Amazing CTO Newsletter
by Stephan Schmidt
Happy 🌞 Sunday,
I’m currently reading “The Chimp Paradox”. The idea of the book is that your brain - drastically simplified - has three parts: The human, the computer, and the chimp. Your brain gets fed external information, but the chimp gets it first and reacts emotionally. To be more successful you need to learn how to manage your chimp.
What I found interesting for CTOs is the idea that the chimp has a territorial drive - with a higher probability in males. When the territory is threatened, unclear, or intruded upon, the chimp gets anxious and angry.
But not only is this relevant for neighbor conflicts, but it’s also important for everyone working in your department. Just as physical territory, roles are seen the same way. Unclear roles and role descriptions feed the chimp and make people uncertain and aggressive Writing clear role descriptions has been part of my CTO coaching for years to make the CTOs life easier - also ask your boss about your role - it’s nice to find someone else arguing for it from a different angle. Another one of my principles is raised in the book: The chimp wants recognition and praise from the alpha chimp. If you don’t have a culture of - non-fake - praise, establish it.
On to this week’s insights
- 🦹 Tech Lead Management roles are a trap
- 🤖 The 1x Engineer
- 💻 Big Data is Dead
Good reading, have a nice Sunday ❤️ and a great week,
CTO-Coach and ex-CTO
If you only read one thing
Big Data is Dead
“When I worked at BigQuery, I spent a lot of time looking at customer sizing. […] I can say that the vast majority of customers had less than a terabyte of data in total data storage.” Not everyone is Google, but many of my coachees think they will become the next Google and architect accordingly. But it never happens.
Stories I’ve enjoyed this week
Tech Lead Management roles are a trap
“The tech lead manager role is often present.ed as an easy on-ramp to team manager, but my experience is that being a tech lead manager is a considerably harder first management role than pure team management. Rather than an on-ramp, tech lead manager roles are usually a trap for first-time managers.”
Screw motivation, what you need is discipline.
The classic, discipline drives motivation, not motivation drives discipline. *“Motivation, broadly speaking, operates on the erroneous assumption that a particular mental or emotional state is necessary to complete a task.” In the chimp model from above, you try to bring your inner chimp in the right mood while discipline means the human takes control. But the chimp isn’t.
The Four Horsemen of the Tech Recession
Must read. The Four Horsemen are The COVID Hangover - The Hardware Cycle - The End of Zero Interest Rates and The ATT Recession. I’ve been hit by that last one two years ago while Interim CTO. “Every company that relies on performance marketing, from Snap to YouTube to Meta to Shopify has seen its revenue growth crash from the moment ATT came into force in late 202”
A 1x Engineer
This is about the 10x engineer and argues about a 1x engineer. I have three types of engineers. Those that can’t code at all (~50%), those that do their job (what the article calls the 1x engineer), drive the business forward, and the exceptional individuum (<10% of people) - who takes responsibility and owns things. BUT the article has some good points and should be a read for every developer and the baseline for companies. “Doesn’t hate on tools, processes, or languages that they’d rather not use, or that others are using.”
Content Delivery Network (CDN): Explained in simple words
Perhaps you’ve wondered. Just in case I’ve added this article. Personally, I use BunnyCDN for some time now, based in the EU (no legal hassles) + nice pricing.
It is becoming difficult for me to be productive in Python
The main reason I would not use (typeless-) Python in a startup: “The first issue I faced was understanding the code. It took a sweet amount of time to figure out the kind of objects, things certain functions were receiving, and what they were doing with them” Some years back I had to understand a large Python code base and it was hell. Perhaps because I’m no longer 19 but most likely because functions had no type annotations. There is a drive to add types to Python, if not I’m not sure how it will fare with growing AI code bases (most people currently just play around with AU).
The Great Betrayal: After Callous Layoffs, Workers Are Done With the Full-Time Work Model
“89% said they would like to have more control and flexibility over their work schedule than traditional full-time employment can offer.”
Storing OpenAI embeddings in Postgres with pgvector
Postgres everywhere. Also: Many companies will face MLOps issues. “A new PostgreSQL extension is now available in Supabase: pgvector, an open-source vector similarity search.”
The United States Frequency Allocation Chart
The Hundred-Year Programming Language
“I’d like to know what languages will still be around and basically usable in 100 years.”
I’m Going To Scale My Foot Up Your A[…]
“People Who Talk Big About Scalability Don’t Need To Worry About It” Premature scaling is the biggest killer of startups (See the startup genome studies, “No startup that scaled prematurely passed the 100,000 user mark.”) Looking in many startups premature scaling creates many more problems than it solves. And the company that called me in because their architecture didn’t scale - fixed it - was sold for $200M to eBay. Scaling can always be fixed later.
Taking the Initial Phone Screen with Candidates
YES for Engineering Managers! “However, I have found that personally taking on the initial call is the best first step towards providing a positive candidate experience”
The Market for Lemons
“why are new teams buying into stacks that have failed so often before?” Yes, why?
Design your pricing and tools so you can adapt them later
Very deep dive into modeling pricing. I’ll keep that one around.
A masterclass on DORA – research program, common pitfalls, and future direction
Not doing DORA yet? Start tomorrow.
Salary report 2022
Salary information is rare. I would wish for more respondents but this is as good as it gets currently for (German) tech salaries.
When Screens were Secondary: Mario Bellini’s TCV 250 for Olivetti
I still think Olivetti is underrated as a computer company. But the history is written by the winners - also Plankalkül.
Why I Added GitHub Copilot to My Toolbelt
If you’re still on the fence, this is for you. I’m still influenced by the Joel Test from 2000 (22y ago already!) “Do you use the best tools money can buy?“I Not sure yet if Copilot is the best tool, but $100 should be a no-brainer.
📚 Book of the week
The above-mentioned book “The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness” by Prof Steve Peters is worth a read, although I didn’t start to read it for management reasons I was interested on a personal level. But today I can practically read anything and find interesting connections to the work of CTOs.