Becoming an accomplished software engineer is difficult enough all on its own. You have to spend years crafting your skill set, solving ludicrous problems, and knowing code like the back of your hand. Never mind the standard demands that go into any career.

When it comes to establishing yourself as a leader in such a challenging field, it is an entirely different beast.

Instead of simply striving to master the various nuances of the job, you must transcend the confines of your discipline in order to separate yourself from the pack. Your industry is filled with highly competent, sometimes savant-like individuals—so becoming someone your peers turn to for guidance requires that extra bit of oomph that is, frankly, a rare trait to possess.

Luckily, at Gitalytics we eat, sleep, and breath software engineering leadership and have compiled the following list of resources that offer you that extra boost you need to take the industry by storm.

  1. (Blogger)

Allen Cheung is a director of software engineering with a rare passion for mentoring. His aim is to cultivate the minds of the developer community into leaders and managers.

During his decade-plus of experience working in the software sector of San Francisco Bay Area, much of Cheung’s technical software skills have been directed towards extremely complex, single-page web applications prior to graduating into a management position.

He boasts a diverse resume, from defunct startups to mass corporate machines such as Google, all the way to Square. Cheung currently works for a business called Affirm, where he’s enhancing financial products for consumers but has also spent time in biotechnology while working for a startup called Counsel.

Cheung’s website offers a blog with a vast selection of topics, but many of them are centered around leadership. In visiting his blog, you’ll learn about skills for aspiring engineering directors, how to separate title, responsibility, and capability, and about the volatile startup job market.

Or you can explore Cheung’s thoughts on his favorite video game—but for the sake of pertinence, we suggest sticking to his keen leadership insights.

2. Calibrate (Conference)

woman wearing white blazer standing in front of people
Photo by rawpixel / Unsplash

You blinked and you missed Calibrate’s 2018 conference in September. There’s no need to fret because there is sure to be more where that came from, as it’s been a staple of the past four years.

As a not-for-profit conference for new engineering managers, Calibrate is hosted by experienced software engineering leaders providing wisdom that wasn’t available during their transition into leadership roles. The goal of the event is to establish an environment where managers in similar positions can connect and learn from one another while creating a network that will provide professional support to aspiring leaders such as yourself.

If you go to the Calibrate conference you’ll hear from a versatile range of speakers, from junior leaders fresh in their role to senior leaders with decades of experience.

They have been in your shoes or are currently in your shoes, and are excited to share what they’re most passionate about.

You’ll learn a variety of relevant methods that can be practiced immediately at the office.
Although you’ve missed out on this year’s conference, you can access the unique leadership-building experience via video.

3. Martin Fowler (Influencer)

Martin Fowler, the “Chief Scientist” at a software delivery company called ThoughtWorks, fancies himself a loud-mouthed pundit when it comes to software development.

An expansive mind in the software development industry, Fowler began his career in the early 80s. He writes regularly on his website about software development and has also authored over a half-dozen books—his main focus lies in maximizing the productivity of development teams.

As a leader in software engineering, Fowler has worked with ThoughtWorks for nearly twenty years because of one core principle: people are their biggest asset. It’s Fowlers belief that successful software is developed not only by talented developers - but motivated developers. Fowler explains that software companies truly benefit by hiring and retaining the most capable staff. If you don’t have the manpower with the right attitude, all the tech in the world won’t help.
If you’re interested in seeing Martin Fowler in action, here is some footage of his keynote speaking. He also displays his very entertaining and thoughtful software engineering punditry via his Twitter account.  

4. 8 Engineering Leadership Roles Explained (Blog)

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Photo by rawpixel / Unsplash

Part of being a leader of software engineering is understanding the various roles you aspire to fulfill.

Written by Lorenzo Pasqualis, 8 Engineering Leadership Roles Explained takes a deep dive into engineer leadership. While tech doesn’t have uniform titles for every role, Pasqualis explains the numerous templates in the hierarchical structure of most software companies. In exploring the blog, you’ll get a good idea of what engineering leadership roles mean and how various companies relate roles to job titles.

The blog breaks down the following roles and titles:

  1. Team Lead
  2. Engineering Lead
  3. Engineering Manager
  4. Director of Engineering
  5. V.P. of Engineering
  6. Chief Technical Officer
  7. Chief Information Officer

It’s an invaluable analysis of what to expect as you work your way up the corporate ladder.

5. Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (Book)

Peopleware, a 1987 book by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister, is every bit worthy of its over 4 stars on Goodreads—which is particularly impressive given the over 380 reviews.

While it may be thirty-years-old, the methodologies of Peopleware are timeless. Demarco and Lister accurately hypothesize that the majority of software development projects fail due to the shortcomings of the target demographic of their literature: software development-team leaders and managers.

The short read is rich with engaging and humorous anecdotes written in a conversational tone absent of buzzwords and irritating, multistep programs. The language and advice are straightforward, whether dealing with prioritization or the harmonious workflow of your team.

Most reviews characterize Peopleware as a must read for anyone in a management or leadership role.
You can order this leadership-molding work of literature, here!

6. This 90-Day Plan Turns Engineers into Remarkable Managers (Blog)

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Photo by Mimi Thian / Unsplash

Startup software companies are generally tight-knit, in that there is a founder and a team of engineers. You’ll notice “management” is missing from the equation because at first, the founder makes all the decisions.

Eventually, the startup will take off—as does the hiring process along with it. Suddenly, the founder is bogged down and is relying on engineers to become managers.

First Round Review published a blog summarizing a 90-day plan that deals with this exact scenario.

This plan, which instills essential leadership traits into software engineers having to overcome a learning gap was developed by Twitter’s former Director of Engineering, David Loftesness. The software engineering veteran has gone through this process countless times over his 2-decades worth of experience.

Loftesness, no stranger to assisting other developers in finding their inner leader, compartmentalizes his unparalleled knowledge into a succinct breakdown that illustrates how managers should prioritize, gain steady traction, and track their own performance so they can begin to empower others.

This comprehensive plan doesn’t just apply to you if you’re software engineers involved in startups, it also applies to any software engineer looking to enhance their leadership abilities.

7. Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders (Book)

Jurgen Appelo, the author of Management 3.0, is the leader and innovator of Agile management.

In his book, Appelo aims his writings at current managers and developers with management aspirations. The book sheds light how even with the complexity of modern software development, leadership is still about people and relationships. The aim of Appelo’s work isn’t to simply provide checklists, but to help give you a more thorough grasp of how organizations work and offer tools to problem solve on your own.

Although the reading is presented through the Agile management lens, there are leadership concepts that speak to everyone. Appelo examines how complexity affects an organization and how to encourage creativity, innovation, and motivation among your team.

Management 3.0 does not succumb to fads or trends but instead takes a pragmatic approach that will help you be a more productive leader in any software organization, team, or project.


gray and brown rocks
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

These resources will all be indispensable on your journey to the top of the software engineering food chain. Some important takeaways to note that run consistently throughout these 7 beacons of wisdom, is the importance of interpersonal relationships and the need to have your priorities straight. Without those principles intact, your foray into software engineering leadership will be an uphill struggle.

Lastly, we’d be remiss to leave out one of the top software engineering leadership resources around. The ability to see how your team, codebase, and team processes are functioning.

At Gitalytics, we take your repos, code reviews and tickets and turn that raw data into valuable insights that allow you to make decisions and give feedback based on quantifiable and specific information.

As industry leaders ourselves, we pride ourselves on being a helping hand to software engineers, their leaders, and their leaders' leaders through our blog and other resources.