Week 19, 2024 - The Retrospective

Week 19, 2024 - The Retrospective
Crimson clover fields in Nógrád county, Hungary

Some weeks start slow, forcing me to cram everything into Friday — and there are ones where I can pick up momentum on Monday, sustain it through Tuesday, and then deflate towards the weekend. The current week was an example of the latter. It didn’t help that I spent most of Thursday cycling around northeast Hungary, where I took the above photo. It looked even more surreal in life, I had never seen purple this vibrant covering an entire hill. Zero regrets.

📋 What I learned this week

🎯 Wrote my thoughts about concentration. The work title was “Why can’t you focus?”, but I’m glad I changed that to the first person. I tried to stay humble, writing only about my experiences and making it clear that I don’t know enough about health conditions impacting somebody’s ability to focus.

🎤 In true “faster is better than perfect” fashion, we started our podcast with Jeremy on Monday! We call it The Retrospective because we’re discussing articles from the previous week (both of us are writing about engineering leadership topics). Lessons from the first two episodes (we had a zeroth before this one that just got published too):

  • It’s hard to stay on topic (though maybe that’s a good thing, natural flow of discussion is good content);
  • At least half of the stuff we agreed to talk about didn’t make the 1-hour timebox;
  • Pairing the recording with a live show is counterintuitively making editing easier, because it removes some of the pressure from trying to remove all imperfections, resulting in faster publishing time;
  • We should jot things down during the recording for easy show notes.

I also realized that having this opportunity strengthens the learning process. When I write about a topic, it forces me to collect my thoughts on the subject, do some research, build up a structure, and formulate my ideas. This is part of the reason why I write this blog. However, being able to discuss these topics, argue about them, share experiences, and converse toward a compromised, more nuanced view results in deeper learning. I guess this is just one step before the ultimate stage, where I apply what I’ve learned. Something like this:

reading -> writing -> discussing -> applying

We’re going live again on Monday, at 10:30 CET, we’ll probably discuss Jeremy’s article about change and my post about focus.

We plan to stream to LinkedIn too, where we believe there’s a more targeted audience for this topic, but the platform requires 150 followers to allow that. I would appreciate it if you’d follow our page to get us closer to that number, and if you know someone you think would be interested in our content, tell them about the podcast. Thank you!

🤯 A minor learning from the week is the ironic fact that Google’s own WebP image format is not supported by Google’s own email service. Yes, they convert everything to JPEG, losing all transparency information. This caused the ugly black corners around my profile in the newsletter when reading in GMail:

I could’ve converted it back to PNG, which I moved away from because of the file size, but instead, I used the opportunity to update the header to the one you see now if you’re reading this as an email.

🎯 What I want to try next week

We’ll probably iterate over the content and format of The Retrospective with Jeremy. The biggest challenge is finding the right balance between depth and breadth, making sure we’re staying within the hour while covering the most interesting topics.

I also have a bigger series in mind about Engineering Manager job hunting and interviewing, but it’s still fluid, so no commitments yet. Finally, I have some sensors and microcontrollers waiting for me in an unopened box, I don’t think they’ll stay like that by this time next week.

🤔 Articles that made me think

CTO Craft’s 2024 May CTO Compensation Survey Report

Hundreds of respondents, half of them CTOs contributed to the latest issue of this UK-centric, though more and more international report. Notes I took, none of them a huge surprise but rather a confirmation of the zeitgeist:

  • Around half of the companies represented had layoffs last year.
  • 98%(!!!) of respondents work in a remote or hybrid setting (roughly 50-50 difference between the two). Only 2% strictly in-office is a bit surprising, but this confirms what I believe, that some form of remote work is here to stay.
  • The survey included fractional/interim/advisory roles for the first time. 6% of responders fell into this category, most of them charging around €1250 per day.
  • Average CTO/VP-level base salaries decreased by 3.5% since last year. The decline was even bigger (around 13%) at private equity-backed companies.
  • 41% of engineering leaders are looking to leave their current businesses, the highest reason is a lack of faith in leadership and concerns about company culture. I guess the number is not just high because of tensions at companies, but also because it’s more risky to start looking for a new job in this current market.

Tools to reduce tech debt in your project

Bhavana Hindupur’s second post in her 3-part series on tech debt shows a good framework with a lot of pragmatic tips based on her experience. I like that she immediately starts with the business impact to gain stakeholder priorities, then uses simple approaches like increasing testing and observability, and focuses on fast deploys and rollbacks. Much more efficient than jumping into some shiny big-bang rewrite.

🖼️ Something Cool: New Life to Old Kindles

Continuing in my rabbit hole of home automation, I found this project that’s turning old Kindle devices into energy-efficient display modules. I like the simplicity of the idea: a server-side component is rendering static HTML and images that even the Kindle’s low-featured browser can show. My e-paper display is on its way for my microcontroller project, but this could be a fun alternative if that wouldn't work out.

That’s it for today, stop and smell the roses this weekend,


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