Individual leadership

 Want to create a noxious gas? Combine ambitious yet clueless engineers, a flat functional organizational structure, and the upcoming midyear career discussions. Soon toxic fumes will emanate from individual contributors (ICs) in response to impotent explanations of upward mobility by overwhelmed managers. Why the wanton whining from wishful workers? Because the technical leadership path is…


There’s no place like production

 As much as I love Microsoft®, and as many advantages as we have as a company in the intelligence of our people, the breadth of our products, and the boldness of our vision, there are times when people here are frigging clueless. It’s not everyone—Microsoft is a wildly diverse company. But there’s just enough ignorance…


Am I bugging you? Bug Reports

 Some developers hate seeing bugs. They think bugs indicate a failure on their part—that their code seemed perfect until bugs were found. These developers are called “amateurs.” Real developers know the only reason you haven’t found bugs is that you haven’t looked. I love seeing bugs. It’s better for me to see them than for…


You can depend on me

 We’re getting into the end game before a big release, and I’m already tired of people whining about unstable and overdue dependencies. Of course they are unstable and overdue, what planet are you from? Yeah, yeah, a package should only depend upon packages that are more stable than it is (the Stable Dependencies Principle). I’ve…


Making the big time

 Review time is almost over. Maybe you got promoted. Maybe your head is filled with thoughts of making it to the big time—calling the shots, getting paid, and having everyone hang on your every word. For entry and independent ICs, that means being a senior or principal engineer (manager or architect). For senior ICs and…


I messed up

 Ever make a bad mistake? One that makes you feel like there’s a hollow in your chest—you know you’ve messed up badly. Maybe you were even trying to do the right thing, but it just ended up wrong unintentionally. This happens to me regularly. It recently happened to a friend of mine—I feel for him….


Culture clash

 Culture is management’s boogeyman—a monster that can’t be controlled, an immoveable object that can’t be overcome. If you ever want to see managers become whiny, petulant infants, ask them to challenge an issue ingrained in the corporate culture. When managers say, “That’s a cultural issue,” they mean, “There’s nothing I can do about it.” When…


Level up

 If you’re not a Microsoft® engineer and you’re not interested in finding a new reason to bash Microsoft, save yourself some time and skip this column. If you want to know how to build your skills and systematically grow your career as an engineer at Microsoft, read on. I’ve been managing Microsoft engineers for nearly…


Coordinated agility

 I’ve been using Scrum for seven years and writing about it for the last six. Scrum’s concept is fantastic—multidiscipline, self-directed teams, iterating on short scenarios (stories), in small batches from start to finish, within short, fixed-length, continuous-improvement cycles. Given the success many Microsoft® teams have had with Scrum, it’s stunning that such a strong disconnect…


The new guy

 “Hey, you’re the new guy!” Marvelous. You’ve transformed from a useful, relevant, sought-after authority to a roadside attraction. Whoever you were before, whatever value you used to embody, whatever accomplishments you might have achieved, now amount to nothing more than marketing hype. Your new co-workers may be outwardly curious and pleasant, but inside they are…