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Lead Time Chats Season 1 Recap

Highlights from interviews with Will Larson, Duretti Hirpa, Cate Huston, and more!

Jean Hsu, June 14, 2021

Here’s a personal secret:

I don’t really like watching videos or listening to podcasts.

This feels a little blasphemous in an industry where so much valuable content is available as videos or hour-long podcast episodes. But, it is what it is.

So when I was designing Lead Time Chats a few months ago, I wanted the bar to be something I’d personally want to watch or listen to. And of course, something that was fun for me and guests — so it didn’t end up feeling like a chore.

What I landed on was 15-20 minute casual, authentic, and unscripted chats between engineering leaders that let you listen in on a real conversation, rather than watch a polished conference talk or presentation.

Some feedback Lead Time Chats has gotten so far:

  • “20 minutes is short enough to watch in a single sitting, feels more like a natural conversation than an interview, bonus due to the pandemic that you can see a glimpse into people's homes instead of the boring office background it would normally be!”
  • “Honest conversations about leadership, diversity and career paths with a set of diverse and humble guests.”
  • “They seem approachable and unscripted. There's no particular agenda other than sharing wisdom.”

The process has really satisfied my desire to do new things I’ve never done before. One example? My recent foray in converting the whole season into a podcast, which included picking intro music. I love that “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’ll just try my best” feeling.

You can check out my intro music choice in any of the podcast episodes.

Whether you’ve listened to or watched all the episodes of Lead Time Chats already, or you’re just hearing about it now, here are some highlights from Season 1.

Season 1 Highlights

Will Larson on the staff engineering path being less supported than management:

Staff engineers actually often end up in the spot where like, oh, my manager will be able to kind of help me as a staff engineer and they will, to some extent, but most managers have never been a staff engineer. And most directors have never been a staff engineer and most VPs of engineering have never been a staff engineer. And there are often far more directors of engineering or the company ratio wise than there are staff engineers. So your peer groups are really small. [complete episode]

Duretti Hirpa on what motivates her to mentor junior engineers

For me, it's sort of like my job as a senior engineer is to make more senior engineers. That's the name of the game. I've experienced a lot of gatekeeping and I want to be the opposite of that. So it's a lot of emotions and just sort of a lot of observations, right? And as you know, the tech sector is highly segregated, both by, you know, race, gender identity, all this stuff. And so it just feels like if we want it to be at all better or different or reflect the actual populace, this is the kind of work that has to happen. [complete episode]

Cate Huston on the most important thing when looking for a coach

The most important thing with a coach is somebody who you can build a relationship of trust with, so that you can take to them the things that it's maybe harder or inadvisable to talk to your manager or your peers about. Somebody who you can have sufficient trust with that, they can kind of lovingly push you and call you on your shit. [complete episode]

Juan Pablo Buriticá on the harsh reality of being a manager at a startup

You have no blueprints and no support. You probably have no peers or peers in similar situations. And you also have a range of folks likely reporting to you with a broad set of experiences, some who have been with good managers, some who have never had management, some who have received feedback, some who haven't and it's really, really hard. Being a manager at a startup is much, much harder without that support framework. And you don't know what you don't know, especially if you're just getting started. [complete episode]

Gergely Orosz about the loneliness of becoming a managers

When you become a manager you lose all your peers, you cannot talk to them about the important stuff — the performance, the uncertainty, the fact that you don't know what you're doing. I didn't realize how difficult it would be , especially when you're promoted from a team that you know. The relationship changes because again, the most important stuff you cannot share. [complete episode]

Lara Hogan on supporting your team in a pandemic

I definitely had people that I worked with I just cared so deeply for, and I just ended up worrying about them off hours. And for so many managers, how do you turn that off? It's a good instinct, but again, I like to reframe it as, okay, you need to be a teammate for all of these people, not just this one person. This comes up in like normal performance review conversations too. Like how much time are we spending working with somebody who needs a lot of our attention versus everybody we need to be supporting right now. I can make sure my oxygen mask is on so that I can also be available and useful to everybody else who needs to lean on me too. [complete episode]

Kaya Thomas on avoiding the stigma of early career engineers

Sometimes it's good to leave because I think one of the things that's tough is when you're early career and you start somewhere, you have that stigma that follows you kind of throughout your entire career there. If you started as a new grad or even if you intern, let's say at that company, the folks who have been there are still kind of viewing you as an intern or as an early career person, even if you've been there for years. [complete episode]

Uma Chingunde on her first day as a VPE during the pandemic

The few days leading up to my first day at work, I realized how much I unconsciously rely on the rituals of  picking my outfit for the first day and going into a new office and then picking up my new laptop. Because this was like back in December so shipping and stuff was still not going that well.  My laptop was delayed, so I was actually just using my personal laptop the first few days. I was like oh, so I just wake up and join the Zoom at 9am? This feels like a weird way to start a new job. [complete episode]

Katie Wilde

I watched a Star Trek episode where somebody had been trapped on a planet for seven years and the quote was well "hope is the enemy." Once you give up all hope and just embrace your situation, it's easier to deal with. It's a very stoic philosophy idea. And for a lot of us that might've been how we've been getting through the pandemic. Like this is the new normal, let's just get through this. And now that the end is in sight, every additional day can feel really intolerable. [complete episode]

Akhil Gupta on asking for help in new roles

It's absolutely important for you to ask for help when you're taking on a new role. People often mistake that if I ask for help, people will know that I'm not good enough. It is far more important for you to say, look, this is new for me. I do not know how to do this. You have done this thing for the last five years. Could be your manager, could be your mentor, could be an external coach. Can you guide me through these things, these are things that I'm struggling with. And if you do that, then you realize actually more people want you to succeed because their success depends on you. They don't succeed if you don't succeed. And if you reach out for help, I'm yet to find someone who says no. [complete episode]

Harper Reed on accessibility and giving people an equal voice with Check-in meetings

When you think about accessibility and you think about statements, like, you're not a culture fit. Culture has never used to include, it's always used to exclude, it seems. All of these things are deliberate decisions where we think we're talking about inclusion, but we're actually talking about exclusion, and I think that that extends to tooling. And that's one of the things that extends to how you run your meetings. [complete episode]

Marc Hedlund on taking responsibility for helping to fix the tech industry

Our industry produces racist, sexist, transphobic, ableist outcomes. And if you do not actively fight against those things, those will continue to be the default. And so the reason to do it is because our industry that we have created, especially people my age, who are older, we have created this industry, and it's bad, and we need to fix it, and we need to take responsibility for fixing it. [complete episode]

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I’m also thrilled to share that Season 2 of Lead Time Chats will be launching later this week! We’ve got an amazing lineup, with Camille Fournier, Kim Scott, Rachael Stedman, Tess Rinearson, Chris Bee, Sumeet Aurora, and more.

Don't miss any Lead Time Chats episodes

  • Subscribe to the Lead Time Chats podcast on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you've enjoyed it, please leave us a review or rating.
  • Join us in the members-only area of Lead Time Community, where we'll post new episodes weekly, along with other leadership topics, industry discussions, and community reflections. Lead Time Community is a space for engineering leaders to connect, share, and grow with other engineering leaders.
Lead Time Chats Season 1 Recap
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