Monthly Digest โ€“ April ๐Ÿ“Œ

4000 subscribers, Hacker News, job boards, and four recent articles

Hi there! April is almost over and it's time for our monthly digest.

For all new people who joined recently, this is a special issue I write at the end of each month. I use it to recap the recent articles and share some great resources.

I also provide updates about Refactoring itself โ€” this is where I share what happened in the last weeks and a preview of what will happen next.

I do everything in a build in public spirit, so feel free to reach out and provide your feedback on anything you read here!

Let's start! ๐Ÿ‘‡

๐Ÿคฏ 4000 Subscribers

I don't even know what to say. It took 6 months to get to 2000 subscribersโ€”we even celebrated it in Marchโ€”and then we added 2000 more in less than a month.

I deeply thank you for trusting me every week with your time and attention. They are both scarce and precious. Every week I do my best to put them to the best use I can think of ๐Ÿ™

Some of you have asked how I grow the newsletter, so very briefly this is what I do every week:

  • I post my article on Linkedin, once a week.

  • I write on Twitter ~once a day, but I schedule most tweets beforehand on Feedhive, during the weekend.

  • I post a long thread on Twitter where I basically re-write all the article, once a week.

  • I run this Twitter Ad โ€” I have a budget of โ‚ฌ10 / day, and usually bring in new subscribers at ~โ‚ฌ0.15 / subscriber.

  • I post my articles on 4-5 communities where I know I can find other Engineering Leaders. I also engage there and participate in other discussions whenever I can.

Right now the growth is 50% organic / 50% paid, and I would love to keep this balance in the future.

However, another reason why we grew so much this month is...

๐Ÿ† Top Spot on Hacker News

A couple of weeks ago, The True Meaning of Technical Debt, which is more than 4 months old, rose to the absolute top of HN and stayed there for a several hours!

The irony is I didn't even submit the article myself ๐Ÿ˜… so thank you srijan4!

This alone brought more than 35.000+ visits and 200+ subscribers. In one day!

๐Ÿ’ผ Job Board

I am constantly thinking at the various ways I can provide value to subscribers, other than with articles themselves.

A few people have suggested to create a hiring section dedicated to tech leadership positions. New positions could be added directly by the readers, and featured every week in the newsletter.

I talked with the guys at Pallet, who are building an incredible product to provide hiring infrastructure for communities. I am excited to see how things can turn out.

What do you think? Is this something you would like to see?

โœ๏ธ Articles

Here is a roundup of the new articles I published this month:

๐Ÿฆ Building an Online Audience in Tech

In this article I interview Francesco Ciulla about how he managed to build an online audience in tech.

Francesco runs a popular Twitter and Youtube channel, has an audience of tens of thousands of developers, and created everything in less than a year.

I got four main takeaways from his story:

  1. โณ It's never too late to start anything

  2. ๐Ÿ” Focus

  3. ๐Ÿง˜ Show your true nature

  4. ๐Ÿ“š You don't have to be an expert

  5. ๐Ÿ’ผ You can combine it with your job

The interview is also available in video, for those of you who prefer so!

๐Ÿ‘‘ The Role of Tech Leads and Engineering Managers

In a product team there are three major responsibilities, with as many leadership roles:

  • ๐ŸŽจ Product โ†’ Product Manager

  • ๐Ÿ”จ Tech โ†’ Tech Lead

  • ๐Ÿ’ฌ People โ†’ Engineering Manager

This is on paper, but reality is messy. In most companies I have seen, some of these duties conflate on the same people, so instead of having three separate roles, you often have two (or one ๐Ÿ™ˆ).

The perfect solution doesn't exist, they are all tradeoffs between some qualities. We should understand these tradeoffs to be able to make informed decisions about such responsibilities.

This article describes the role of Tech Leads, Engineering Managers, and their relationship with Product Managers. I explored the various scenarios with upsides and downsides.

๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ How to Run Effective 1:1s

While we move to reduce meetings and push for async communication, there is at least one kind of meeting we need to keep and nurture: 1:1s.

This is now more important than ever as many people are isolated at home and, as a manager, you risk losing touch with how they feel and what they want.

It is one of my favourite topics and over the years I read almost anything I could find about it. I also learned a few things I didnโ€™t find on books and wanted to share in this article.

๐Ÿฏ How to Design a Communication Architecture

In 2012, Ben Horowitz wrote that a CEOโ€™s most important operational duty is to design a communication architecture for their company, otherwise โ€œideas stagnate and the company degenerates into a bad place to workโ€.

Things were already messy back then, but look now. We still got the same problems, plus we threw Slack and Zoom in the mix.

Say we want to follow Benโ€™s advice, clean up the mess and work on a proper Communication Architecture.

How do we start? This article reflects on it and provides create a step-by-step approach based on responsibilities.

๐Ÿ“š Resources

Finally, here are a couple more articles I recently read and enjoyed:

  • ๐Ÿ“‘ How to Tell When Your Startup Needs Engineering Managers โ€“ by Joseph Gefroh. Joseph addresses the evolution of your tech team over time. I love this angle as it is rarely discussed โ€” most authors consider your company as fixed in time, which of course is not. Also, the same role is vastly different in a 10-people team than it is in a large corp with 100s engineers.

  • ๐Ÿ“‘ No Meetings, No Deadlines, No Full-Time Employees โ€“ by Sahil Lavingia. This is a contrarian take on almost everything we take for granted about team organization. To be honest, I don't agree with many of these ideas โ€” or at least I think they can be a good fit for Gumroad but not for most companies. Nevertheless it's a thought-provoking read that challenges our assumptions, and we really need stories like this. Basically, I loved disagreeing with it.

๐ŸŽ Deals and Sponsors

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And that's it for today! See you next week with a new article. Feel free to reach out here in comments, via email, Twitter or Linkedin! I read and reply to everyone ๐Ÿ“ฌ