Tag: Mistakes

Mistakes I’ve Made as an Engineering Manager

I’ve been a manager for many years at companies of different scale. Through these experiences, I’ve done my share of learning, and made some mistakes along that way that were important lessons for me. I want to share those with you.

But before diving in, I want to mention a strong caveat that my advice may be unique to my situation because I’m white and a woman in tech. My experiences may be relevant to that point of view, but your mileage may vary.

Another huge caveat: I’m sharing mistakes I’ve made so far in the interest of helping others, but I’m sure I’m not done making mistakes, either. I don’t have it all figured it out, I’m still on this journey.

Credit: WoCinTechChat

Mistake 1: Thinking people give feedback the way they want to receive it

Feedback is one of the most important tools you have as a manager, but it can also be incredibly disruptive with poor execution. One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is that humans aren’t pure functions: you can put a form input in front of them one day and get one result, then again another day and get an entirely different result.

The same is true of how people give and receive feedback: someone may give you feedback in a particular way, but they prefer to receive much differently when it comes to themselves.

How do you get around this? Asking helps. I’ve started doing an exercise with my team where I ask the group as a whole how they would like to get feedback. Not only does it open up ideas, but it also helps that each individual has to think for themselves how they prefer to receive feedback. Normalizing this type of vulnerability and self-reflection can help us all feel like partners, instead of some top-down edict.

Another thing that’s helped? Asking folks directly in a one-on-one meeting if they have feedback for me as a manager, and following up with an anonymous survey. Again, it makes things feel less one-sided and provides everyone the opportunity to say things that they might not want to say directly to my face, which I know can be tough.

And lastly, if something comes up, addressing it immediately can be helpful. There’s nothing worse than your manager having an issue with something you did and only finding out about it three months later, especially if it’s tied to a performance review that you could have impacted had they been transparent earlier.

The truth is that even my advice here is imperfect. Feedback is tough. Being honest and improving together as a team is awkward. It’s incredibly worth it, though. That’s where the real growth is. That said, no two people are alike, no two groups are alike, and you may have to use your best judgement given the situation at hand.

Mistake 2: Trying to do everything yourself as a manager is the best way to help

Years ago, I managed a woman who was bright, talented, capable, and an all around pleasure. She was sort of new to the industry and could come across as timid, so I did my best to be a poop umbrella for her, fighting battles behind the scenes to set her up for success. She was on a steady track to land a senior role. Even after I decided to leave the company, I let the next manager know this person is track for a senior position in the next few months.

Then I moved to another city. Years later, I met up with the woman and was shocked to learn she never got the position.

Here’s what I learned: her promotion wasn’t the same high priority for the capable hands I left her in as it was for me. The team was challenged with a million other things that took center stage to the extent that her promotion fell off the radar. But even more than that, what became very clear to me was that all of that “protection” I thought I had set up for her didn’t really serve her well for the long haul. For example, I didn’t teach her how to advocate for herself or how to navigate the system. I vowed never to make that mistake again.

This is tough! If you’re strong and care about your team as people, it can feel very unnatural to teach someone to advocate instead of moving things out of their way themselves. And the point is not to throw that person into the fire. The point is to care. Are you teaching the things they need to learn? Are they really growing under you? Feeling like you’re protecting someone at all costs also lead to your own ego trip, too, which threatens progress.

Try to think through what skills someone needs to succeed without you. Teach those things incrementally. Sure, this is easy advice to say, but it’s really hard to do in the thick of things. Spend some time with it, and think through ways you can inject that learning into everyday work and interactions.

Credit: Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Mistake 3: Communicating something one time is enough

No one likes to feel like they’re repeating themselves. It’s annoying to say someone more than once, and it’s annoying to hear something over and again. But if you have a big enough group and there’s enough going on, things are going to slip through the cracks, so repetition becomes an important tool to make things stick. The trick is to say the same things, but in different ways.

There was a time last year when I asked my team to do something and none of them did it. What happened there? Given that it’s a team of highly efficient, strong collaborators, do you think they just all table-flipped and didn’t take action? Not a chance. I was the one who wasn’t clear. In fact, you can probably guess that if a whole group of people don’t understand or take action, the chance is that you, the manager are the common denominator for why something is blocked. Not only did I not repeat myself enough to be clear, I didn’t align anyone with the why of the purpose of the task. It’s pretty easy to forget or not prioritize doing something if you have no clue why you’re doing it. Repeat yourself and align the group with the importance of the task and you’ll likely have a better result.

Think of all the ways we have to communicate these days: chats, emails, video meetings, texts, document comments, and so much more. And because some people communicate better in one medium than another, using all of the platforms have in various mediums becomes a strategy for repetition without nagging.

I’ve found that what work best is allowing everyone to own the information themselves. For example, if your team practices career laddering, each person they read the ladders aloud in a one-on-one and then talk you through their responses to each item. That way, you’re not lecturing — they are owning where they are and what the next steps are as you guide them along.

Mistake 4: You have to have everything together all the time

Some folks think that management looks like a steel fortress of preparedness and authority. I’m not so sure about that.

If something goes wrong, are you more likely to tell the manager acts as though they have everything together all the time, or the manager owns their mistakes? The truth is that your team needs to know you’re human. You can’t fix problems if you don’t know about them, and no one will tell you about them unless you make space for that.

One time, the night before a big release, someone on the team pushed a change that created thousands upon thousands of calls to a service that, in turn, thought it was the target of a DDoS attack, which then shut down our access. Here’s a moment when a lot of folks could have panicked and blamed one another. Instead, we giggled wildly, jumped into chat and on calls, fixed it, and kept going.

I couldn’t have been more proud of the team that day. Their response was wonderful. And it makes all the difference in how we work together, recover, and iterate.

You’re the manager. You have to be show your vulnerability first. You can try this by admitting you’re having a bad day, that you don’t understand something, or made a mistake.


Being a manager is tough. Your mistakes impact people. I’ve made all of the mistakes above and more. I feel that it’s critical to share and learn from one another, so when we encounter pitfalls, we don’t feel alone and know a path forward.


The post Mistakes I’ve Made as an Engineering Manager appeared first on CSS-Tricks.

You can support CSS-Tricks by being an MVP Supporter.

CSS-Tricks

, , , ,

Systems, Mistakes, and the Sea

Our own Robin Rendle:

[…] folks can’t talk about real design systems problems because it will show their company as being dysfunctional and broken in some way. This looks bad for their company and hence looks bad for them. But hiding those mistakes and shortcomings by glossing over everything doesn’t just make it harder for us personally, it hinders progress within the field itself.

I’ve always tried to be super open about the things I do, good and bad. However, even the outlets I have, like CodePen Radio where we talk about the rollercoaster of running a software business, there are still things I’ve held back because they just aren’t a good look. Often, the trick is to let some time pass so that it can be a retrospective later if there’s hesitance to post about the bad today.

Direct Link to ArticlePermalink

The post Systems, Mistakes, and the Sea appeared first on CSS-Tricks.

CSS-Tricks

,
[Top]

The Smart Ways to Correct Mistakes in Git

The world of software development offers an infinite amount of ways to mess up: deleting the wrong things, coding into dead ends, littering commit messages with typos, are a mere few of the plentitude.
​​
​​Fortunately, however, we have a wonderful safety net under our feet in the form of Git when we’re working with version control. Not that you and I need a safety net, of course, because we never make mistakes, right? Sure, sure. But for the benefit of everyone else, let’s take a tour of some of the “undo” tools in Git that can save us from ourselves.
​​
​​
​​
​​

Fixing the last commit

​​
​​Messing up a commit is all too easy. Classic case in point: making a typo in a commit message. Another? Forgetting to add a change to the staging area. And in many cases, we instantly realize our mistake — right after hitting the Enter key, naturally.
​​
​​Luckily, Git makes it ridiculously easy to fix the very last commit. Let’s say we had just hit Enter on the following command:

​​

git commit -m "Massage full of typohs"

​​
​​And (as if this orthographic mess wasn’t bad enough) let’s say we also forgot to add another changed file to the staging area. We can correct both of our mistakes with the following two commands:
​​

git add forgotten-changes.js ​​git commit --amend -m "A sensible message"

​​
​​The magic ingredient is the --amend​ flag: when using it on a commit, Git will correct the very last commit — with any staged changes and the new message.
​​
​​A short word of warning, though: only use --amend​ on commits that haven’t been pushed to a remote repository, yet. The reason is that Git replaces the original, bad commit with the amended version. Afterwards, it looks as if the original commit never happened. Yeah, that’s good for concealing mistakes, but only if we haven’t already published this mistake on the remote server.
​​​​
​​

Undoing local changes

​​
​​Everyone’s had days like this: spend all morning hacking away, only to admit to yourself that the last few hours were a waste of time. Gotta start over and undo much (or all) of that work.
​​
​​But this is one of the reasons for using Git in the first place — to be able to try out things without the fear that we might break something.
​​
​​Let’s take stock in an example situation:
​​

git status ​​  modified: about.html ​​  deleted:  imprint.html ​​  modified: index.html

​​
​​Now, let’s assume that this is one of the wasted hacking days described above. We ought to have kept our hands off of about.html and not deleted imprint.html. What we now want is to discard our current changes in these files — while keeping the brilliant work done in index.html. ​​The git checkout​ command can help in this case. Instead, we’ve gotta get more specific with which files to check out, like this:

​​

git checkout HEAD about.html imprint.html

​​This command restores both about.html and imprint.html to their last committed states. Phew, we got away from a black eye!
​​
​​We could take this one step further and discard specific individual lines in a changed file instead of tossing out the entire thing! I’ll admit, it’s rather complicated to make it happen on the command line, but using a desktop Git client like Tower is a great way to go about it:

​​
​​For those really bad days, we might want to bring out the big guns in the form of:
​​
​​

git reset --hard HEAD

​​
​​While we only restored specific files with checkout​, this command resets our whole working copy. In other words, reset​ restores the complete project at its last committed state. ​​Similar to --amend​, there’s something to keep in mind when using checkout​ and reset​: discarding local changes with these commands cannot be undone! They have never been committed to the repository, so it’s only logical that they cannot be restored. Better be sure that you really want to get rid of them because there’s no turning back!
​​
​​

Undoing and reverting an older commit

​​
​​In many cases, we only realize a mistake much later, after it has long been committed to the repository.

​​How can we get rid of that one bad commit? Well, the answer is that we shouldn’t… at least in most cases. Even when “undoing” things, Git normally doesn’t actually delete data. It corrects it by adding new data. Let’s see how this works using our “bad guy” example:
​​
​​

git revert 2b504bee

​​
​​By using git revert​ on that bad commit, we haven’t deleted anything. Quite the contrary:

​​Git automatically created a new commit with changes that reverts the effects of the “bad” commit. So, really, if we started with three commits and were trying to correct the middle one, now we have four total commits, with a new one added that corrects the one we targeted with revert​.
​​​​
​​

Restoring a previous version of a project

​​
​​A different use case is when we want to restore a previous version of our project. Instead of simply undoing or reverting a specific revision somewhere in our commit history, we might really want to turn back time and return to a specific revision.
​​
​​In the following example scenario, we would declare all the commits that came after “C2” as unwanted. What we want is to return to the state of commit “C2” and forget everything that came after it in the process:

​​The command that’s necessary is already (at least partly) familiar to you based on what we’ve already covered:
​​
​​

git reset --hard 2b504bee

​​
​​This tells git reset​ the SHA-1 hash of the commit we want to return to. Commits C3 and C4 then disappear from the project’s history.
​​
​​If you’re working in a Git client, like Tower, both git revert​ and git reset are available from the contextual menu of a commit item:

​​

​​Deleting commits, restoring deleted branches, dealing with conflicts, etc. etc. etc.

​​
​​Of course, there are many other ways to mess up things in a software project. But luckily, Git also offers many more tools for undoing the mess.
​​
​​Have a look at the “First Aid Kit for Git” project that I and other folks on the Tower team have created if you want to learn more about the scenarios we covered in this post, or about other topics, like how to move commits between branches, delete old commits, restore deleted branches or gracefully deal with merge conflicts. It’s a totally free guide that includes 17 videos and a handy cheat sheet you can download and keep next to your machine.

​​In the meantime, happy undoing!

The post The Smart Ways to Correct Mistakes in Git appeared first on CSS-Tricks.

CSS-Tricks

, , ,
[Top]