You've trained as an engineer but now you're a manager of engineers or a manager of managers. This new role requires a completely different skill set with a focus on "soft skills" to be a successful leader.
LeadDev is an international conference for engineering managers, tech leads and CTOs, taking place in London, Berlin, San Francisco and New York. The annual conferences are full of practical takeaways to help you lead your team, build psychological safety, and support your team members to level up to leadership roles themselves.
Our London meetup is an extension of the conference and an opportunity for the community to get together, network and learn to better develop yourself and your team. Featuring short talks and refreshments, it's the perfect opportunity for some mid-week inspiration.
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Mental Health - Self Care as a Leader
From this talk you should gain some insight on the following:
- Why it is is important as a leader to manage your own mental health and model behaviour for your teams
- How to extend ideas on self-care and personal insight into the workplace and your teams
- Some of the failures and traps Zenon experienced
When you take a leadership role, how you behave and interact with others carries more weight in defining acceptable practices and the culture of your organisation. Zenon believes it is our duty to make sure we are doing the most that we can to make our work environment a safe and healthy place for our people. Modelling behaviour is big part of this and a self-care routine is a vital first step to put yourself in a position to care for your teams and people. Zenon has found this is a vital part of enabling high performing teams.
It takes two to tango: why tech and business succeed or fail together
In this session, we will discuss how to achieve real technical excellence that matters to the Business, how to build trust between Business and Tech, and how Business can react quickly and beat the competition with help from Tech. After many years in professional software development, we experienced the impact of Business’ decisions on Tech, the importance of technical excellence for the Business, and the role of Software Craftsmanship/Craftswomenship in achieving technical excellence.
We learned that Tech is an enabler for the Business, that Business is a key stakeholder, that mastery in practices such as Software Craftsmanship/Craftswomenship leads to technical excellence that really matters. Then, in an unexpected turn of events, we learned these assumptions were flawed, it was much more than that.
Beyond Tech in Tech Leadership
People often get promoted into Tech Leadership based on technical excellence and as a consequence, sometimes are not aware or equipped to deal with the greater breadth of responsibilities. Management and leadership positions are seen as a step in the career ladder. Yet it's often a brand new career in itself and you're in the bottom step and realise bugs are easier to debug in code than in organisations and people.
This talk covers things I wish I had known while making the transition and raise awareness in defining and execution of the broader responsibilities of the role. You'll learn:
- How to set expectations and lead your 1:1s.
- How to communicate vision and strategy to the broader team
- Effective ways to ask for help when there's none.
An Engineer's Guide to a Good Night's Sleep
In this talk, I will be exploring and discussing some of my top approaches and techniques to help reduce the risk of that dreaded 3am call! You will gain some practical insight into how to handle failure in today's more complex distributed microservice systems. This will include looking at approaches to resiliency, understanding your system, understanding the requirements for fault tolerance, and the developers' mindset necessary for this. I will be peppering this talk with real world examples, and an occasional war story along the way too.
Getting excited about maintaining legacy systems
I would like to share the steps I went through when I could no longer avoid diving into the unknown, some anecdotes of things I’ve learnt and how I have been trying to get my team excited about sharing the brunt of helping production systems continue running.
Productise your project's technical quality
In this talk, I’ll go through a framework that you can use as a reference when deciding what aspects of tech debt to address, in what order, and in what way. You can adjust that to match your team’s special context and challenges, but I’ll also take you through some implementations that I’ve seen in engineering teams as examples. By the end of the session, you’ll have tools that will help you choose the most effective way towards engineering setup and decision making that works for your team, but also grow your team’s muscles towards identifying these areas in the future.
Climbing the growth mountain
How do you rapidly scale a project team 6 fold in a matter of weeks? How do you train a growing team on an unfamiliar technology whilst under pressure to deliver? As a leader how can you be sure your team has what they need to succeed?
Callum will share the challenges faced and lessons learnt while rapidly scaling a team to transition an app for the NHS from a messy inherited codebase to a clean microservices architecture in a matter of weeks.
Using this experience as an example, we’ll take a look at how to craft a smooth onboarding process for people of every discipline (developers, QA, designers, PMs) and the important role that documentation and planning plays. Finally, we’ll explore the impact that a growing team can have on the leader themselves - the mental burden and how to reduce pressures, the importance of having a mentor, and how to maintain a good relationship with the team when the project gets tough.
Level Up: Developing Developers
It’s rare that in the tech industry we’ll stick with one single job. As developers, we’re constantly learning: whether it’s figuring out how to solve new problems, learning new skills and technologies, or switching to a completely new role, we’re in an industry that requires constant change.
As leads, we should make it easier for developers to understand what options are available to them, allow them to make time for learning and provide structures and processes for them to develop the skills that they want and need for future roles.
Five Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner About Scaling Teams & Culture
In engineering we (rightly) talk a lot about how to scale our systems and our infrastructure. Yet some of our very hardest challenges come when scaling the people side of things. How do you survive your team doubling, tripling or perhaps even a 10x growth in a short period of time? What does it take to grow fast AND retain the bits of your culture as a team or organisation that made you great to begin with? How do you know when to change how you do things, without just cargo culting?
Having scaled a number of teams at different speeds, Meri will talk through some of the inflection points you'll experience, how to navigate them, and reflect on all the things she wishes she'd known just a little bit earlier...
Are You Ready For Juniors?
The tech industry is currently in a transitionary phase, as we step into the digital future, more and more people are becoming digitally literate. The rise of bootcamps, online tutorials and diversity programs mean that more people are learning to code and becoming competent developers, however jobs for these people are scarce. In an industry where there is more demand than supply, how is it people are still struggling to find good junior roles?
Having spoken to senior engineers and hiring managers, and looking back at my own experiences, I think the issues are clear. For many companies, hiring a junior developer is perceived as risky. Do they have enough knowledge to make valuable contributions? Can we give them enough support? You have to have confidence that the person you hire can do the work you hire them to do, and that’s not always clear from hiring a junior. However, given the right environments, junior engineers can not only make valuable contributions to the product but also make better engineers of their colleagues.
I will be looking at the best ways to prepare to hire junior engineers so that the product doesn’t suffer and the environment is one that’s conducive to growth.
A New Tech Leads’ Survival Guide
It’s well-known that the transition from individual contributor to tech lead/manager can be challenging and overwhelming at first.
In this talk, Theo describes his journey from Senior Front-end Developer to Lead Developer. In particular, he will focus on his key learnings and the strategies he developed to manage the transition period and get to grips with his new role. If you’ve recently made a step up or are looking to do so, his tips and ideas will help you hit the ground running and become more effective in your role.
Don't Panic! How to Cope Now You're Responsible for Production
More and more developers are expected to be on-call, provide out-of-hours support, and respond to production outages. If you don't have much experience handling incidents, it can be scary, intimidating, and feel like being dropped in the deep end. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Over the last few years on the FT’s Content team, we’ve transformed our incident response – from a number of mildly terrifying multi-hour outages, to a stable platform where team members feel comfortable on-call.
10 things I learned about being a better manager
Hire better, faster, stronger
nterviewing candidates for a position can be stressful. As hiring managers, we want to find the perfect person to join our team, but there are many factors that feel out of our hands (e.g. rain can affect the mood of the candidate and the person interviewing and impact the result). We need to effectively control the factors that we can.
As a candidate, interviewing for a new job can be quite stressful and time-consuming. It feels like you are being put through an exam.
What Should Your Team Work On?
What should we work on?" is probably the most consequential question you need to help your team and company answer. Should we focus on: fixing bugs that are causing many support calls, building a strategic new feature, implementing a tactical solution that will help bring more customers, re-architecting systems and addressing technical debt, interviewing new engineers, onboarding new colleagues and improving documentation.
As a manager or technical lead, you can influence that decision to ensure your team provides the best experience for your customers and the best opportunity for the business. Clearly mapping your team's work to the company's goals and success will give you all the motivation and purpose needed to engage with and feel proud of your work. It will likely help your team find opportunities to learn and grow and could get you and them the next promotion too!
Management bugs: a transparent way of enabling democratic change
Have you ever struggled to make change happen democratically in your department? Have you raised issues up the flagpole only for them to disappear into the ether?
We explore an initiative called "Management Bugs" which we have rolled out across our Engineering department at Brandwatch. The idea is simple: let everyone in the department raise bugs to management in the same way that bugs are raised against our software. Doing so breaks down typical org chart barriers and allows everyone to have a voice in a non-confrontational way. Issues can be tracked, discussed and debated.
We have a look at some of the theory behind doing it, how we decided to implement it, and then share some of our learnings and what's changed in our Engineering department as a result. We hope that you'll go back and implement your own version!
Coaching Excellence: NLP Strategies for Coaches
The day-to-day activities we have as Technical Leaders and Managers frequently include 1-2-1 conversations around issue resolution, personal development and career planning. The discipline of Neuro-Linguistic Programming gives us a number of insights and techniques into understanding people’s perceptions, how they see the world and how they behave as a result. We can learn questioning techniques, to draw out the person’s understanding of themselves and their situation; we can see how to spot the negative language patterns that people use which disempower them and limit their perceived options; and we can learn reframing techniques, which will help our colleagues to challenge their perceptions and increase their choices.
How I Made the Leap; How I Helped Her Make the Leap
This is a joint talk about the journey from Engineer to Engineering Manager. Amy and Victoria team up to share the different conversations and exercises they went through as mentor and mentee during Victoria's transition into a management role and their continued 1:1 relationship.
Staying Curious with Clean Language
Another day another misunderstood requirement that has created another delay, increased development costs and reduced ROI. If only there was another option for you to have caught this problem earlier, closing the feedback loop in such a way that delivery felt effortless.
Learn how to improve your curiosity and listen better. In this talk, you will get to experience the benefits of asking a few of the dozen clean language questions (developed by David Grove).
Clean Language questions help you and your team members become great listeners and curious participants in any meeting, being involved in ways that can have a great impact on your products and delighting your customers further.