech leads (single person performing both roles) to a split model (one team lead with multiple tech leads that hold no people management responsibilities) and I’m not sure what to think about this. I feel not having the team leads ““on the ground”” will make them less effective in the people management aspect.
December 17, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I am a software developer and as such, i get paid nicely. My family doesn’t think I work hard enough or deserve the money. Any advice? I am a software developer that was promoted earlier this year. I received a 10% raise with this promotion. Since working for this company for some time, this is the first substantial raise I have received. Previous raises ranged from nothing to sub-inflation raises. Today, my manager informed me that at my annual review I would not be receiving a raise. My manager said this has nothing to do with my performance but more with the fact that I was given a raise with my promotion earlier this year. I was caught off guard by this and did not really know how to feel about this information. Does this seem reasonable? Is this something worth following up on with my manager? If so, what are good questions to ask?
December 10, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I went to an internal company developer meetup recently. The speaker was really new at the topic they were presenting and shared some incorrect information. I didn’t want to correct the speaker in front of a bunch of people, but I also didn’t want everyone at the meetup to leave with incorrect information. How can I be respectful to the speaker while making sure attendees aren’t misinformed? Thanks for doing the podcast! I think it’s great! I recently joined a new company as a Product Manager, this is my first non-development role after 5 years of development. It took me a lot of time to get to this role. During the interview they said I would be involved in development at the beginning of my role to get to know the system and not implementing my own features. After ramping up a bit, I was able to define a bunch of features, but management kept telling me that they are finding it hard to find people and they want me to implement the features myself. I have no problem doing it for my first project but I feel this is going to continue and 6 months from now I will still be working a as developer again. I can leave and get another Dev role but I am really excited about product and I want to continue in this career transition.
December 3, 2018
This episode is sponsored by Pluralsight. Pluralsight is hiring data scientists, machine learning engineers, and software engineers. Check out the jobs at In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I’m current doing nearly nothing at work (not by choice) and getting paid a king’s ransom for it, just to stay on the roster. I’ve never been in this situation before. Would I be foolish to give it all up just to not be miserably bored? I’m pretty sure this isn’t sustainable, and I’d get laid off in the next economic downturn before you guys might get to my question, but just curious what your insights are. How to deal with teams that are run as “Agile”, but management who want timelines and deadlines to steer the business? I’m at my second large software development company that’s following the agile/scrum ceremonies with weekly sprints that entail grooming/planning/retro meetings. Management keeps track of progress to align the efforts of multiple teams spread across the organization. I’ve noticed over the past year an increased desire for estimated timelines for when each team will be done with their portion of the project. This forces the team to groom and size stories months out ahead. These estimates end up becoming deadlines that need justification to be pushed back, which is common since as you get into the work you find more stories need to be added. I had a very similar experience at my last company. Both have 5-10k employees. I understand the needs of the business to plan ahead. So saying “it’ll be ready when it’s done” is not a good answer. However, it feels like we’re constantly falling behind arbitrary deadlines and in a constant frenzy to catch up. So….what do?
November 19, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: How can I make my team be more proactive and go out of their comfort zone more? I recently started a new job as the team lead for a team of four developers. Each developer has their own pet things that they keep themselves busy with; one likes to configure linters, another has a long-running project they keeps to themselves, and so on. We have been tasked with a new, high-priority project which involves new technology and would require everyone to pitch in. So far, though, that has only happened when I’ve directly asked someone to do something. I absolutely do not want to end up in a position where I have to tell people what to do. How can I make them realize that this new thing should be their top priority, even if that means going out of their comfort zone? TLDR: My role and product are moving to a different country. I don’t want to relocate. I have to stick around at least another 3-4 months to get my redundancy package. In some ways this is great as I’m pretty unprepared for interviewing right now. On the other hand, this is terrible because I’m pretty unprepared for interviewing right now. How do I keep morale up, for me personally and the wider team during this period?
November 12, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Recently I was approached by a manager and informed that I needed to decide if I wanted to stay at the company or not. I initially said I would like to stay, and was told there was some negative feedback from coworkers I’d need to work on to do so. I agree that these were issues I need to work on to become a better engineer, so I’ve engaged in something like a performance plan with her over the last few weeks. But I’ve decided that I don’t want to stay after all, and I’ve started sending out applications. I don’t want to burn bridges when I do end up putting in notice, but I also would like to continue working with her on these issues, and I’m worried if I declare I am leaving that will end. So my question is: should I tell my manager I’ve changed my mind, or stay quiet? We used to have regular “tech talks” in the office - opportunities for people to share something they find interesting that doesn’t have to be work related but usually is tech/development focused. The talks were 30-45 minutes in length, and there used to be free food (at a place that doesn’t normally do that kind of thing) I wasn’t here at the time when it last fizzled out, but used to give similar talks at my last company and I’m interested in starting them up again here. People say they’re interested now but the novelty of free food eventually wears off - do you have any suggestions as to how to sustain people’s interest in attending giving talks? I might be able to convince a few people I work more closely with but there’s 60+ or so technical people in this office I’m still getting to know.
November 5, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I have a question - I sit in a desk with 3 other people. One of those people does a great job of personal hygiene…the other two not so much. I have dropped a couple of hints about it (I mentioned it is a good idea not to wear the same pair shoes/trainers every day so you’re feet don’t start to smell). Some days, my stomach will churn from the smells that inevitably waft over. What should I do - I am worried if I tell my boss to talk to them, he will mark me as a troublemaker/overly sensitive. To make things worse, one of them sits opposite and puts his feet under my desk, so the, let’s be frank, absolutely awful stench is right under my nose! :? It’s not just feet by the way, we are talking the full BO experience. I was at a interview recently. When being asked for expected salary. I mentioned a number lot more than what the company was expecting. It’s already been a week and I haven’t received a response from them. I really really love the company and the project they are working on. I would love to to contact the HR personal and tell that I am interested in the position even if it means less money. How do I approach the situation? I don’t want to mess it up more than I already have. 🙁
October 29, 2018
This is a rerun of episode 87 from December 14, 2017. In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: ‘I’ve been working on a project for the past year with two other senior developers. One of them is the lead, and the other, is my peer. We all have a lot of respect for each others opinions and resolve our engineering disputes amicably. My problem is that sometimes my peer will just give up saying ““have it your way”” etc. I want to have it out with him and evaluate each solution on its merits. I’ve considered saying ““STAND AND FIGHT YOU MANGY CUR””, but then looked up ““Mangy Cur”” and decided against it. How do i get him to be more vocal about his opinions? (so that i can prove to him that i’m right) I like the idea of measuring things, but I also feel like work “metrics” are easy to game and hard to make indicative of actual quality work being done / product being produced. In particular I worry when the data collected leads people to choose work that will bump stats rather than lead to better end user experiences / product / maintainable code. What kind of data do you think is useful to collect in terms of developer activity? Can you share some examples of ways you’ve been able to assess your own and your coworkers productivity? I’m interested in this both on a team level and a personal one. How can I get better if I don’t have a way to track what “good” is for myself? Is trying to turn the complicated and messy thing that is what I actually do all day into a trackable, data driven domain a fool’s errand?
October 22, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I recently started working at a small dev shop. Somewhere along the way I may or may not have started seeing a coworker outside of work. It’s really been great but there are no clear examples of how the organization would react to something like this. We have fairly lateral positions and there are no written policies or anything in the handbook. Even so, we’ve been doing our best to act “business casual” when we run into each other during the day. We don’t work directly but it’s a smaller company so the chance is pretty good that we eventually will. It’s been fun to navigate so far but wondering what your take is on this/the pros and cons of telling trusted coworkers or management. Thanks!! I’ve been working as a software engineer for several years now. In my current job I have fortnightly one-to-one catchups with my manager. My problem is that I very rarely have anything to say. My work is going fine, I’m happy enough with my job, and I don’t feel like I really need help with anything. I feel as though not having much to say reflects poorly on me, giving the impression that I’m uninterested or that I don’t value my managers input. What is it we should be talking about?
October 15, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I’m working for minimum wage as a full Systems Administrator at a State University while I’m taking classes. I really like working here, but I need to make at LEAST 40K /year to justify this level of effort for much longer. I just got offered a job two hours away for 80 - 100K as a System Administrator at a smallish ISP. The same day my boss told me he got approval to hire me on at 45K in 3 - 4 months. If I wait and stay I’m not making what I feel I’m worth, but if I leave I’ll make WAY more money and probably won’t finish my bachelor’s degree. I already have 5 years of experience as a ““system admin”” but I want to move over to technical project management in the next 10 years. I think I should stay, make less money, continue growing my relationships in the Scholastic Network, and finish getting my Bachelor’s degree. That way I can get past HR checks to become a Project Manager somewhere else. What should I do? I’ve recently become the technical lead at my company. I need to build my team more but am struggling with one thing. How do I overcome the fear of hiring someone better than me who could potentially overtake me as the team lead? Is this a common fear among leaders? I want to build an effective team of high caliber developers. But I can’t do that if I let my ego and insecurity get in the way.
October 8, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hey guys, I love the show! Thanks so much for keeping episodes coming every week. Some background: I work for a small, established company based in a small city with a growing tech scene. We have about 20 employees, 5 of which make up the engineering team and it’s been a great experience. My role is primarily being a full stack developer working on our web application, but since we’re a small company, I’ve been able to explore some other responsibilities like analyzing data for the marketing team and working with the sales staff to build custom solutions for select clients. I started working here as an intern while still in college almost 6 years ago. I feel my initial salary out of college started a bit low, but I’ve received an 8-10% raise each year I’ve been a full time employee (without having fight for them)–so I think I’m catching up. My question is, will I be stunting my career or making myself seem less hirable by staying here too long? I’ve clearly found a great place to work so leaving here would be difficult. I’m also concerned that I’m beginning to run out of skills to acquire here. It sounds easy to leave a job you hate, but how/when should you leave a job that’s this good to you? Hi Jamison and Dave, tl;dr: The role I was originally hired for is slowly being eroded - what should I do? Longer version: I have been working for my current company for a little over a year now. Things were going really well at first, I liked the team I was on, the work (backend) was interesting and I was learning a lot from my colleagues. Unfortunately, due to corporate machinations, my team was dissolved as part of a reorganization and scattered to seperate, mostly frontend focused, teams. Originally I was told that I would still be doing effectively the same type of work on my new team as on my old, and this has been mostly true. However, over the course of the last few weeks my new manager has gradually been announcing changes in the direction the team is taking as a whole and talking to me specifically about working more on frontend related tasks and upskilling, as I have almost no frontend experience. I have tried to make it clear that I have no interest in doing this but my manager is still pushing for it. I am currently still doing mostly backend work with a little frontend, but I feel like my days are numbered. There are other teams with a more backend focus, but I feel that my manager partly wants to keep me in the short term for some necessary backend work and in the long term is hoping I will acquiesce on doing more frontend work. How should I navigate this situation? It feels like I sinking in quicksand Thanks
October 1, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: One of my friends recently was hired at a salary 20k more than my own, even though we are at the same level. This caused me to re-think whether or not my company is paying me fairly and planted seeds for making me leave for something better. So the question is: how does one gauge “average salary” (other than at say for example glass for one’s city and should I interview for a higher salary and come back and ask for a counter offer? How will I be viewed if I did such a thing? I’ve been an engineer in the video game industry for 10 years. I’ve worked for 4 large game studios and at each one the story has been the same. Once it comes time to release our game, the crunch time kicks in. Often the need to work overtime is implied, but on my current project the company president directly spelled out that ALL engineers would be working a minimum of 60 hours per week for AT LEAST six months. In the past I’ve chosen to jump ship before it gets that bad, but I really wanna see this project through to the end. We’re all salaried employees and so far we’ve received no compensation for our overtime hours. No comp time or anything. The only carrot that has been dangled is that ““it will be taken into consideration during bonus time””. How much is reasonable to expect as a bonus for this much overtime? 10% of my annual salary? 50%? A firm handshake and a swift layoff? Thanks guys for any advice you can give!
September 24, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hey guys! Do you have any tips for making ““brain storming sessions”” more bearable? In my experience, I’ve found that it’s very hard to keep this type of meeting productive. I don’t think this is necessarily anyone’s fault, and I love the idea of making sure all sorts of folks have a path to contribute, but many times when I’ve seen these types of meetings organized, many participants don’t have enough context, or subject matter expertise to produce genuinely helpful ideas. I think it’s really powerful when cross-discipline teams collaborate well on a project or feature, so I guess I’m wondering if there are practical ways to generate the culture of trust and mutual respect that is needed for this to actually work. First time question asker, long time listener here. We have a Really Important Problem at work: in Slack, people tend to use @channel instead of @here. What are some strategies for educating everyone that they should be using @here and not @channel? I especially don’t want anyone to feel shamed or called-out in the moment. Thanks!
September 17, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I joined a new team that has a different way of working, which has exposed a lot of my shortcomings. On my previous team, collaboration was limited to discussions around architecture and strategy; after reaching consensus, we’d implement the components independently. I was very comfortable with this because I don’t have good intuition for how to interact with others. On the new team, we pair-program. Teammates have pointed out mistakes I’ve made while pairing, such as trying to control the mouse when they are in the middle of doing something or investigating something on my own computer without communicating what I’m doing. On this team, we are also expected to be much more engaged in group decision-making. As a result, I’ve made tons of mistakes in how or when I pose questions. Each time I make a mistake, it increases my self-loathing. I tried telling myself that I didn’t have bad intent when I made the mistake and the only way to grow is to make mistakes. I also told myself that this self-loathing doesn’t do anything for the team. I also do a personal post-mortem on each of my mistakes because I thought that would help me move on. These approaches didn’t work and my confidence has dropped substantially. I know it’s essential for me to learn how to work effectively with others instead of staying in my comfort zone of heads-down coding. Do you have suggestions for how to get through this learning process without letting it affect my self esteem and motivation? Hey Soft Skills Engineering, Love the podcast! You’ve helped me understand so much about the software engineering career field that I probably would have otherwise learned the hard way. I’ve been working at my current job for almost 4 years. The pay is very much below market (it’s a non-profit), the work is too easy, I can finish any task in a couple of hours, but we are given an automatic 1 week+ deadline to finish anything, and I’m much more technical than any of my co-workers, to the point where I can’t even have nerdy conversations with anyone at work. However, I’ve stuck around because the job is pretty much stress-free, I don’t have to think about work at all outside of work hours, and all the free time allows me to take on side-projects and learn new technologies, including every level of software development. With all this free time, I’ve started a company. In the last few months, I’ve managed developers, designed a system using blockchain tech, designed and implemented a database, learned the ins and outs of AWS management and server-less development, built a REST API from scratch, developed a full front-end in React/Redux, and learned a ton of other things. Since I’m in the prototype phase, my startup hasn’t gotten any revenue, and I’m aware it might take awhile to get any revenue if it ever does. I need to pay bills, and I need to start thinking about my financial stability. So I think it’s time to get a new job, even if it means not having as much freedom to work on the startup. I’m not sure on how to approach my next step. I want to continue working on the startup after I get a new job, but I’m aware that employers might not be fond of “CEO” on my resume when there’s no end-date on the position, because I might leave at any time if my company grows. If I don’t put anything about my company on my resume, then it seems like I have nothing to show for all the technical skills I claim I have (since all the learning, management and implementation has all been for my company). Do I put anything about the startup I’m working on in my resume? If not, then how would I showcase all the experience and skills I’ve gained by beginning this startup? Should I just keep getting by paycheck to paycheck while I build the company? Thanks
September 10, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Great podcast! Love what you guys are doing and very happy that you are doing this for such a long time! Here’s the question. I started to work in a Startup a year ago. When we were negotiating the salary we agreed on amount X, and CTO promised that after a year it will be increased. He did say the exact sum. So, the year has passed, I followed up CTO about the salary raise, and he delegated the task to the manager, who decided not to give me a raise. When I asked ‘why?’ he said that I am good at negotiating my salary and I’m getting what the market is offering. I don’t feel bad about not getting more money, but the fact that the CTO break his word concerns me. I don’t think I can trust this company when they are promising anything and I started to care less about what I’m doing here. Am I delusional that a programmers salary has to increase even by 2% on a yearly basis and how to find a way to trust company in the future? Or just drop this and take the default SSE case - look for another job? Thank you for your answer. Hi Dave and Jamison, Absolutely love the show. I share an office with a peer who works on my team. We are both early in our career and are lucky to work under a very hands off manager. However, I feel my peer is taking advantage of the situation and is slacking off. He is rarely in his office and often states that he is ““working”” from home. When he graces us with his appearance in the office, he asks the most basic questions. Granted, those questions are internal and specific (not easily Google-able), but still, I feel he should have known the answers after a year on the job. He intentionally exploits our monolith’s slow builds by running full builds all the time and complain that it is slow. Then plays video games in the office until the build is complete (about 4 hours). Then makes a minor change in his feature code and kicks off a full build again, even though he could build incrementally (about 2-3 minutes). What do you recommend me to do? Should I spend time and energy to answer his lifeless questions? Should I confront him?
September 3, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Is it just me or does systems like Jira and TFS get managers to go crazy on processes? We have TFS and management has created a convoluted mess of processes that takes forever to learn and gets changed on a whim to be replaced by an even more convoluted process. Every time I finish a large feature and need to merge it in, I have to run around asking ten people on what process changed since there are all sorts of permission denied and other strange error messages. In my previous job, same with Jira and Jenkins. As an engineer, do managers really need these crazy processes that get in the way or am I naive engineer who doesn’t really understand the value of these processes? Just wanted to preface by saying that I absolutely love your podcast. It’s definitely helped me mold into a better developer and team player! My company is having a tough time raising our next round. In light of this, I am actively looking for my next position. Financial stability and growth is my biggest concern as I am planning to get married, buy our own place, and have kids. My goal is to interview at multiple companies and get competing offers. From a hiring perspective, I can definitely see how companies and see this in a negative light. How do I navigate salary negotiations so that I can get the best deal (financially) without being stereotyped?
August 27, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I used to work totally remote, but found myself absolutely hating it. The lack of office culture and human interaction. The problem is that in my area there are few local development jobs that match my skill set. I work in a large but heathcare heavy town, and their tech does not blend with my skill set. All to say. When it comes time to find my next job I’ll probably be looking for remote again. How can I come to love remote jobs, or at least survive? Maybe my previous companies remote culture was terrible. Is there any advice you can give when evaluating a remote culture at a company? Love the show! I had a question on how to effectively manage of team of engineers who have only partial allocation to my project. I am a project & technical lead for a team of ““8 FTE””, which is composed of a rotating cast of engineers who are allocated to my project in small percentages (most commonly between 30-80% of their time). This has a lot of challenges which you can imagine, but the one I am most interested in your thoughts on is the struggle with other projects about ““whose deliverable for a given engineer has priority””. As an example an engineer with 50% time on my project and 50% on another project will give me feedback that his immediate tasking between projects is unclear, he knows he has to do both workloads but feels they are uneven, or he is under more pressure from one project than the other. My company stack ranks during performance reviews and competition between leaders of matrix organizations (such as myself) in particular is fierce, so discussions between projects on how to effectively tackle this problem does not yield constructive agreements (in my experience). I’m at times guilty of trying to ““squeeze”” more than my designated allocation out of engineers to deliver on agreements for timing, scope, etc. Any thoughts are appreciated!
August 20, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: How do managers make firing decision during company wide cuts? Recently our company went through spending cuts and x percentage of people were laid off as part of this exercise. On one fateful day, our manager informed us that he let go John Doe as he had to fire someone. Overall John Doe was a decent senior developer and was with the company for 10 plus years. My gut feeling is that he was let go because he simply didn’t (or couldn’t) move to management and was too old for a developer position. Does ageism play a role when a firing decision has to be made based on non-performance reasons? I’m in my early 30s, I have a spouse and a small child, and work remotely as a software engineer. One of my peers, let’s call him James, is about 10 years younger than me, works on-site, and is single. He’s a good developer and really friendly. The problem I have with him is that this job is his life. It isn’t uncommon for James to work 14 hour days (including weekends sometimes), submitting code for review at midnight, then back in to work bright and early the next day. This is not at all encouraged at my company. Most everyone comes in at 9 and leaves at 6. I feel a little bad for James because I get the sense that he’s lonely, and doesn’t have much going for him outside of work. However, it’s frustrating working with a peer who puts in way more time at work when my home life literally makes that level of dedication impossible. James receives a lot of praise for the hard problems he works on after-hours. I know my performance is fine and I don’t need the praise per se, but it’s frustrating to feel that I’m going to be compared to him informally by my co-workers in terms of what we get done, and formally, as promotion opportunities come up. I honestly wish someone in management would ask him not to work after-hours, but that’s probably not going to happen. Thoughts on how to handle this?
August 13, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I started my first job as a developer 2 months ago. My boss wants me to give talks at meetups and then later, conferences. I have no idea what I can talk about as I am still very much learning. How do I find a topic to research and work on so that I can deliver value to people listening to my talk? What are some things I can try to increase the scale of my annual raise or bonus? For example, if my company averages a 2% raise each year, but I really want a 3% raise this year, how might I go about it?
July 30, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: What is the right balance between asking for help and figuring things out on my own? How do I know when it’s time to ask questions or when it’s time to spend more time drilling down into the code? Been at my first job for a couple of years now, and I am very quiet in the workplace and still find it hard to open up, be assertive, and speak up in meetings. When I try to go out of my comfort zone (arguing about technical decisions, setting up and driving meetings), I don’t think my manager appreciates my efforts. I am told that I need to voice my opinions more and have more of a two-way conversation. I feel I’m not given concrete chances to improve, and it’s very demotivating. How should I deal in situations like this? Job pitch time! Are you interested in working at Walmart Labs? Email Jamison at!
July 23, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Will working as a defense contractor hurt my future employability in private industry? I work as a full stack engineer for a small defense contractor with a security clearance. My company is awesome; All of my coworkers are super talented/motivated. On top of that we get to work with modern tech stacks (React, Elm, Go, Rust, Kafka, you name it, we can use it). I have heard rumors that it’s hard to move back to private industry after working in this world due to working with old/legacy tech and the view that defense contractors generally have less than stellar engineers. Is this true? I feel I’m in a bit of a unique situation due to how good I have it at my company and feel I could demonstrate that my technical chops are up to par with industry standards. We we just did a 360 performance evaluation where we provided “strong points” and “improvement suggestions” for two colleagues assigned by management. The completed reviews were sent to management and management forwarded it to the people under review. One of the reviews I received was very positive but the other one, from a senior teammate I work closely with, had a very harsh and exaggerated “improvement suggestions” section and very short and unconvincing “strong points” section. I’m not sure if he really considers me incompetent or he just wrote the suggestions, which do have some truth in them, without bothering to put things in perspective and without considering the impact it can have on my career and motivation. I feel a bit resentful towards the reviewer and am worried about the potential negative consequences of this review (I am relatively new to the company, joined 7 months ago). For now, I am trying to act as if nothing happened. I am hesitating whether I should talk to this person. On one hand, he can write what he wants in the way he wants. On the other hand, I feel the review is unfair and too negative. I would appreciate your input on this.
July 17, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I work at a growing start up, and while I was hired as a web dev, I have started working on unrelated but cutting-edge tech for the company during off hours. My boss has encouraged me to do this with monetary and office life bonuses, and he has reworked our business model to focus on it. The only problem is that our CEO overpromises and pushes me to my mental and physical limits for very short turnarounds. I still have to do my regular job. While I love the challenge, and love the company, I feel set up to fail. And the 40 hour coding sprints over the weekend are killing me. I feel like I’m setting a horrible precedent because somehow, defying all logic, I’ve met the deadline each time. How far is too far? Should I keep killing myself, or take the agony of defeat on a project. I’m currently working as a Senior Solutions Architect after a career progression that looks like this: Junior Developer, Intermediate Developer, Senior Developer, Junior Architect, Intermediate Architect, Senior Architect. In a recent one-on-one with my boss, we were discussing my future career options and concluded that the next step for me would be one of the following three positions: VP of Engineering, Chief Architect, or CTO. According to him, all three have similar levels of prestige, pay and influence, but vary in the nature of the job. Reflecting on this conversation, it dawned on me that I’m close to the final stage of my career. I’m currently 39 years old, so I’m now thinking to myself: Is that really it? One more promotion and I’ve successfully climbed the corporate ladder? End of the line. Time to retire. Nothing more to strive for (other than working on the most interesting projects). So, could you please talk about the software career progression, what to aspire to and how to measure one’s own progress once one has reached the top of the ladder?
July 10, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Let say you accepted an offer from another company and you turned in your 2 weeks notice. If your current employer ask you how much you will be making at your new place, should you tell them? Recently I was on a panel of people hiring for my company. We were hiring for several positions and were given a fixed headcount. When it came down to the last spot we interviewed two people, one of which was a referral from someone higher up in the company. This person did terribly on the interview and we as a panel decided that we would offer the position to the other person, who was the strongest of all the interviewees. And all was fine until several days later when we received an email from HR showing the full list of people to be hired, and lo and behold, the list contained all the people we chose, plus one extra person, the referral person. Somehow there was magically more headcount for this person and now he is being hired. I’m not really sure how to feel about this. Because now we have a new person that is going to enter the company and I feel if he doesn’t perform well it will reflect badly on me and the panel that were involved in hiring. Also I am confused at this clear example of nepotism happening in my company. Should I bring this up with someone in the company? I’m leaning towards no but I am also confused and annoyed at what happened.
July 2, 2018
In this re-run of episode 79, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: It seems like my teams always miss their story point commitments. Is this normal? How do you change it? How do you actually measure developer productivity? The article comparing research on productivity in static and dynamic type systems is here. It is a great read. Jamison also mentions Goodhart’s Law. Read more about it here.
June 25, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: How do I quit my first job if I’m working with a manager I love? I started my first full-time job about two years ago and I’m starting to think about looking for a new job, both because I am ready for new challenges and I’m ready to move to a new city. I have a great working relationship with my boss, so a part of me wants to tell her about my interest in finding a new job, both so that I could use her for a reference and also so that I can be honest with her about my intentions. She’s been a great boss and mentor to me, so there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to jeopardize our working relationship. But another part of me feels like I might be jeopardizing my presence in my current office if I make it clear that I am looking to move on, especially if my job hunt doesn’t go as smoothly as I hope. How do you deal effectively with rapidly increasing work responsibilities? My technical lead was recently promoted to management. Being both ambitious and the only Sr. Engineer without retirement plans in the next 4 months, I immediately stepped into the power vacuum and inverted a binary tree faster than all my coworkers to establish my position as new tech lead. After a few months the other senior engineer on my team retired, and I’ve ended up holding the bag for my new job responsibilities, my old responsibilities as a Sr. Engineer, AND the departed Sr. Engineer’s responsibilities. I told my manager how much was on my plate and that I was afraid my work output would suffer, and her response was to throw money hand over fist at me and promise to backfill both Senior positions within the next 12 months. How do I get through the next 18 months without losing all my hair? Are there any strategies to make sure the team doesn’t go up in flames when I forget about a key deadline? Or at least position myself so that nobody can tell it is my fault until I can make a subtle getaway in the brand new Ferrari I’m going to buy?
June 18, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Is it common for developers to take an interview without real interest in a job? Is it common for a company to reject a candidate because they think candidate is not interested in a job? Recently I had an interview and I was rejected even though I though it went really well. From internal channels in that company I learned that the interviewer thought I wasn’t really searching for a new job and was just doing interviews for fun or to improve my skills. That was really frustrating. And also, well, flattering. But still, I don’t understand what signals I may have given. I asked questions about the company, processes, etc. I prepared really well. And I asked for a salary that’s quite significant for our market. The only reason I see is that I always worked remotely and this is position in an office. By the way, LOVE your show! What happens when a wave of engineers leaves your company? I work for a startup that went through a brutal round of layoffs, before stabilizing. We’re building the engineering team back up, but the core team members that built our platform are gone. How do we approach maintaining things, adding new things, technology decisions, etc?
June 12, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Hello Jamison and Dave. 💕 your show! 👏 I have been a C# dev for 7 years. Last year, I learn Erlang. I fell in love with functional programming. After that I learned Elm and oh boy… I had never dreamed a compiler/computer could do so much work for me, preventing so many mistakes that would otherwise require an unholy number of “unit tests”. The thing is I can no longer find satisfaction with any job. I love to write software, but at some point I became almost dogmatic. I abhor more and more the discipline it takes, in certain languages, to make my code be as pure and testable as in an FP language. I had to do so much un-learning, that now I feel that I am refusing to un-un-learn all these different ideas and paradigms and just go back to making the tests happy. I seek your humorous words of wisdom on how to find contentment with my job again, without looking at a language and dreading it. I have a co-worker, who is pretty incompetent technically. Over the past few years that I’ve been here, he has proved time and again that he is incapable of learning and really grasping how things work. He is able to accomplish basic feature work, but not capable of making good architecture decisions, or why a given framework should be chosen, or how to solve harder problems (I’m not sure how to describe this. But for example, how to build a resilient API client). However this person is great at creating slides, and presentations, and JIRAs, so I think management thinks they are ok at their job. He’s also a nice guy. I’m not sure how to say, hey you suck at your job. Which is pretty harsh. Or to suggest to someone that he should be replaced.
June 4, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: How do I help foster team spirit in a newly created team? I work for small startup (fewer than 10 people). My boss wants to hire another developer and asked me to look around for people. I don’t feel particularly strongly about this team. I’ve been there for about a year, but I don’t imagine myself working there for another twelve months. I don’t want to refer my friends because I don’t want them to join a team I don’t feel good about. On the other hand, I want to work with great people. I see how other devs may enjoy working in such an environment, but it’s just not for me. In the long run, I obviously want to leave this job, but what would you recommend doing in short term? Is hiring under such circumstances really that different than hiring if I liked this team?
May 29, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I run a small dev team. One junior developer constantly openly challenges things that don’t meet this their preference. As a manager I don’t want to stifle innovation, but need to find a balance on being able to meet business goals on schedule. I want to add an automatic formatting tool to our code, but my co-worker is resistant to the idea. He started this project and I’m brand new to it. I don’t want to push it too much, but I would really love to use it. I’ve shared with him all the reasons that it would be good, and addressed most of his concerns. I’ve also submitted a PR to show him what it would look like. Also, he is in another timezone 9 hours away, so communication is all on GitHub, Slack, and the occasional video call (if I wake up early). He finally said if it really helps me, then I can go for it, but I don’t think he would like it if I did. Should I go for it? Try to convince him more? Or just drop it?
May 20, 2018
We’ve got another re-run this week, as Jamison and Dave both recover from being sick. We’ll be back with a new episode next week. In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: How can I attract talent? How do I quit without burning bridges? This episode originally aired on November 15th, 2016.
May 13, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: What do I do about an insecure teammate whose insecurity causes them to lash out at others? I’d like to change teams within my company, but I’ve had some negative performance reviews in the past. How early should I disclose this to my prospective manager? Jamison talks about the Khan Academy Engineering Principles, which are great and which you should read.
May 6, 2018
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: How can I encourage my team to be more visible in the office? How do I learn new technologies without going through a noob phase?
April 30, 2018
Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I recently interviewed for a role I was very interested in. I didn’t get the job,and despite several attempts, didn’t receive any feedback on what I could have done differently. I still really want to work there at some point in the future, but have I taken it too far? Have I accidentally burned all of the bridges before I set foot on them? I am a lowly SSE that recently started a tech newsletter at my company. One of the senior VPs (let’s call them “E”) sent out an email to the org asking people to reply to a newsletter survey so that their team can be featured. A senior manager (“K”), was upset his team wasn’t featured but I informed him that he didn’t reply to the original survey. I explained to “K” that he can still send me information for the next issue. “K” then replied back with something very condescending and has now made the newsletter a political device. How should I proceed from here?
April 22, 2018
Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Since working remotely I’ve noticed a trend to do things like not leaving the house, growing my beard out to above average length, or not wearing (real) pants. What should I do to keep from losing any/all interpersonal skills? Is there such a thing as meetup etiquette? When I attend meetups and attempt to initiate conversion with people, I’m hesitant to interrupt people who are in discussion with others. Should I wait, try to join the discussion or just barge in on the conversion?
April 12, 2018
Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I’ve been a software engineer for 13 years and would like to apply for a management role. I’ve never managed before. How do I apply for a job as a manager without managerial experience? How do I deal with annoying noises around my desk? One neighbor listens to loud music. Another one pops the bubbles on his bubblewrap (to calm himself obviously but also infuriate me). Please help =)
April 6, 2018
Dave and Jamison answer these questions: I went through the interview process, and as last step I had an interview with the VP of engineering. At the end of interview he asked if I had any questions for him. I didn’t know what to ask. What do you ask? I’m a front-end web developer on a SCRUM team. Our Product Owner is also our tester, but she has a very busy schedule and she hardly has any time to test anymore. My team thinks we need a second product owner, but I think we should hire a dedicated tester to help the PO. How do I convince my team and my manager to hire a tester instead of a second product owner? We don’t work with scripted test plans or anything, so I think a dedicated tester would be a huge benefit to our team and our deliverables.
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