25 Jul 2020
There are many definitions of what an epic is but I like to think of it as a user story that is too large to be delivered at once and will span longer than the average sprint length. A sprint is about the length of time that a team can hold context in their head without putting an epic around it and being more formal around ownership. Less than a sprint of work and you can (if you choose) keep them as a few small tactical stories without using this guide. Another dimension of an epic is how many dependencies it might have. An epic is an easy abstraction to talk about work with another team.
Some time ago I put together an epic checklist with my team. We’ve continued to add to it as we take on new projects. I’d like to share that checklist in the hopes that other teams will find it useful and save them some of the pain we went through learning these lessons. In certain places, I add additional notes to explain that item. The checklist is meant to be as short as possible so that it may be read through quickly and often.
19 Jul 2020
In startup land, you’ll find that often the tool of choice is the one that the first person was most familiar with. It makes a lot of sense to go with the familiar. You’re building a business and a product and you can’t stop to learn every new thing. That’s why it makes sense to pick a technology that you’re familiar with. And why it makes sense to work with people you’ve worked with before. But over time, if you’re lucky, the team will grow and those tools stop making sense. You’ll need to migrate to a new tool for the team to scale. It sounds easier than it is.
12 Jul 2020
A hackathon is an event meant to allow engineers to build new ideas outside of the existing day-to-day process. Engineers come together to collaborate on building a brand new feature or enhancing an existing feature.
The hackathon is meant for all of engineering. Members of other teams are welcome to join contingent on their own schedules allowing.
Here a few talking points for a startup trying to start their hackathon tradition. I recommend starting with a day because it’ll be an easier sell to stakeholders when you have a small team.
04 Jul 2020
Today is the 25th anniversary of Bob Ross passing away. I watch The Joy of Painting pretty often as it’s one of my favorite ways to relax. Among the many important life lessons that Bob shares, there is one that is especially relevant to me. Learn how to use your tools. I also appreciate how much Bob is able to communicate what he’s doing as he works. In that spirit, I want to talk about a particular communication tool. There is no more important tool in your toolkit than the status update.
27 Jun 2020
Here’s a common discussion between a business stakeholder and an engineering leader. Why aren’t we hitting our deadlines? Or the alternative, why aren’t you able to give me accurate timelines. The engineering leader sucks in a deep breath. Then they begin a tirade on how impossible it is to know how long engineering work will take. Or the engineering leader will agree to put a date on work they know won’t get completed in time. This situation plays out week after week. The business person loses confidence in the engineer. The engineer loses the motivation to even try communicating anymore. The relationship turns toxic and everyone is unhappy. The real kicker is that both of them are smart, ambitious, and want the best for the team.
So how did we get here?