Amazing CTO Newsletter
by Stephan Schmidt
Happy 🎉 New Year,
I hope everyone has made it to 2023. What still amazes me about everything after 2000 is that we
are supposed to live in the future. Are we? Recently re-watched Snake Plissken in Escape from L.A.
and the dystopian future takes place in 2013. Ten years ago. And then there is Star Trek. While
that promised to zip around in spacecrafts, still Zoom forgets my microphone and headset and in video calls, people try to find out if it’s theirs or my equipment that is not working - with a lot of hand waving and pointing. The future!
But coming back to your problems as CTOs.
There are those excellent chat communities for CTOs at CTO Craft and Alphalist. But both are in English.
A coachee asked me about conveniently German-speaking CTO Chat to exchange ideas and help with
challenges. German-speaking CTO community: Join the conversation and find support with your peers! If you want a convenient German-speaking community of CTOs for help and camaraderie, reply to this newsletter.
This week’s insights
- 🦹 Measuring an engineering organization
- 💻 Small teams
- 🤖 Deep work. Essentialism in asynchronous culture
Good reading, have a nice Sunday ❤️ and a great week,
If you only read one thing
Measuring an engineering organization
Will Larson again and again and again. The best engineering manager thinker and a great successor to Joel on Software. The only article you need to read about measuring engineering. Yes, that good.
Graphic of trhe week
Still one of my favorites
Stories I’ve enjoyed this week
I’m a huge fan of small teams. They are more productive and can have more impact. Often they are more joy to work with. I know this is anathema to VCs (they will change, take my word for it) but small teams have achieved great things. A list of that includes the makers of Minecraft who were acquired for $2.5B
with 37 employees. AI will cut staffing levels down to new lows. Hurray! (Still ❤️ Sophie Wilson, who single-handed developed BBC Basic and the ARM instruction set)
Deep work. Essentialism in asynchronous culture
YES. YES. YES. But for many people, deep work is not possible. They don’t know how to do it. Especially at the top when everyone is just running from meeting to meeting. Where is the deep work coming from? Enable your developers to do deep work (and work on deep features) and everyone will be much happier. The article is a great help with tips to start the deep work revolution in your department.
What is railway-oriented programming?
I wrote Scala to build (and sell) our startup. One thing that changed my coding style forever is Railway oriented programming. But what is it?
Shopify Tells Employees to Just Say No to Meetings
There are good meetings and bad meetings. I still think the right meetings - about decisions - can speed up things. While status and talk meetings - urgh. I do think it’s a little extreme to cancel all meetings, better err on that side. “while re-upping a rule that no meetings at all can be held on Wednesdays” is easy to get you started. Like now.
GPT-4 could pass Bar Exam, AI researchers say
So it was artists first and lawyers second.
You Want Modules, Not Microservices
Many people chose Microservices not because they are better, but because they hope it forces them to have good design. How this makes sense is up to you. If you’re bad at designing software, drawing boundaries, and cutting dependencies, microservice will not help.
Lessons Learned from the Book ‘Effective Remote Work’
“The most fundamental principle is to treat everyone as remote.” I fear this will not hold. If you as a CTO or CEO stay in the office you will attract those around you who want to make a career. But there are good insights in the article to make your remote work better.
Deliver early and pivot if necessary
“While reading the hackernewsletter #631 I stumbled upon the article “Just use Postgres for everything”. Man - what a relieve!” Ha, that article is from me. The author adds some experience and good points. Like it. Easy.
What is a Wildcard Person?
From time to time I had one of those people on our team. What a relief. You need one, go search for her! (Many CTO’s struggles from not having someone they can delegate anything to, this is the person)
New federal food label law has an unintended side-effect: Sesame now in more foods
I’m not sure if people can’t do Second order thinking , wish not to do it, or intentionally ignore it. But I see the lack of second-order thinking everywhere - probably too with your CEO. Here there was a new law that forced companies to declare sesame in their products to make life easier and safe for people with allergies. Because it was too expensive to make sure no sesame was in the product, companies just added sesame everywhere, reducing the number of things people could eat. The result was the opposite of what was intended. The lack of second-order thinking is prevalent in politicians, and I wonder if it’s connected to the belief in the power to change things by will. If your CEO lacks second-order thinking, hand out that article.
40 Years of PCMag: An Illustrated Guide
Ah, those were the times. Having lived through these forty years there were nice reminders in the article. If you haven’t (oh I’m so old!) know your industry! “Blogs Are the Future, Until They Aren’t”
Introducing Bunny AI: The easiest way to dynamically generate images
We’re getting to LEVEL 2 where companies include AI in their product. My favorite CDN now uses AI to generate images on the fly. What is LEVEL 2 for your company?
TSB fined £49m over IT banking chaos
A company has been fined for an IT meltdown. Yes, it’s in a regulated industry, but this is the future. From several directions, people are no longer taking bugs and IT problems as a given. Still, until CEOs go to jail, there will be no change. But change is coming slowly. Be prepared. Prepare your CEO.
11 Laws of Software Estimation for Complex Work
Sadly this article is on Substack. So with the traffic of the newsletter, it will go behind a paywall. But I do think it’s good and has some insights, I nevertheless link it. The story is so true, I have seen dozens of CTO’s struggle with “To close the deal, we promised the customer some custom development in our SaaS product.”
Three-quarters of developers are willing to quit for a new job. And it’s not just about the money
“Almost three-quarters (74%) of developers are actively looking for new roles or are open to fresh opportunities, according to research.” Challenge for some CTOs, opportunity for others!
Software engineering practices
I like “Documentation in the same repo as the code”.
From BigCo to Startup: 20 Tips for Evaluating Early-Stage Companies & Making the Leap
“Choosing your next role is one of the most important investments you can make — but, unfortunately, no one hands you a ready-made toolbox for navigating big career decisions” My one career tip: If you want to progress up, don’t move sideways. Easy. But here is a useful "[…] list of 20 targeted tactics for evaluating an opportunity at a startup"
The Adoption of Machine Learning Will Resemble the Adoption of Databases
Not sure if the author is right, but a good thought.