Back to Calibrate

Ignite the Fire

Nick Caldwell
VP of Engineering

Nick discusses the three ingredients for inspiring your non-manager leaders to emerge and provides a simple techniques any new manager can apply.

Thanks for that intro Sonia. Thanks for letting me do the talk. So, before I get into it,  how about a round of applause for the venue? This is a massive upgrade.

I was, I was here last year and this is by far my favorite conference of the year, because it is about a topic that I'm so passionate about and that's management. So I hope you guys are excited for a great day and ready to learn. The talk I want to give, is about igniting the fire of leadership within yourselves and everyone within, within your organization.

Before I get into that though, who am I actually let's look. So my name is Nick Caldwell, brief history for me. I think the most people know me for one of these, these things. I was general manager at Microsoft. I worked there for a timeframe, which I would describe as way too long.

And I grew a team. There are 15 people up to three, a hundred people working on a product called power BI. And then I discovered that a better way to do innovation projects would be to actually come to Silicon valley. There's lots of reasons for that. If you want to talk to me afterwards, ended up going to Reddit as VP of engineering two years ago, and there I helped grow the engineering organization.

I think we started with like 35 people. And, when I left 170 people, we did that in one and a half years. So that was pretty fun. And now, I just got a new job on Monday. I don't know if you guys know this, so I'm going to talk about some Reddit stuff here, but I'm actually chief product officer

At Looker. So we're not going to talk about Looker. Hopefully there's some customers in the audience that you guys are enjoying the product, but here, we're going to talk a little bit about what, what was happening at Reddit and some challenges that we face there. So let me just give you a quick summary of some of the challenges.

I talked about the first one, which was a day one CEO asked me to triple the team size within a year. Now we ended up quintupling it but we had a big challenge make that team grow so we could accomplish all of the goals that we wanted to achieve. The other problem that we had was really about setting up the, the, the, what I would call foundation for leadership within the company.

When I joined Reddit on day one, I walked in the door. And there were no managers, no directors. There were a bunch of people calling themselves tech leads. If anyone can define that for me crisply, please follow up after the talk. But there were no managers. And I do think that you need to figure out your management structure, if you're going to scale.

Certainly if you're going to hire a, you know, a hundred plus folks, so I'll just quickly talk about one way we address that. How many of you guys have ever seen the movie blade runner? Blade runner. Oh, excellent. Okay. This is a, this is a very geeky audience. So if you haven't seen it in the movie blade runner is about a bounty hunter who has to hunt down Androids.

And unfortunately all the Androids look like human beings. So they have a test it's called the void camp test. And what they do is they sit you down on this lie detector test and they ask you a few questions and they try and distinguish whether or not you're a human that's. Okay. Green check mark. Or you're an Android where they take you out back and shoot you.

We did the same thing for our tech leads.

Sorry. I got a weird sense of humor. Yeah. So just briefly what we did was we had a test that we took a tech lead in and we asked them. A few questions and we did this over the course of several weeks doing one-on-ones and some, so it wasn't, it wasn't really like we hook people up to a lie detector test, but you know, a few questions.

Do you care more about people or architecture? What are your thoughts towards shipping on a deadline? What would you do if your PM came into your organization? Took two people off the line and put them on another project. These are the kind of questions where the response will tell you whether or not.

The person's inclination is more toward architecture or management. And we split, tracked the team into, into those two career paths, a manager track and an architect track. And this actually worked out pretty well. Here's some quick stats that I'll share. We ended up after a year with 20 managers and directors, 10 architects 50% of those were promoted from within the company.

And after a year, about 90% of the people that we had changed the roles around were still in those positions. So I think that was pretty successful. But. There was a new challenge that emerged. Okay. So we get all these these leaders in place. We're scaling the organization. CEO pulls me aside one day.

Why? I'll be honest. We were at a bar CEO, pulls me aside at a bar. We're having a drink. He says, Nick. I remember when the company was 10 people that anyone I could talk to on the floor acted like a leader, like an owner, any one of those 10 people, if a problem happened, they would swarm and do whatever it took.

To figure it out. And now we've got a hundred plus people on the team and I feel like there's a lack of ownership. That is to say, if I go to talk to any one person about a problem, that's emerged, they'll say, oh, that's, that's not me. That's that other guy. All right. And the question is, how can we scale leadership?

How do we get the sense that we had with 10 people that everyone's an owner. To scale to a hundred people, and he's not far off, this is a challenge for those of you who haven't recognized this, this is the Microsoft org chart. And I think it largely represents the challenge that my CEO was describing.

As your company scales, you get more specialization and focus. You're trying to optimize for efficiency but you get politics and boundaries. And you do lose that sense of ownership, not for your particular area necessarily, but the holistic sense of ownership that you are responsible for everything that is coming out of the company, that is what is harder to recognize.

And the impact of that is pretty significant. Now I don't know if you guys have heard of blind blind is a pretty terrible product, but occasionally they do something good for humanity. They take polls about management and leadership. So the impact of bad leadership, you can imagine lower productivity, lower retention for people working in your organization.

Interestingly less developed people get less motivated to improve themselves. And then for you, new managers poor delegation. It's gonna be harder for you to scale if you can't figure out how to pull leaders out of your, your org. And then the final thing, which I thought was really interesting and I pulled this stat from BR from blind is burnout.

The number one source of burnout, according to blind is poor leadership and unclear direction. It is even a higher source of burnout than work overload. Which is astounding to me. So this can have a real impact on your team and your company as a whole. So that is what this talk is about a hope of QT up for something.

Interesting. Are you guys still with me? Okay, good. That's what we're going to talk about. If, if you don't like this topic, my wife's going to be up later in the day and she'll have something a little bit more fun to talk about now, how do we scale? How do we take that one leader and get them to cover the entire organization?

I'm going to give you. I believe three tips and three tools that will help you solve this problem. And the idea is that you take these back to your organizations, hopefully apply them and try and start to generate leaders within your team. Right? Let's get going tool number one. And this is an idea and a tool.

The idea is that leadership. Isn't management. And this is a big challenge. A few weeks ago, I had a mentee come into my office and he you know, he was saying something that really struck me as, as disturbing. He said I was having a conversation with my manager. And my manager said, you are not ready to lead yet.

You need to practice the following skills. You need to be a little bit more better about presenting. You need to do blah, blah, blah. And it struck me as odd for several reasons. The primary one being that there was a conflation of management with leadership, the idea that you had to have people reporting to you.

In order for you to be a leader within the organization. So if you guys believe that I'm going to spend the next like five minutes trying to tear that idea apart. Okay. So let's start leadership versus management. Managers, I do think as a professional manager play an incredibly important role within an organization, you have got to be responsible for quality, for processes, for hiring and retaining talent.

You're really kind of the machinery that keeps all of your deliverables clocked in on time. Keep your people happy and motivated. To an extent. I think managers play an incredibly important role in the stable production of quality software. Now leaders. I will challenge you to say that they may have a different role specifically, I don't know.

I think leaders are about stability. I think leadership really is about change. It's about looking for things that are not optimal or new opportunities that you need to chase after. And the way that you capture those opportunities is not necessarily through rigorous discipline and pushing tickets across a Kanban board, the way leaders get those things done is they inspire.

They take the idea and they translate it into something that large groups of people can get passionate and inspired about. And I think that's the way I think about the distinction between management and leadership. Now, if you look up on the internet, what is leadership, you will get a lot of really weird ass search results.

So I've done that work for you. This is the best version of it I could find and. This is an unattributed quote. Leadership is working with goals and vision management is working with objectives. Now I do think that this is still an oversimplification that no one has really quite figured this out.

So I thought I'd, instead of trying to define it, maybe tell you one of my favorite stories about the difference between management and leadership. Let's do that. You guys ever heard of Manhattan project. I hope you have very, very important moment in world history, world war II. One of the largest logistical and managerial projects, really in the history of mankind, critical to ending a world war II and had impact on but really, really everything after that.

And it brought together hundreds of thousands people across the country, multiple companies, all pitching in to organize a very, very large secretive project. Now. There are two leaders primarily associated with the Manhattan project. One more of a manager manager, and the other seen as the leader.

Let's, let's talk about the leader. You guys know Robert Oppenheimer. All right, brilliant physicist, PhD physicist. He was the person that gathered together the scientists to inspire them toward the goal of completing the Manhattan project. A project which most people thought was absolutely impossible.

And he was the guy that wrangled them and inspired them to come into work every day and give it a shot. Now here's a quote from one of the people that work for Robert Oppenheimer. On my death bed, I hope that someone says this about me. Like, let me just share it with you. This is the leader of the Manhattan project says he knew how to organize cajole, humor, sooth feelings, how to lead powerfully without seeming to do so.

He was an exemplar of dedication, a hero who never lost his humanness. Gee, that Jesus Christ. I hope someone says that now. So this is the leader of the project right now. This guy. Goes on disappointing him somehow carried with it. A sense of wrongdoing. Los Alamos is amazing. Success grew out of this brilliance, enthusiasm, charisma with which Oppenheimer led it.

All right. So this is the leader of the Manhattan project. Now, as I described, this is a gigantic endeavor required pulling together multiple injured industries, hundreds of thousands of people. You can't purely do that with inspiration. You're going to need to pair up Oppenheimer up with a brilliant manager.

So that manager's name. Was Leslie grows. I don't know if many of you have heard him, but this is Leslie gross. He was the manager of the Manhattan project. And let's see what history has to say about the manager, Leslie groves, the biggest son of a bitch I've ever met in my life. Yeah, and it goes on, he has absolute confidence in his decisions.

He was absolutely ruthless in how I approach a problem to get it done. I've often thought if I would have to do it over again, I would select groves as a boss. All right. So this is the distinction I managers organizing, pulling things together. Schedules, bossy. All right. Leaders, charisma, inspiration. All right.

Now, if that doesn't get it across, I know there's many mathematically minded people in the audience. So I'm going to wrap this up. And just talk about some mathematics. If you think about your org growing every director may be having five reports and every manager having five reports, positional leadership, the idea that you must be a manager to be a leader, simply doesn't scale.

Do the math yourself. If you unlock. The individual leadership capability capabilities within your organization, you are accessing an additional 80% of potential leaders in your org, and I'll leave it to you to do the raw numbers. But the simple idea is that. Leaders, positional leaders, scale logarithmically as your company grows and then individuals obviously scale linearly.

All right. So to wrap all that up, the thing I want you guys to take away is to scale. We have to get our employees to look for opportunities to lead. And not positions to lead. And interestingly enough, this is really what they want. I found this survey from McKinsey and I won't read everything on it, but what the important stat here says is that opportunities to lead lead to result in better retention and better employee happiness than other incentives, including financial incentives.

People would rather like a sponsored opportunity, ability to step up and make an impact before they would like an increase in their paycheck. So please remember that. Now the question is, how do you find opportunities to, to let people lead now, I'm going to give you the first tool and I call it leadership breadcrumbs.

All right. So leadership breadcrumbs, how does this work? Now you as managers have incredible oversight of what's going on across not just your own team, but the broader organization. So my suggestion is going to be that at your next team meeting, when you're sitting there and looking at Kanban boards and asking people whether or not they're on time and that dah, dah, dah, what you need to try and do is pull some of that context, that broader context, the problems that you or your peers, or even the executives in the organization are facing, try and pull that.

Into your team meetings and push it down into the organization. So provide visibility. Step one. What is going on? What problems are you dealing with? Step two. This is where it gets a little bit tricky invite discussion about those problems. Now I didn't say invite complaining about those problems. I said, invite discussion about those problems.

So if you've got a challenge, try and put it in front of your team members and then step three. This is where you really got to bear down and get comfortable. You got to be patient, okay, you're going to do this a few times. And the first few times your reports are going to say, why the hell is my manager talking about this stuff?

You're going to do it again and again and again. And eventually what you'll see is Lee, someone in this room, someone in the room is eventually going to spark and understand that, oh, the reason my manager is saying this is so that I can step up and maybe they'll say, oh, I've got an idea. That's phase one.

And then maybe phase two might be not only do I have an idea, I've maybe thought about how to solve it and I've put some time in, and then what you really want to see when you hit is phase three. Not only did I have an idea, I put some time in, I talked to three other people and they're helping me with it.

And that is when you're starting to spark leaders. And when you see that occur, The final step is immediately sponsor and reward that person. Now, this doesn't mean approve every random project that someone comes up with on your team. What it means is encourage them, because what you're trying to do again, is find leaders.

So if someone steps up say, even if it's just to say, yeah, great idea. We'll follow up after the meeting and talk about next steps. Go for it. All right. So that's tool number one, leadership breadcrumbs. Okay. Now I'm going to move on to tool number two, and it is an idea. The idea is that anyone can be a leader.

Now I'll explain to you why this isn't something that's broadly accepted. And I'll start by saying that there is an entire industry, an entire industry built around the idea. That you must pick up particular traits to be a leader. I'm sure you guys have heard this before. You've you've, you've maybe heard about different classes or courses.

I want to talk about a few of them because more than $24 billion a year. Is spent on leadership training and I myself have put quite a bit of my own money into this pool. So I'm not making fun of you if you've done it, but let's talk about a few, like, and I bet everyone in this room has done at least a few of these things.

The first one is books, you know, radical candor. Good to great. I'm sure like all of you guys have a shelf full of these things, whether or not you've read them or not, they at least they at least make you feel some kind of way you feel better. Courses a Dale Carnegie course make you a better speaker, right?

You know, Toastmasters, those sorts of things, those, those about 500 bucks a pop 2000 for Dale Carnegie. Now let's, let's amp it up a little bit. Let's get to the leaders, the people who really want to try seminars. So you can go to a seminar with magic Johnson, Sylvester Stallone, Tony Robbins, and pit bull.

This is the, this is not a pit bull concert. This is a photo of a leadership seminar with pit bull.

I know I want you, you know, so anyway, that's about it. $10,000 and then there's the grand daddy of the mall. I'm sure you guys are probably thinking ahead. There's a granddaddy of them all for people who want to become leaders here, it comes. See, if you can spot the outlier in the photo, that is the MBA $100,100,000.

So there's a lot of of money that goes into convincing people that any particular traits to become leaders. Now I I I've thought about this a long time. And I did another round of research. I went on Google, I looked at forums, leadership council. I looked at a lot different things, the best source of this, by the way, if you're interested is a project oxygen by Google, they did a pretty good summary of capturing leadership traits.

And I tried to summarize what people think are the top five most important qualities for a leader, vision, empathy, empowerment, charisma, and expertise in a particular domain. So that's what they say. You need to be a leader. I thought to myself, let's, let's test this. Let's see if this is actually true. Are those the things that every leader is required to have, and we're going to do that with some of our favorite technical visionaries.

Let's start, let's start with an easy one. Steve jobs, very visionary, very charismatic. Now where's his negatives and power. All right. So this is an org chart of apple that's floating around on the internet. And you'll notice that all of the spokes in the org chart point directly at Steve jobs, very, very controlling of what was built.

Now let's move on. Number two. This is not actually a, a military ranger. This is. For those of you that don't recognize him, this is Jeff Bezos from Amazon. And I would say he is one of the more empowering leaders that there is. If you guys have ever read about jobs as approach ever two pizza teams you know, he's got a very you know, empowering philosophy about how he builds his organizations, but he's also got some negatives.

Let's, let's go to that. Amazon warehouse workers, skip bathroom breaks to keep their jobs report says that does not sound very empathetic to me. And if you read through the Amazon leadership principles, Hints of that idea actually sneak through here. And they're so much more of a bias toward empowering and teams.

Maybe not so much on empathy. Now, one of the next ones is this is my favorite. This is a personal hero of mine. Elon Musk, absolute technical expertise. He is running more companies they can handle. And in fact, that is his weakness. He is burn it out.

He is literally, he is literally burning out. So you've got, gotta, sorry. You've gotta be able to learn how to delegate and empower others or you don't, maybe some of y'all want to end up like that. And then the final one is one of my favorites. This is mark Zuckerberg. So final one, mark Zuckerberg.

Vision and expertise, no question, vision and expertise, but there are entire internet communities devoted to determining whether or not this man is a, is it actually an Android? So, so the question then is how are you supposed to know? All right. If you're looking for a leader, how do you know if there's a nerd lawyer?

Or the stoner with an unfortunate hat. How do you know that these people are going to both end up being Nobel prize winners? How do you know? And I'll give you a quick story because I'm going to transition this and talk to you about a tool. So a quick story about that when I was a new manager, I actually you know, believed in traits.

I would look for specific traits to follow and I would say, oh, that guy's a leader. And I'll tell you a quick story about it. Where I learned that I needed to be careful of this. So I, I needed to hire a machine learning architect for our organization. This was many, many years ago, and I was doing the interview loops.

A guy comes in and the key thing about them really, really quiet. You, haven't gone to one of those interviews where you spend like the first. 10 minutes trying to just drag the person's name out, like, you know so very, very, very quiet person, but just absolutely destroyed all the coding questions, architecture questions, et cetera, really, really brilliant kind of person.

Now we get round to the hiring panel and I'm the hiring manager. So I go last, everyone else goes before me hire, hire, hire, hire, great guy gets to me. And I say, you know what? I'm a no hire. And the reason I'm a new hire is because this person is too quiet. And I can not imagine how architect someone that needs to talk to other people.

Would be so quiet. So I gave them a no hire. Now. Fortunately, I had a very, very smart director, my manager at that time, and he pulled me aside. He didn't quite smack me in the face, but he did like kind of the verbal equivalent of a smack, which is maybe you've heard this Nick I'm disappointed in your decision.

Yeah. Yeah. So if you ever hear that, that's what that means. That's a verbal smack. So I said, why don't we give him a higher and then we'll see what happens. The guy's name was Ted. So Ted. Ted we gave Ted the higher Ted ended up being by far the best engineer on our team. I work with Ted for the next five years.

And Ted went on to teach all of our engineers on the team, modern machine learning techniques. We became one of the forerunners within Microsoft. One of the people who had the latest and greatest he was talking about TensorFlow before this thing was even remotely possible. And many years later, I asked Ted you know at a bar you know, w what was that about?

Like, I remember our first meeting, you were so quiet. You didn't you didn't, you know, you didn't track me at all as someone who would come in and transform our technical roadmap. And Ted said, well, Nick you may not know this, but, or I joined, I was working at DuPont and I was working on the software controllers for laundry machines.

The first time I really got to be passionate about something I was working on was when I joined this company and got to do machine learning. And it was the passion for ML that unlocked my leadership techniques. So that is the thing that I remember. So the point of that story is instead of traits, instead of, of Tony Robbins and Pitbull telling you what to do, look for passion and.

Again, for the mathematically minded in the audience, I'm always going to try and back up this. So there was a study done, a longitudinal study done in 1992 by CRI fell and Pratley. This is a very well-known study. 1500 participants were surveyed. The question of, would you choose your career because of passion or you're doing it because you want to make money.

And they monitor these people for 20 years. At the end of 20 years, there was 101 millionaires. 100 of those millionaires chose passion. Only one person who started their career choosing money, ended up being a millionaire. So there is a lot of value in passion. So the tool that I want to give you guys to take home with you is how do you unlock passion?

How do you know what the people on your team are passionate about? The things that they might go on to become leaders like? Right. So I call this the blue flame, the blue flame is when you have perfect alignment. Between an individual's passion and what the organization needs and a part of your job as a manager is to continually try and keep this alignment, the blue flame for every person that reports to you.

So here's a tool. They call it the blue flame chart and it maps the intrinsic motivators. What people are inherently passionate about against extrinsic and extrinsic motivators, things that the organization needs. And you can figure this out. Either by filling out this chart, which I think might be a little bit overkill, but you can take some of these questions into your next one-on-one and try and figure out the alignment.

So intrinsic motivators, what would you do if nobody was telling you what to do, what problems are unaddressed that you think our team should try to fix and more simply put, what do you want to learn in intrinsic motivated motivators, extrinsic motivators. Come from you, the manager and your, and your management chain, what are the major problems faced by the organization?

What are problems that are hitting us from the industry? These are extrinsic motivators. All right. So your goal as managers is try and fit is to try and figure out that overlap and get everyone into the blue flame. Now I'll give you an even more advanced version of this. And the, and the reason you have to have this is because sometimes people aren't good at recognizing their own intrinsic motivators.

What they're really, really good at it is really hard to know yourself. So step three. Try and add in an element of team feedback. All right. So look at in the most complex version of this, you might collect 360 reviews, but there are much, much more simple ways to get this sort of feedback. Simply ask you know, encourage your ICS to simply ask their peers.

What am I good at? Good at? And you will get very, very similar results. Okay. All right. So now we have a tool for finding what people are passionate about. And previously we have a tool for figuring out opportunities right now. We still need. To figure out how to spark leaders. Okay. So even if you have all those things, it is very, very likely that your potential leaders will still not spark.

And the question is why do people who have passion and opportunity not take it to the next level? I found this quote online. The first rule of leadership is everything is your fault. And there was a survey done. I believe this is a McKinsey survey and they directly asked what is the biggest obstacle that you face toward taking on greater leadership responsibilities and 47%?

The by far the highest response rate, fear of being held accountable fear. Right? What is that fear? It's the fear that you're going to step on. Someone's toes. It's the fear that your project's not going to work. There's so many things that could go wrong. The moment you try and step up to lead. And I believe that is this fear that you as managers have to figure out how to overcome it.

If you want to unlock additional leaders in your organization. Now, the question is. How do you do that? How do you get someone from an individual to a team contributor to a leader? Is it training? Do you send them to pit bull and tell pit bull, like save the day one common technique is to put pressure on them.

Just if you give people a really, really tough problem, it will force leaders to emerge. But then you've got, I think, a retention issue because people are going to burn out so you can try pressure, but I don't think that's the best method mentoring. You know but I think that if you guys are all thinking about yourself and your own leadership careers, that everyone can identify a moment that they see changed mindsets, a leadership moment.

If you will, where one day they were a manager, an individual, and the next day something changed where they thought about the world differently that they were going to take responsibility for something to happen a leadership moment. And I'll tell you about my leadership moment to see if it resonates with you.

I was a very early manager and I worked at Microsoft. For those of you who don't know this, Microsoft is a. A very slow moving company. I was working on the 12th version of office and I was very, very frustrated. I was very upset set with the product roadmap. If we have all these brilliant people, we are not utilizing  them to the fullest extent of their strengths.

I want to do something exciting with machine learning, natural language processing, et cetera. And I went into my mentor's office and I was just railing on him. I was like, you know, I am suck. They don't have vision, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And my manager, you know, very commonly looked at me. His name was Ravi, by the way.

He said, Nick you're a really good manager. You know how to get tickets across the board. You're fantastic at that. But you suck as a leader. And I was like, damn, that hurts. My, my mentor just told me, I suck. He said, you know, all of these problems that you're, you're, you're raising. Who do you think we hired to address them and leaders?

Take responsibility for what happens next. He told me that leaders take responsibility for what happens next. And I instantaneously understood what he was talking about. I walked out of his room, the thought about what to do, what to do to take responsibility. I went to my general manager's office and I said, look, I'm really upset by this.

I'm going to stop talking smack within within my mentor's office. Give me some responsibility for the product roadmap and for whatever reason. My my general manager said yes, and gave me the keys to go and try it. He gave me permission to go try and maybe fail. So how do we get to a place where more of these leadership moments can happen?

I think that it starts, this is very difficult by the way. So I think you're going to have to start on an individual level and we hope we can get it organized organizationally spread out. But I do think it comes from an organizational culture. Now you guys may have seen this. Mark Zuckerberg. Move fast and break things.

This, this is one of my favorite examples of inspiring a, what I would call a leadership culture. Unfortunately, they've actually changed this. This is no longer their model, but but I do think it represents a very real approach to trying to spread the idea of a leadership culture. Now, you may not know this.

But Facebook is in no way, shape or form the O G for this idea, this mark stole the essence of this idea from another company. And I think they actually did it better and they made a tool that I think you guys can take back with you. So I'm gonna give you one tool real quick, a little mini tool. This is the Nordstrom employee handbook.

So if you were to work at Nordstrom, you know, 40, 50 years ago, day one on the job, they would print out. A handbook. This handbook was literally one piece of paper that in essence captured the spirit of Nordstrom. It says, we're glad to have you with our company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service, set, both your personal and professional goals.

High. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them. Nordstrom rules, rule, number one, use your good judgment in all situations, there will be no additional rules. That is the most bad-ass thing you can give to someone on your team and every. Every team and every organization I've ever constructed, I give them some version of this handbook.

Ah, so that is tool number one. Now tool number two is sponsoring. So hopefully you guys okay. Understand the difference between sponsoring and mentorship. I'll just briefly summarize it. Mentoring is where your you know ICS or peers or what have you come to you and they maybe give you some problems and in return, you'll give them some advice.

And you maybe give them some free coffee, which is great, but sponsoring is when someone comes to you and you give them an opportunity, right? You enable them to do something. So there are many, many opportunities for you as managers. To sponsor projects. You may not realize you have this problem, but your authority gives you the ability to sponsor people within the organization.

You can tell people to use their own spare time. You can propose new projects to your executive leadership team. You can use hack days and hackathons. You can dedicate time to the schedule, but the idea is that you find someone who's a budding leader within your organization, ready to take the leap, but is afraid of what might happen and help them push their idea forward.

And then give them all the credit. If things go through, right. Go well now I think I'll summarize all this oxygen fuel and a spark or what are required to make a fire opportunity. Passion and permission are what is required to make a leader right now. I didn't just come up with all this in a vacuum.

We actually took many of these principles and applied them at Reddit. Oh, crap. Turn that off. Are you, are you trying to Oscar me out of the, I still got five minutes. Y'all wait a second. So here's what happened when we rolled out these three approaches at Reddit. On a technical contribution basis. And again, this is all people, completely volunteering their own time to kickstart the projects, continuous integration, continuous deployment performance testing, Kubernetes and microservices breaking up our monolith and starting to bring Kubernetes into the organization and then porting our entire API layer to graph QL.

All started as these individual passion projects saving the company millions of dollars and increasing performance on our site quite a bit. And then the second thing, which I think is even more interesting is the people contributions, our employee mentoring program. Was started by engineers who felt passionate about mentoring, deep learning and training Guild.

Someone was really, really excited about TensorFlow and wanted to teach it to the rest of the organization that ended up resulting in a lot of time on site and fruit mints at Reddit. And then finally this one feels near and dear to me. The charity that I started came as a result of me going to my exec team and asking permission to try something.

So we started a charity my wife and I, and also we encourage Reddit to create Reddit for good. All right. So a lot of good things can come out of that. So hopefully these are tools you guys can get back to your organization because I was granted extra time as the keynote speaker. I thought I would also sneak in a few more things.

So just for super quick tips for what it means to be a modern leader. All right. And I want you to take these home with you and also use them as your career has progressed. Number one, leaders embrace change what you're seeing on this diagram. This is a chart of every web UI development framework between 1999 and 2016.

All right. So the funny thing is like, since I've been doing this talk, three more frameworks have come out, leaders embrace change, and I think you need to get okay with that. The instant you start to get comfortable is also the instant. You need to start thinking about looking for the next challenge. All right.

Tip number two, your network, your network is your net worth. So if frameworks and tech are changing all the time, That means that the code that you write is a depreciating asset. But I'm telling you that your network is an appreciating, appreciating asset. All the people that you make, the connections you make, the PR, the people that you impress all grow in value over time.

And as leaders, you should start as soon as possible to work on your public brand reputation et cetera, modern leaders. Can use social networks in ways that have never been available before to have influence, not just within their country, funny, but throughout the entire tech ecosystem. All right.

No more collecting business cards. If you work on your brand, trust me, the opportunities will come to you. And there will be a point in your career. Certainly by the time you become executive leaders, where all of your opportunities come from your network, right. Three diversity inclusion is no longer optional.

I hope this isn't a surprise to anyone. At the, at this point in the history of leadership, if you do not support diversity and inclusion, then your employees will force you to, and you see that happening at Nike, Uber, Google, Netflix all have been in the news over the last year because of this issue.

So if this is something where for some reason, Your company or even yourself are still on the fence. Please get right, please get right. It is no longer an option to care about this. And then the final thing I'll leave you guys with I've tried to give you a lot of different tools today to think about leadership.

Now I'm going to be really, really honest with you, right? It may not be the case that everyone in your organization can become a leader. Right? It is actually really, really scary to be a leader, but I personally believe that everyone has potential. And I hope that you guys adopt that philosophy as well.

And leadership. Isn't something that you necessarily are going to train people. It isn't something that you're born with for sure. I think leadership emerges in a moment, a moment where someone wakes up and says like, this is a problem I am burning to solve. And I'm the only person that can step up and do it.

You as managers have the opportunity and the tools to create those moments for every single person in your organization. And if you haven't done it for yourself, maybe create those moments for yourself. So the final thing I want to leave you with is the most important, and it is the theme of this entire talk.

It is the idea that leaders are responsible for making new leaders. I've given you guys the tools. I'm trusting you to take it from here. So thank you.

About Calibrate—

Founded in 2015, Calibrate is a yearly conference for new engineering managers hosted by seasoned engineering managers. The experience level of the speakers ranges from newcomers all the way through senior engineering leaders with over twenty years of experience in the field. Each speaker is greatly concerned about the craft of engineering management. Organized and hosted by Sharethrough, it was conducted yearly in September, from 2015-2019 in San Francisco, California.