Elegant Puzzle with Will Larson
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Software engineering is an art and a science. To manage engineers is to manage artists and scientists.
Software companies build practical tools like payment systems, messaging products, and search engines. Software tools are the underpinnings of our modern lives. You might expect this core infrastructure which modern humans rely on to have been constructed with pure formulaic rigor.
But the best software tools are not built within a totally defined process. Software is built through messy iteration. When a piece of software looks pristine, that is often a function of how many mistakes have been made, and then subsequently corrected for.
There is no fixed process for how to build good software.
As our tools get better, we have to update our software engineering practices to utilize those new tools. We have to rethink the style that we are working in. We have to discard old tools and procedures in order to pick up the new ones, and have higher leverage.
As an organization scales, the structure of the organization needs to be modified. Team members need to be reallocated. Checks and balances need to be put in place. Rules and cultural practices need to codified, because a larger organization cannot have ties broken by an individual.
Software is built by humans, and every management decision must be considered in the light of human psychology. When we change a line of code, the code does not get emotional about being altered. But the same cannot be said of humans. Even a minor conversation between an engineering manager and a direct report can have lasting implications.
Will Larson is the author of An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management. He works on Foundation Engineering at Stripe, and has worked in engineering management at Uber, Digg, and other software companies. Elegant Puzzle provides strategies, tactics, and ruminations on software development. Will joins the show to explore the multifaceted subject of engineering management.
- FindCollabs is a place to find collaborators and build projects. FindCollabs is the company I am building, and we are having an online hackathon with $2500 in prizes. If you are working on a project, or you are looking for other programmers to build a project or start a company with, check out FindCollabs. I’ve been interviewing people from some of these projects on the FindCollabs podcast, so if you want to learn more about the community you can hear that podcast.
- New Software Daily app for iOS. It includes all 1000 of our old episodes, as well as related links, greatest hits, and topics. You can comment on episodes and have discussions with other members of the community. And you can become a paid subscriber for ad free episodes at softwareengineeringdaily.com/subscribe
- Upcoming conferences I’m attending: Datadog Dash July 16th and 17th in NYC, Open Core Summit September 19th and 20th in San Francisco
- We are hiring two interns for software engineering and business development! If you are interested in either position, send an email with your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Internship” in the subject line.
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