Today's guest is a leader in his field. He has grown the engineering team at Canva from a startup to one of the best engineering workplaces in Australia.
This episode is an insight into managing and growing your engineering skills to a high level.
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Listen to the episode here.
Brendan Humphreys is the Head Of Engineering at Canva.
🤝 Connect with Brendan
Twitter - https://twitter.com/brendanh
👇 Episode Takeaways
Management is a Skill (and you can learn it)
Brendan spent much of his career before Canva as an individual contributor. He eventually sold a tool that he build to Atlassian, and then moved to Canva.
He spoke about the switch from individual contributor to management, and how it was absolutely something that could be learned. In fact, being an IC first can make it even easier to be a manager.
if they've been individual contributors in the recent past, and they've stepped into engineering management, I think that gives them a high degree of empathy with the engineers that they are managing
you can learn to be a great manager
Having understanding of the tools makes this easier
Understanding Context using First Principles
I asked Brendan about common mistakes that junior engineers make, and he spoke about thinking through problems from first principles.
it's a bit of an anti patent in an engineering to be in that mode of unconstrained ideation where you're just "what if we did this? And what if we did that?" And my answer is always, "you tell me what, what if we did that?" Spend the time to figure it out
One of the best things junior engineers can do is try to understand the context of what they are doing in the organisation.
Coming up with new suggestions and new tools is great, but an understanding of how they would fit into the organisation is critical.
Empathy in Engineering
Brendan highlighted to me the importance of empathy in engineering
Being able to stongman an argument and have a robust, consderate and understanding conversation is very important in facilitating collaboration amongst teams.
being able to see a problem from different viewpoints [...] is highly valuable in unlocking collaboration in teams.
As a way to practice this, Brendan suggested trying to "strongman" opposing arguments. Even if you disagree with something, try to present the argument in the best possible way, understanding it fully. Once this is done, consider the perspective and compare to your own.
This is an effective way to discuss difficult topics.
📝 Content Timestamps
00:29 A Day in the Life
05:11 Designing a Promotion Structure
06:27 Did Brendan always want to be in management
08:51 Measuring engineering teams
12:51 What makes an effective manager
17:31 10x engineers
22:00 Skill improvement as an IC
25:15 Tips for Junior Engineers
34:58 Specialise vs Generalise
38:21 Engineering traits that are undervalued
43:01 Importance of startup journey
49:29 Failure that ended up being a success
51:45 Best investment of time or money
54:37 Advice for Graduates