Category startups

How To Thrive, Not Just Survive, Without a Startup VP of Engineering

Startup CEOs face a very tricky transition period when their software engineering teams are between 10 and 30 people. If you are lucky, your early technical lead can make the transition to managing a growing team and communicating effectively with execs and board members, but that doesn’t always align with people’s interests or capabilities. In… Continue reading

How we externalize product progress to the company, and defuse politics along the way

It’s depressing how many companies accuse their product and engineering teams of being a black box. The accusations aren’t always fair, but they usually stem from two root problems: 1. not enough collaboration, and 2. not enough externalization. Here’s how we are tackling those two things at our company. Collaboration: We run a bi-weeky “qualitative… Continue reading

Rebuilding Trust in a Product Organization

When I first joined Axial, the product and engineering side of things was pretty broken, and there was a serious absence of trust. The team didn’t trust leadership, and leadership didn’t trust the team. The rest of the business — actually, even worse, customers — didn’t trust product/engineering. The culprits may sound familiar to some of you: Features took… Continue reading

VCs get all the headlines, but there are more financing options out there than you think

Last week I had breakfast with a founder-CEO who had been through the wringer. After spending years building a successful services business, she got squeezed out and screwed by an unscrupulous business partner. Not one to stay down, she picked herself up and started a new firm, only to be diagnosed with cancer. But she… Continue reading

Waiting for Perfection

When you spend enough time in pre-product-market-fit startups, you pick up certain rules. Some don’t stand up to new context or wisdom, but here are two related rules that have survived intact for me: 90% right is good enough Solve the problems coming up, but not the problems down the road You can usually get… Continue reading

A Product Manager Checklist

We’re always thinking about “minimum viable process” — i.e. what’s the least process that gets the job done. The answer to that changes as your team size scales, but I think it’s always worthwhile to fight a running battle for no more prescriptive process than you need. This impacts everything from how you treat agile, how you… Continue reading

Reduce bias and resentment with a transparent salary and skills matrix

(Originally posted 0n Medium as I experiment with the platform) As employers and employees, we have a choice as to how we conduct ourselves. We can choose to “get away with what we can,” or we can set our values and live by them. I believe that most people want to work in fair, meritocratic,… Continue reading

How to interview a product manager

This is part 3 of a talk given to the CTO School in New York, covering how to interview for a product manager (Parts 1 and 2). While I continually iterate my approach in the hunt to spot talent and minimize disappointments, this is my latest structure. I think of interviewing product managers as having… Continue reading

How engineering leads can work well with product management leads

This is the second part of a 3-part talk given to the CTO School. Part 1 covered good vs bad product management. Here I want to share ten ways an engineering leader can best partner with their product management counterpart. 1. Think strategically about the pressures on the business, not just the pressures on engineering… Continue reading