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SimpleLeadership Podcast

SimpleLeadership specifically focuses on improving the craft of software engineering leadership. As a VP of Engineering & CTO I am acutely aware of the lack of good resources available for new and existing software engineering managers. SimpleLeadership is designed for both new and experienced software & technology managers who want to build high-performing teams, better motivate & mentor their employees, reduce attrition and advance their career. It is for people who want to go beyond just being a manager and become a true leader. In this interview based show I ask each guest to share their journey from individual contributor to software engineering manager and provide any guidance on the transition. The SimpleLeadership Podcast will present real and actionable stories from people who have navigated their way from being an individual contributor into a software engineering manager. We will also hear from experts on specifics of team dynamics, motivation, feedback, leadership and many more aspects of being a successful engineering manager.
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Now displaying: May, 2019
May 27, 2019

What does it look like to create a work environment where employees can succeed and thrive? Are there steps you can take as a leader to encourage and support your team members in a meaningful way? Here to help us understand what makes Asana a, “Top 5 Best Place to Work” is my guest, Scott Carleton.

Scott is currently the Site Lead of Asana’s NYC office, dedicated to enabling all teams to collaborate effortlessly. Previously, Scott was the VP of Technology at Andela, empowering engineering talent across Africa. Scott co-founded Artsicle as CTO, building a global community of visual artists now featuring over 6000 creators in 100 countries. His work on Artsicle's discovery engine, which was able to create a personalized experience for passive users, earned NYER's "Best Use of Technology" award in 2013. Scott also built the first internal engineering team at Teachers Pay Teachers from 0 to 12, while integrating a high functioning remote team.

In our conversation, Scott talks about his journey to management, lessons he has learned along the way, the value of transparency, why an empowering work environment is so important and much more. You’ll need pen and paper for this one - Scott has a ton of helpful insights to share.

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:40] I welcome my guest, Scott Carleton.
  • [2:00] Scott talks about his background.
  • [4:30] How did Scott get started on the management track?
  • [6:25] Scott reflects on early mistakes he made as a manager.
  • [9:00] The value of transparency.
  • [10:40] Tips for new managers.
  • [13:30] What does Scott’s day-to-day role look like as a Site Lead for Asana?
  • [17:30] Navigating company culture in a distributed environment.
  • [22:30] What makes Asana a Top 5 Best Place to Work?
  • [27:00] Empowering employees and providing growth opportunities.
  • [31:00] What does it take to be a top-notch engineering manager?
  • [34:00] Using Slack the most effective way possible.
  • [37:00] How to set your team up for success in your absence.
  • [40:45] Book recommendations from Scott.

The value of transparency

Throughout your career, are there any values or principles that stand out to you as “Must-haves” to create an empowering work environment? Maybe for you, it’s integrity or competency. For Scott Carleton and the folks at Asana, one of the top values is transparency.

Transparency is crucial, especially for a distributed company like Asana. Scott says that the value of transparency is constantly top-of-mind for him as he engages with his team and works to build consistency and collaboration at Asana. Hand-in-hand with transparency is Scott’s goal to make as much of their processes and systems as clear and understandable as possible. While this is no easy task, Scott is proud of the ground they’ve been able to cover thus far.

How to empower your team members

Any good manager worth their salt focuses not only on their team members’ productivity but also looks for ways to encourage and empower them as individuals. Can you think of a manager who has empowered you at critical moments in your career? What did they do that made their efforts stand out?

From his time at Andela, Scott learned the value of providing his team members with applicable growth opportunities - not just any growth opportunity but - applicable ones. The difference here is key - while it might be a good experience for someone on your team to level up on JavaScript - if it doesn’t apply to the work they are currently engaged in it’s not really that helpful. How do you empower your team members? What growth opportunities do you provide them?

Creating a healthy work environment

At some point in their career - just about everyone encounters a dysfunctional and unhealthy work environment. How can leaders like you ensure that the environment you are building is a healthy and empowering one?

One of the primary reasons Scott joined Asana is their relentless commitment to organizational health. They’ve created clear and concise pathways that encourage their managers and team members to reflect on and learn from projects that were successful and unsuccessful. It is of paramount importance to Asana as an organization that everyone understands how their tasks directly contribute to the overall mission of the company. To hear more about how this plays out at Asana - from Scott’s perspective - make sure to listen to this episode of Simple Leadership.

What it takes to be an effective manager

Let’s face it; life as a manager is not for the faint of heart. Yes, you get a lot of great opportunities to influence your team and make great strides for your organization, but there is also a fair share of challenges and obstacles that come with the territory. How do you navigate those challenges and serve as an effective manager?

According to Scott Carleton, if you want to succeed as a manager, you’ve got to be willing to give your people honest feedback that helps them improve. We’ve all been in those one-on-one’s where the feedback you received was not helpful or constructive - don’t make that same mistake! Scott also points to the value of knowing your limitations and a willingness to be vulnerable as key aspects of an effective manager. Ask for help and be open about the challenges you are facing - what do you have to lose?

Remember - this is only a snapshot of my conversation with Scott - make sure to listen to this episode of Simple Leadership to get the FULL conversation.

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Scott Carleton

Connect With Christian McCarrick and SimpleLeadership


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May 13, 2019

As the economy and various business sectors continue to evolve, many leaders are looking at how transitioning to a distributed company might be the best option going forward. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Zapier’s Bryan Helmig to discuss all the benefits and some of the challenges involved with running a distributed company.

Bryan co-founded Zapier in late 2011 with his friends Mike and Wade, and they were soon admitted to Y Combinator’s YCS12 batch. Zapier is a web automation application, with Zapier you can build Zaps which can automate parts of your business or life. A Zap is a blueprint for a task you want to do over and over.

In our conversation, Bryan and I discuss the crucial role of hiring, what that process looks like at Zapier, the three ingredients for running a successful distributed company, lessons he has learned along the way, and much more. I can’t wait for you to dive in and learn from Bryan’s fascinating perspective!

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:45] Guest Bryan Helmig shares his background and why he started Zapier.
  • [5:20] Why hiring is one of the most critical aspects of a startup.
  • [8:50] What does Bryan look for when hiring Engineering Managers and remote employees?
  • [13:20] Three ingredients for running a successful distributed company.
  • [16:50] The benefits of a fully distributed company.
  • [21:30] Bryan describes the challenges he has faced with running a distributed company.
  • [25:00] How does Zapier optimize their hiring process?
  • [31:00] What does the Zapier on-boarding process look like?
  • [36:00] Change is the only constant.
  • [39:30] Why you need to keep an eye on the mental health of your remote employees.
  • [43:00] Tools and resources that Bryan recommends.
  • [44:30] Why people should consider working at Zapier.

Why you need to pay attention to your hiring process.

What would you identify as the number one area that business leaders should focus on as they work to take their business to the next level of growth? Should they focus on big-picture strategies or less sexy aspects like their hiring process?

Looking back at the growth of Zapier, Bryan Helmig says that the hiring process is the most important area for businesses in general and startups, in particular, to focus on. Hiring can be even more complicated for a distributed company but, in Bryan’s view, it doesn’t have to be. At the end of the day, it all comes down to relationships - the people who you hire and trust are critical to your business’ health. Learn more about Bryan’s approach to the hiring process at Zapier by listening to this episode.

3 ingredients for running a successful distributed company.

Let’s face it, running a successful business is hard enough but the challenges can increase tenfold when you are operating as a distributed company. Thankfully, leaders like Bryan Helmig are leading the way and paving a path forward. In our conversation, Bryan was kind enough to share his three ingredients for running a successful distributed company.

  • Team - Focus on less “poster values” and emphasize behavior values like, “Default to action.”
  • Tools - Don’t be a robot; build a robot. Tools drive how your organization works.
  • Process - Be willing to revisit and change your processes as you go.

Which aspect of Bryan’s three ingredients resonates the most with you? Make sure to catch my full conversation with Bryan as he expands on these three ingredients and much more.

The advantages of a distributed company.

What is your knee-jerk reaction when you think of a distributed company? Do you have a positive impression or a negative one? Don’t assume you know all of the relevant information, get it from the source!

One of the unique advantages of a distributed company is the limitless opportunities it provides when seeking talent. You don’t have to limit your talent search to those in your geographical area; you can choose from qualified candidates all over the world. Connected to this unique advantage is another advantage - diversified points of view. With a distributed company, you have the opportunity to get a global perspective that can give you an advantage over your competition.

The challenges of a distributed company.

While it might seem like there are only positives, the reality is there are a good number of challenges that arise from operating a distributed company. One key aspect is pretty obvious, you don’t get to look your peers, employees, and supervisors in the eye - this can lead to a whole host of challenges.

People who tend to view their workplace as a key aspect of their social life would find working for a distributed company challenging. Clear communication can also be a barrier for many individuals as well - what may come off as curt and obtuse in an email might not be what the sender had in mind. These challenges may prove too overwhelming for some, but the evidence shows that many people find the freedom and flexibility of working remotely are too good to pass up. Get even more insights into how a distributed company operates by listening to this episode of SimpleLeadership with Bryan Helmig!

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Bryan Helmig

Connect With Christian McCarrick and SimpleLeadership

 

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