I enjoyed this recent article from Tanya Reilly about Having impact in engineering by supporting other people’s ideas. Her post contains a lot of good advice, and I wanted to expand on the section, But it’s not how I would have done it, where Tanya highlights the importance of being open to different ways of achieving the same goal. It brought to mind the challenges I had around delegation in my early years as a team leader, and some related ideas that I’ve found helpful over time.

Being clear on what versus how

Whenever you’re delegating something, it’s important to be clear on the difference between…


Delivering constructive feedback is hard — it’s natural to worry about the other person’s feelings, damaging your relationship, awkward silences, or worse, the discussion escalating into conflict. For these reasons, many people hold off on having difficult conversations, and when they do eventually have them, the message often isn’t as clear as it could be. This results in the feedback failing to have the intended impact. A valuable principle when delivering feedback is to do so sooner than you would prefer, and more directly than you would naturally. …


The question “how technically hands-on should I be as a team leader?” comes up frequently in my conversations with engineering leads. The short answer is: “definitely to some extent”, but for a more specific answer we need to consider context, your individual team makeup, and your goals as a leader.

Remaining technical is essential

Let’s begin by acknowledging that engineering leadership is a technical role. You are responsible for supporting software engineers who do technical work, for helping to shape the team’s technical vision, and for making strategic technical decisions. …


When someone leaves our team, it’s natural for us as leaders to focus on the immediate practical implications e.g. we’re losing our Python expert, the team’s velocity will reduce by 10 story points, or hitting the next milestone for project X is in doubt. These things are important, but they are far from the complete picture of how this individual’s leaving impacts the team. …


A common question for new or aspiring team leaders is, “how do I lead someone who is more experienced than me?”. “More experienced” can mean different things here: someone with longer tenure as an engineer, someone who has led engineering teams in the past, someone who is older than you, or some combination of all 3.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

This is a question I can relate to a lot. I moved into a team leader role relatively early in my career, after 3 years as a software engineer. One of my biggest concerns was my ability to lead people who were more experienced…

Mark Wood

Engineering leader at Bloomberg. All opinions are my own.

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