I had the pleasure of spending 3 days in Berlin to attend the Lead-Dev conference. 28 inspiring talks in two days. Aimed at making better engineering leaders.

It is impossible to give you a summary of all the talks. Instead, I like to share with you the 4 learnings that stood out to me.

The surprising power of AI

My impression on how AI can improve developer productivity? Engineers using ChatGPT or Copilot to assist in the code writing part. But did you know that on average only 40% of an engineer’s time is the actual coding?

Birgitta Boeckeler from ThoughtWorks shared how AI can help engineers. And not by writing code.

One surprising example is sharing your codebase with an LLM. and asking questions like “Where do we calculate our tax” or “Where do we send the forgot password email”. For the AI to respond with the actual file and line. This reduces the dependency on other teams who own the file.

And there are many other options where AI can help us in the areas surrounding writing code.

Making Decisions Easier

Decision-making as a leader is tough. How do you know if you made the right choice? Nicky Thompson changed my perspective on decision-making.

A good outcome does not mean it was a good decision

On the opposite, a bad outcome does not mean it was a bad decision. As a leader, it is impossible to control all the variables for the outcome. And some parts will always remain chance.

But what is in our control? Trying to make the best decision on the available information.

Use the HOT method to determine if a quick decision is possible:

  • How Happy are you with the decision in a year?
  • Would you be Okay if this was the only option?
  • Is it a Two-way door? (Can you reverse the decision?)

If we cannot make a quick decision it’s okay to take some more time. For example, to see if we can make it reversible.

Long term focus

Lessons learned and mistakes when you become an Engineering Manager. I know I have a ton, and Ferit Topcu shared a great talk on his personal experience.

One of the major changes in being an engineer and a manager is the timeframe you work on things. As an engineer, you spend 1-2 days working on a ticket, before the next one. As a manager, your projects might be weeks or months before you see any results.

The long-term focus is one of the main reasons managers often don’t job hop every 1-2 years, for most of your projects that will be the time it takes to see the results.

Wardley mapping

Indu Alagarsamy from the New York Times shared how she made better modernization decisions. One of the tools she used is Wardley mapping.

A Wardley map helps you determine business strategy. And plots the end user’s needs against their evolution. (Is it a commodity or is it cutting edge that will give you an advantage?).

There is a free ebook available at https://learnwardleymapping.com/ to help you get started.

Thank you for reading this post. I hope these lessons will spark as much inspiration in you, as they did with me. If you would like to receive more tips, tricks, and resources to become a better engineering leader. Consider subscribing to my newsletter below.