Simon Willison’s Weblog

13 items tagged “management”

Amazon’s Away Teams laid bare: How AWS’s hivemind of engineers develop and maintain their internal tech (via) Some interesting insights into how Amazon structure their engineering organization to maximize team productivity in a service-oriented environment. Two things that stood out to me: each service is owned by a “home team”, but sometimes features that are needed by other teams can be built by forming an “away team” to build out that functionality. Secondly, Amazon has a concept of “bar raisers” who are engineers across the organization who help approve key design and architectural decisions. It’s possible to go against the recommendation of a bar raiser but “such a move is noted and made visible to higher levels of management”. # 14th May 2019, 6:32 pm

One of the standards you have to have demonstrated to being able to reach Principle Engineer inside Amazon is “Respect what has gone before”. It’s very likely you don’t know the why, what or how of it. Often what was written was the best that could be done to the constraints.

Paul Graydon # 25th April 2019, 5:52 pm

The Behavioral Change Stairway Model. BCSM is the FBI’s model for crisis negotiation, but it looks like it could be a useful negotiation framework for all kinds of other conflict mediation as well. # 19th April 2019, 5:46 pm

Using 6 Page and 2 Page Documents To Make Organizational Decisions (via) I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the challenges of efficiently getting to consensus within a larger organization spread across multiple locations and time zones. This model described by Ian Nowland based on his experience at AWS seems very promising. The goal is to achieve a decision or “disagree and commit” consensus using a max 6 page document and a one hour meeting. The first fifteen minutes of the meeting are dedicated to silently reading the document—if you’ve read it already you are given the option of arriving fifteen minutes late. # 11th April 2019, 3:46 am

The Eleven Laws of Showrunning (via) Fascinating essay on how to run a modern TV show by Javier Grillo-Marxuach. Being a showrunner basically involves running a 100+ person startup with a 7 digit budget, almost immovable deadlines, high maintenance activist investors and you’re still expected to write some of the scripts! So many useful lessons here about management, creativity and delegation: almost everything in here is relevant to product management, startup founding and engineering management as well. # 19th February 2019, 7:27 pm

Advice for a new executive, by Chad Dickerson (via) Lara Hogan shares the advice she was given by Chad Dickerson (CTO and then CEO of Etsy) when she first became VP Engineering at Kickstarter. There is so much good material in here. I can vouch for the “peer support group” recommendation: Natalie and I benefited from that through Y Combinator and ended up building our own founder peer support group when we moved our startup back to London. Having a confidential trusted group with which to discuss the challenges of growing a company was invaluable. # 31st August 2018, 1:45 pm

If Sheryl Sandberg cannot  code, how can she manage a leading software company like Facebook?

There is way more to running a technology company than just writing or understanding code. According to Wikipedia, Sheryl “oversees the firm’s business operations including sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communications.”—that means that among other things she’s responsible for the parts of Facebook that make the money!

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What systems/software are absolutely worth purchasing for a solidly funded e-commerce startup?

I’d use a small fraction of that budget for relevant SaaS subscriptions—things like www.kissmetrics.com or www.mixpanel.com for user analytics, www.moz.com or www.ginzametrics.com for SEO reporting, or www.geckoboard.com for building a custom dashboard.

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What is the relationship between CTO and VP of Engineering typically like?

There was a great talk about this topic last year by the CTO and VP Engineering if Joyent at the Monkigras conference in London—slides and video available here: http://lanyrd.com/2012/monkigras...

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What separates a CIO, CTO, and VP of engineering?

Jason Hoffman and Bryan Cantrill, CTO and VP Engineering respectively of Joyent, gave an excellent talk on exactly this subject at the Monki Gras conference in London a couple of weeks ago. Their slides plus a video of their talk are available here: http://lanyrd.com/2012/monkigras...

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What are good ways to design a web application? Do you, for example, begin with a wire-frame of the front-end and work your way back to the database schema? The reverse? Figure out both ends and work towards the center?

I start with a working prototype, which I find I can often knock together in a couple of hours using Django. Having a functional (albeit buggy, ugly and insecure) prototype makes it much easier for me to start to reason about the larger application. There’s not much point in coming up with a comprehensive architecture plan only to find out you’re building the wrong thing!

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Website for the masses!

You could try building it on top of a wiki engine, like MediaWiki—see my comment on this older question.

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Do Content Management Systems really work?

Have you considered trying a Wiki? In my experience, the more permissions / workflow / etc you have in a CMS the more likely it is that people won’t use it. Wikis may be a little unconventional but the barrier to entry is fantastically low and they can work extremely well (I like MediaWiki or TaviWiki myself).

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