Articles I read this week. Highlights include notes on drafting an engineering strategy and reducing “attention residue” (focusing on life admin & self care).

On drafting an engineering strategy

Author: Mathias Meyer (found from Pointer)

Summary: this is a blog post about the actual practice of creating an organizational-wide engineering strategy, and not just on the importance of having one. Meyer spent a great deal of time listening to people throughout the engineering org, learning how people and teams had arrived at decisions, and ultimately to find shared understanding with the team.

Meyer defined an “objective” as “a longer term goal that requires multiple steps and likely a longer stretch of work to get it implemented fully.” These should be linked to business strategy (which, especially at startups, may not always be clear). Making these open to feedback is also essential.

Thoughts: wow, this just makes me wish for this kind of transparency and openness in my org. A document that outlined the eng team’s mission, objectives that steer the technical direction, and process improvements to make life easier would be great to have! More generally, I thrive on context for what I’m doing, and so understanding how my work fits into the bigger picture is helpful.

How to reduce attention residue in your life

Author: Madeleine Dore (found from Pointer)

Summary: a large part of why many feel overwhelmed, the author argues, is that “life admin” (administrative tasks in your life—paying bills, doing laundry, going to classes, etc.) can feel endless. Some Australian universities have created a Get Your Life In Order (GYLIO) week to encourage students to refocus, create a schedule, and get back on track.

The article continues with discussion about how this can be beneficial for adults, too. Making a giant list of everything you’ve been putting off, then prioritizing which to do in an hour and doing them, can be positive reinforcement to continuing to do these tasks.

The author cautions against creating the illusion that you can do all this in a day; truly taking control of life admin takes sustained effort. They also recommend doing some things immediately so that they never make it onto your to-do list, though this can break the focus of something else.

Thoughts: life admin is endless—that’s why it feels that way—but that’s precisely the point of a strategy like this. I think a lot of the real value here can be attributed to treating life admin as you do anything else that I block out time for, like dinner with friends or meetings at work.

One of the most challenging parts of my post-graduation life has been coping with the idea that it never stops. I’m writing this before work, then I’ll go to work, and I’ll go to work three more days this week, and fortyish more weeks this year, and many more years after this one. Unlike the 10-week quarters at Northwestern with well-defined end dates, work just keeps going.

In college, I had untouchable days in my last quarter that I reserved for introspection and deep, focused work. I’ve thrown around the idea of doing the same for adult life, too, where I do that either at work or on a day off from work.

Other, shorter articles

Scaling to 100k users talks about how to handle the transition from no users to hundreds of thousands of users. Progressively, you can think about splitting out the database layer, separating the clients & API, adding a load balancer, adding a CDN, scaling the data layer, adding caching, and adding read replicas. I don’t expect to have to use any of this, but it’s always good to learn more.

How to do high-bar code review without being a jerk is another “strategies for good code reviews” article. There are suggestions for general team suggestions (use a linter, have a style guide) and for how to actually dive into a PR (start big picture, then the central class(es), and take it offline if things get out of hand). The advice “If there really are 50 significant flaws in the PR, take the review offline. As someone who can see these flaws, it is your responsibility to help the submitter learn” is some of my favorite in the post.