Anna Sulkina, Director of Engineering at Twitter

Recognizing the parallels between endurance sports and software engineering

In this episode of Lead Time Chats, Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range, chats with Anna Sulkina, Director of Engineering at Twitter, about the parallels between endurance spots and software engineering.

Anna and Jean discuss:

  • The many parallels between long-distance running and software development
  • How important prioritizing recovery and recharge time is
  • Understanding the why in the short-term (why you’re running a race, or why you’re building something in a two-week sprint)
  • Understanding the why in the long-term (an active lifestyle, or what you want out of your tech career)
  • Using retros as a way to debrief in life, not just in software development

Takeaways from Anna

Don't underestimate the importance of recovery time

“If we think about physical activity or building muscle or building stamina in endurance sports, you actually need some amount of stress. For example, the muscles get broken up and then in the next stage, if you let them, they will build up and recover. If you don't build in that recovery time, then you just burn out and risk injury, which I think is very much true at work and at life outside of sport as well, especially during this time now during the pandemic and not having a good divisive line between work and life.”

Understand the Why behind what you're doing

“As I go on the long run by myself or during a race, for some reason, I immediately start drawing the parallels with what happens at work with software development teams. And some of the aspects are thinking about, why you're doing this, why is it important for you? And it doesn't have to be anything, you know, incredible, but it's something that matters to you. What is the goal that you have? Why is it something that gets you excited. Without having that why, it's hard to stay motivated in the long run.”

Run blameless retros, in work and in your personal life

“I always try to after a race, even while I am running, try to capture things, but then things get more filtered out after you're done and the endorphins kick in. And then essentially having those conversations with the teams about what's working, what's not working in different contexts. Whether it's a project, whether it's we've spent a quarter as a new team, how are things? And then what can we change? Even with your own self, I find it's really important to also employ compassion and not immediately jump to judging yourself and God forbid anyone else. But really try to understand and more with an eye towards the future, because no matter what, you cannot change the past.”

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About Lead Time Chats

Listen in on unscripted conversations between Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range and engineering leadership coach, and engineering leaders and other influential folks in tech.

Lead Time Chats is brought to you by Range. Range helps hybrid teams check-in asynchronously about what matters most. Know what's happening through status updates that pull from tools like Github and JIRA without scheduling yet another meeting.

Checking-in with Range creates more focus time for heads-down work, all while feeling a deeper sense of connection and belonging with your team. To learn more about Range, you can check it out here.

Season 3 Episodes

» Episode 1: Jen Kim on how startups can hire better

» Episode 2: Kate Heddleston on managing burnout on your team

» Episode 3: Jessie Duan on the Chief of Staff to CTO role

» Episode 4: Dan Na on pushing through friction

» Episode 5: Pat Kua on flavors of tech leadership

Season 2 Episodes

» Episode 1: Camille Fournier on making boring plans

» Episode 2: Tess Rinearson on early career engineering managers

» Episode 3: Kim Scott on building for systemic justice

» Episode 4: Sumeet Arora on moving on from a big company

» Episode 5: Rachael Stedman on IC manager work

» Episode 6: Chris Bee on Behaviors of Effective Eng Leaders

» Episode 7: Lynne Tye on the Engineering Hiring Landscape

» Episode 8: Beau Lebens on Distributed Team Meetups

» Episode 9: Indrajit Khare on Getting Acquired by Google

» Episode 10: Jack Danger on Technical Debt

» Episode 11: Sarah Milstein on Successful Remote and Hybrid Teams

Season 1 Episodes

» Episode 1: Will Larson on the path of the senior engineer

» Episode 2: Duretti Hirpa on mentoring junior and mid-level engineers

» Episode 3: Cate Huston on working with an external coach

» Episode 4: Juan Pablo Buriticá on common eng manager mistakes

» Episode 5: Gergely Orosz on the decision to go into management

» Episode 6: Lara Hogan on leading effectively in a pandemic

» Episode 7: Kaya Thomas on common early career engineer challenges

» Episode 8: Uma Chingunde on starting a VPE role in a pandemic

» Episode 9: Katie Wilde on supporting your team's mental health

» Episode 10: Akhil Gupta on navigating uncertainty in new roles

» Episode 11: Harper Reed on giving everyone a voice in team meetings

» Episode 12: Marc Hedlund on sponsorship

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Anna Sulkina on endurance sports and software engineering
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