This week’s articles include “Create space for others” by Will Larson, “What does sponsorship look like?” by Lara Hogan, and “Be Impatient” by Ben Kuhn.

Create space for others

Author Will Larson

This post on Larson’s blog dives into the idea of staff-plus engineers creating space for others. The transition from senior-level IC to a staff-plus role can mean that the organization benefits from, but doesn’t rely upon, your contributions. Instead of maximizing personal impact, you’d want to maximize a team’s.

Larson breaks down a few examples of how (and why) to create space for other:

  • shift your focus to asking the right questions, giving others the opportunity to answer
  • bring others into meetings when they might be valuable
  • help others to make decisions by writing down your process
  • change your mind if you need to
  • sponsor others!

The section on sponsorship led me to the next post.

What does sponsorship look like?

Author: Lara Hogan

Hogan explains sponsorship: the idea that you do work to raise up people’s names, instead of “just” mentoring them and giving them advice (not to say that mentorship isn’t helpful, too). Examples of sponsorship include fighting to get someone a promotion, mentioning their name for opportunities, and making sure they are visible in an organization.

What members of underrepresented groups in tech often need most is opportunity and visibility, not advice. They have to work extremely hard and be extremely good at what they do to combat the systemic privilege and unconscious bias at play in our work environments. They are consistently under-promoted and under-compensated for this work, even though it’s excellent work.

Hogan gives several other examples: suggesting someone who could be a good project lead or facilitator, encouraging someone to wrie a new blog post or give a talk, sharing excellent work they did, or citing them as having taught you something new. “Any time you can, overtly or not, help those around you see the skill set or experience of someone, that’s a sponsorship opportunity.”

Finally, she concludes with a section on being a better mentor. This starts off with listening well, since as a mentor you likely have limited exposure to the challenges your mentee will face. (And believe them!) And if you’re mentoring someone with less power or privilege, learn about effective allyship.

Be Impatient

Author: Ben Kuhn

This blog post confesses “to the sin of impatience,” but then tries to convince us that it’s a good thing. The habit of asking “how could this thing take less calendar time” is a powerful one, Kuhn argues.

Being impatient is the best way to get faster at things. And across a surprising number of domains, being really fast correlates strongly with being effective.

Some examples:

  • email: many famous people read their own email and are universally good at responding quickly; anything with friction gets done “later.”
  • startups: launching and iterating quickly are huge predictors of a startup’s success; this much is known. This bubbles down to metrics of how quickly you deploy software.
  • websites & tools: users dramatically prefer faster webpages, and more generally “having faster tools changes how users use a tool or perform a task.”
  • personal workflow: many good engineers will have invested time in making common tasks efficient.
  • negotiations: moving someone through the hiring process faster makes them much more likely to accept an offer. Following up on networking connections faster means that people remember you.

I can see examples of this in my life. Instant rebuilds of a website change how I code (iterating faster and testing more intermediates) compared to projects where I don’t have instant feedback.

The main benefit of being fast, Kuhn writes, “is that you end up doing different things.” I love this!