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Elements of an Effective Software Org – with Rebecca Murphey 🎙️

Refactoring Podcast — Season 2 • Episode 7

Today's guest is Rebecca Murphey! Rebecca is field CTO at Swarmia, former manager at Stripe and Indeed, and the author of Build: Elements of an Effective Software Organization.

With Rebecca, we talked about her journey through Indeed, Stripe and Swarmia and the three pillars of her book: business outcomes, developer productivity, and developer experience.

🎙️ Episode

You can watch the full episode on Youtube:

Or listen to it on Spotify, Apple, Overcast, or your podcast app of choice.


🥇 Interview Summary

If you are a 🔒 paid subscriber 🔒 you will find my own summary of the interview below.

It’s the 10-minute, handcrafted takeaways of what we talked about, with timestamps to the relevant video moments, for those who don’t have time to sit through the 1-hour chat.

Here is the agenda for today:

  • 🏢 A Developer Productivity Journey (02:15)

  • 📈 What does a Field CTO do? (06:58)

  • 📚 Writing a book on effective engineering teams (14:03)

  • 🏗️ Conway’s Law (23:08)

  • 🛠️ Continuous Improvement (43:25)

  • 🧑‍💻 Developer Experience vs Developer Productivity (51:07)

Let’s dive in!


🏢 A Developer Productivity Journey (02:15)

Rebecca has had a distinguished career, a lot of which was focused on developer productivity.

Her interest in making processes more efficient started quite early, and became a central theme during her time at Indeed and Stripe:

  • 💼 Indeed — at Indeed, Rebecca was instrumental in creating a team focused on frontend engineering productivity. Her team achieved remarkable gains in delivery efficiency by streamlining processes and building effective tooling to support engineering teams.

  • 💳 Stripe — at Stripe, Rebecca built a JavaScript infrastructure team from the ground up. Later, her role evolved to encompass broader productivity efforts across the company, implementing strategies to reduce bottlenecks and improve the development lifecycle.


📈 What does a Field CTO do? (06:58)

In January 2023, Rebecca joined Swarmia as Field CTO, which is a pretty unique role.

In fact, she focuses more on external engagement and understanding industry challenges than on internal technical decisions. She leverages her extensive experience to bridge the gap between Swarmia’s product offering and the real-world needs of engineering teams.

As Field CTO, Rebecca's primary responsibility involves speaking with users and industry leaders, to gather insights. She brings these insights back to Swarmia's product, marketing, and sales teams to ensure their solutions address the real challenges faced by engineering leaders.

This role allows her to apply her technical credibility and extensive background to influence product direction and strategy. While this makes for an unusual role, it also makes a lot of sense to me, especially for companies that build developer tools.


📚 Writing a book on effective engineering teams (14:03)

Rebecca recently co-authored Build — a short, practical book, which I personally loved. Build encapsulates Rebecca’s experiences and insights about creating effective software organizations.

It focuses on three pillars 👇

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Refactoring
Refactoring Podcast
Interviews with world-class engineering leaders about writing great software and working well with humans.