Principles for good engineering leadership

In our recent post about how we do engineering leadership here at HubSpot, we shared our philosophy about what engineering leaders should focus on. 

We encourage our engineering leaders to be primarily product-focused (and, to a somewhat lesser degree, people-focused) rather than spending most of their time driving a process or managing people. This kind of leadership stands in stark contrast to the kinds of leaders who primarily care about administering and health-checking teams, or are on the hook for making sure their employees did the things they were supposed to do. 

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Why our engineering leaders focus on product over process

Who was the best manager you ever had?
 
Even though all of us have different people in mind, those people probably have a lot in common. Maybe he really cared about you as a person. Maybe she was a brilliant visionary who always knew how to push you to be better. Maybe their leadership styles were different but I’d wager that their philosophies were the same.
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How we gave SSL to all our customers in 5 days, for free

 I regularly talk about the HubSpot Product Team's culture – both internally and externally – and I always start my discussions on our culture with the following idea:

We believe that if you give a team a compelling mission, the autonomy to attack the mission the way they see fit, and the support to accomplish this, magic happens.

This is, in essence, my management philosophy. The bulk of what we do on the leadership team here involves setting up situations where that magic can happen.

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Gatekeepers and Gardeners

Balance is an integral part of every job. We have to balance our priorities at work and our lives outside of work. We need to balance the time we spend building with the time we spend maintaining. We need to balance the needs of our teams with the varied needs of the rest of the organization. And that’s just the start of it.

Never does this become more apparent than for new tech leads - we see it all the time at HubSpot. When they step into the role, they usually find themselves with new (sometimes competing) priorities. I often hear that they're not sure if they're spending their time as well as they could. And when new tech leads lack balance, they might end up losing sight of what success for themselves and their teams should look like.

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Why we treat interns like full members of the team

There are some companies that have special co-op and internship projects that are separate from their normal stream of product development. Often, the work of co-ops and interns never sees the light of day, or at least not while they're at the company.

We fundamentally do not believe in this approach. We believe that the best way to learn is by doing, and therefore, the best way to learn how to be a software engineer is to do what a software engineer does.

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Why We Traded Scrum for “Science Fair” to Build HubSpot

We broke up with scrum about six years ago.

Agile development served us well in startup mode, but as we added more seats, opened new space, and launched new tools, it actually started to stunt our product culture’s growth. Take autonomy, for starters. We think engineers should have complete autonomy over their code and part of the product. And even though scrum is designed to protect developers from the demands and distractions of your CEO, marketing team, sales team, etc., it can actually tie their hands. There’s no trust being built between product and the rest of the company; sprints end up more like transactions than conversations.

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