Episode 14 | The Rocky Road to Becoming an Engineering Leader with Nuno Antunes from Datadog

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January 11, 2022
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Episode 14 | The Rocky Road to Becoming an Engineering Leader with Nuno Antunes from Datadog

Senior Director of Engineering at Datadog, Nuno Antunes, joins us to talk about a highly requested topic: Transitioning from Software Engineer to Engineering Leader. From striking the right balance between being a people vs. process-oriented leader to the challenges of building teams in fast-growing companies, this episode is jam-packed with teachable moments, workshop approaches, and the organizational shifts we've witnessed through the years.

Here are a few of our favorite moments from the conversation

Every time someone starts the journey from an individual contributor to being a team lead, you see the same feeling of, "okay, what do I do? Where do I start? What does it mean to be a team lead?" Something that is very common is people taking either the people tour, they look at the people in the team, they want to take care of the team, they want to shield the team. It's more of a focus on happiness or motivation. And for other people, when they start leading they are looking for, "how can we deliver?" The processes and the organizational setup. Which is also important.

I think that when a portion of us talk about vulnerability, we have this expectation that because the way vulnerability looks, that it can look like therapy or something along those lines. And I don't believe that to be the case. I believe what it is is actually just showing that you're human. And you, just like everybody else, have similar human things.

I actually do believe as an industry, we are in our own Newton's Cradle. In the 80’s and 90’s, maybe even the early 2000’s, we had performance-based, almost maniacal leaders. We elevated people like Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs, and "visionaries", and I don't believe they were actually good leaders, but they "got many people on their organization to be motivated.”

But that was overly oriented to one side. And then there was a Zeitgeist that basically said: "No.” And it pulled Newton's cradle to the other side, which is we're going to talk about vulnerability in the therapy sense or only focus on culture without execution and outcome, and only focus on how you're feeling, and managers' jobs are to only make their teams safe and psychological safety. Which I think are all incredibly important elements, when they're in balance with execution.

People are more and more reflecting on their choices, what they want to do with their lives. There's a lot of people considering leaving the industry, changing jobs. There's this huge shift everywhere. We now need to be extra careful about making sure that people are not only comfortable and that they're delivering, but they also find there's a strong purpose to what they do. And seeing people leave for smaller companies, where they can have a bigger impact, work on areas like climate change. You see that more and more, which is interesting.

There are a lot of companies out there that are balancing that execution and great care for their people, going as far back as probably hundreds of years. But it's like you said, the zeitgeist of the moment is usually the polarizing ideas and I'm still always surprised the impact that the, let's call it even social media in this case, can have on shifting opinions and driving us in an industry from one side to the other. From people who x years ago would have been extremely strong believers of the GE style performance-only execution, and today are on the complete opposite side of the spectrum of “it's only about the happiness and health of my team.”

Ask for help, don't try to do it all on your own. It's a new role. So it requires new tools. You still probably don't master those tools and that's fine. You're learning something new, you need to crawl and then walk before you run. So find someone that can help you. If your manager is a great manager, a great leader. Perfect. If not, try to reach out. Mentor with some other people in your organization, outside the organization, read some books, join some communities, listen to this podcast. But don't just put it on your shoulders to make this journey on your own.  It's much easier when you have someone do it with you.

💡 Topic Explainers

🛠 Newton’s Cradle of People vs. Execution

Jason uses Newton’s Cradle to illustrate the high impact of one-sided leadership (i.e., being too focused on people’s happiness or too focused on execution and results).

Ultimately, this shows how important both people and execution are, and why leaders should aim to have a balanced approach.

Newton's Cradle of People vs Execution

🛠 Psychological Safety vs Accountability

One of the core topics of this episode is the idea that leaders often struggle with balancing between being people-driven or execution-driven, especially in the early stages of stepping into leadership positions.

What we want you to understand is the impact that the environments created by these leadership styles have on teams, and ultimately, results. For this, we borrowed a handy matrix (by now you must have caught on that we love them), adapted from Amy C. Edmondson’s teaming theory in “Positive Organizational Behaviour: A Reflective Approach”.

Source: "Positive Organizational Behaviour"; Pina e Cunha, Rego, Simpson and Clegg

Here’s a quick refresher on Psychological Safety and Accountability:

Psychological Safety: Work methods that reduce the pressures that team members face in their teams and create a work environment that allows them to act accordingly to their beliefs.

Accountability: Being results-driven and assuming individual responsibility for one’s work delivery.

🛠 Radical Candor: Having Difficult Conversations

The best-selling book by Kim Scott has already been featured in our Topic Explainers for Episode 3 “The Art of Making Good Decisions”.

Nuno talks about the positive impact that this book had on people from his teams when conducting leadership workshops, not only on a professional but on a personal level as well.

Episode Transcript

Eiso: [00:00:00] Welcome to developing leadership, thepodcast where I, Eiso Kant, and my cohost, Jason Warner, share our thoughts andlessons learned on engineering leadership.

Today, we have the Senior Director of Engineering atDatadog, Nuno Antunes, on the podcast Nuno is a seasoned Engineering Leader,wtih a track record as VP of Engineering at OutSystems the low-code DecaCorn,and subsequently VP of Engineering at, application security success, Sqreen.

Today, we're diving into a highly requested topic,transitioning from software engineer to engineering leader. From finding theright balance between being a people person and an execution driven leader, tothe challenges of leading teams in fast-growing companies.

If you're an engineering leader, this episode will shedsome light on shaping your team members into managers. And if you're a softwareengineer, listen in, as you might figure out what kind of leader you want tobe.

As always, this episode comes with accompanying shownotes, featuring our favorite moments from the chat and a deep dive intotoday's topics. Find them at developingleadership.co or linked at [00:01:00]description

Hi, everyone, we're back with another episode ofdeveloping leadership. Jason and I have a special guest with us today, Nuno onAntunes. Nuno is currently senior director of engineering at Datadog, a productthat most of us have used or are currently using. Nuno joined Datadog recentlyafter the company he had joined only a year prior as VP of Engineering Sqreen,got acquired. And that wasn't just his only success. Prior to that, he wentfrom Principal Engineer to VP of Engineering at OutSystems, the low code, well,10 times over unicorn today, where he, when he left, was VP of engineering andhave grown the team to over 200 engineers and product people that he wasresponsible for. Its a pleasure to have you with us today Nuno, this is thefirst time I'm doing an episode with someone who sits in the same city as me,which is fantastic.

Nuno: So happy to be here Eiso.

Eiso: So the idea for this episode and inviting Nuno cameactually out [00:02:00] of a lunch that Nuno and I were having eating grilledfish by the river, here in Lisbon Portugal. Where Nuno was talking to me abouta recent IC Software Engineer who had been promoted to team lead, and thejourney that she was undergoing.

And while this has been a popular topic that peoplehave requested, for Jason and I to talk about, I thought it would be great toshowcase it today from the point of view of a leader who has someone on theirteam making that transition. And so maybe we kickstart today by hearing alittle bit about, you, Nuno, how you looked at that and Jason and I willbombard you with questions for Sharon and share both our points of view aswell.

Nuno: Yes, yes, thanks a lot Eiso. Been doing this for awhile and every time someone starts this journey from an individual contributorto being a team lead, you see the same feeling of, "okay, what do I do?Where do I start? What does it mean [00:03:00] to be a team lead?

Something that is very common, typically from my experience, ispeople usually taking either the people tour, so they look at the people in theteam, they want to take care of the team that want to shield the team. It'smore of a focus on the happiness or their motivation. And for other people,when they start leading they are looking for, "how can we deliver,?"The processes, the organizational setup. Which is also important.

It's easy for people to get lost on what's relevant atwhat stage. And then obviously you see people falling into, just going to oneside of this, of the spectrum. And the secret here is, right, is the balance.There are so many questions that people have and making them feel comfortableand, and sharing that with you, that it's okay to ask questions and, and ourjobs as leaders there is [00:04:00] just to, to try to guide them into what'srelevant.

Jason: It'sinteresting, Nuno, that you know, that is what typically happens, those twopaths, because in my view, they're actually the main two paths that all leadersend up taking, is "am I going to start out being a people person, or am Igoing to start out being the process execution person?"

And in reality, you need both. And as you mentioned,you need both in your organization. But it's also amazing how far people canmake it in their career, focusing almost exclusively on one side. And then theycan become a little out of balance as they make it to VP of Engineering orexecutive. And, you know, you go back, and I wish you'd done things differentlyin the past. But it's one of the very first things I mentioned to people is,"Hey, this is a leadership position, which means that you can't focus onany one thing exclusively. You've got to have the overall viewpoint, which iswhat we do, or the execution side, and how we do it, the people side.

Nuno: Yes. Yeah, exactly. [00:05:00] Just a few months ago,actually I set up a workshop for, the, you have a couple of new team leads thatare, that are starting this journey, or just been doing it for one year or so.

So I did a workshop, some people, we did some verycool sessions on feedback, for instance, which is usually something that alsois hard for someone that is starting. We talked a lot about ownership, and oneof the topics we're talking about at the beginning, I was asking them,"okay, what makes a good team lead?" And then seeing where they,where this question would lead them.

The thing is this relation between. You see a lot ofpeople sharing, "oh, it's taking care of the team, the team is happy, theteam is motivated. The team is engaged." On the other side had, "theteam is delivering." And so, I usually like to frame this as like a scale.You know, the justice scale with the weights. On one side, you have happiness, [00:06:00]you have motivation, extrinsic, intrinsic. This is what, what makes the teamwork as a team, trust. On the other side, you need consistent and sustainabledelivery base.

If you just invest on one side. So if you just,"okay, I'm just focused on delivery. The team will keep it up." it'sdifficult to have this notion and be sustainable, because usually you'll bepushing very hard and you're not taking care of the people side. But the other,the other thing is also is also a problem. If you're just only focused on,"is my people happy," but if there's no delivery, then there's no waythat this is going to be sustainable in the longterm, because I mean, you cansay "oh the team is doing great," but if nothing is happening, thenover time... yeah.

Jason: It'sinteresting that you use a scale, because I use the two together when I havethis conversation with folks. And I find that you have to have this [00:07:00]conversation with folks really early in their career, and it's very helpful forthem. And you might not hear from them again until five years later when theywould say, "thank you so much for hitting me early with this one, becausenow I recognize this. But I use Newton's Cradle and the Justice Scale.

That's what you want, is you want the scale and youwant them to be particularly even, but if they move, just slightly, so that youcan understand how to orient it. Whereas with Newton's Cradle what itdemonstrates is, if you do this, there's a reaction. But it's such a strongreaction one way that there's a massive shift. So if you're going to shift fromexecution and you're only focused on execution and you're going to go all theway over to people's side and make everyone happy, it's a jarring result. Andthen equally, when it goes back, it's a jarring result.

And then eventually over time, you're going to findsome equilibrium and it'll slow down, et cetera, et cetera. But if youunderstand what I'm effectively trying to bad metaphor, there is you have tohave a balance. And if you don't have the balance, you're going to have areaction like Newton's Cradle at some point, because if you're not deliveringand everyone's happy, that's a [00:08:00] failure. Or if you're delivering andeveryone's miserable and quitting, that is a failure. So you're going to have areaction.

Eiso: And so, Nuno, you've seen this now in a very shortsuccession, at three very different companies, both in size, and, let's call itscale or maturity. What are some of the nuances or differences that you've seenwhen you were at OutSystems, that, say, grew quite rapidly in your final years,to over 200 engineers. To a Sqreen, where I think when you joined it was 25.And now a Datadog, which don't know how many engineers there are, but quite afew I can imagine.

Nuno: Yeah I think that the big difference, for instance,for a startup like Sqreen, is that you still, you still know everyone, so youcan be more, you can target your attention to every individual and be able toguide them. When you're on a big hypergrowth, like OutSystems in the, you know,or even Datadog now, which is also growing very, very [00:09:00] fast.You don't have this ability to be so close to everyone. You're always runningyourself. On the other hand, you have more support from a structure that youdon't have in a startup where, everything depends on you. When you're in a bigcompany, you can count on, recruitment, people business partners.

You have, there's training, internal training. So you have theseother areas that you can activate to support people growth. And that, to me, isprobably the biggest difference. In a startup, you're basically doing it onyour own. And you need to, to take care of your people. When the company is bigenough you'll have partners to help you do that.

Eiso: You mentioned the workshop that yourecently led. I'd love for you to double click on that a bit and go furtherinto, you know, what did that workshop look like? How was it structured? Whatwere some of the things that you walked away from going like, "wow, thosereally hit home with these young, or new engineering leaders who were makingthat [00:10:00] transition."

Nuno: Yeah. So we essentially, we started by talking tothese new leaders and ask them, " what do you feel are your biggestchallenges at the moment, your biggest questions?" And then we create aone day workshop, four or five different topics, feedback always a big thing.

We did a presentation on feedback. We did some roleplay, which is always fun to get people in the participating. And then in theend, something interesting. So, there's a book that I love, RadicalCandor. So I actually bought a copy of the book for everyone in theaudience. And a few weeks after we had a book club. So I basically askedeveryone to read the first four chapters and then we met and said, "okay,what did you learn? What were the findings? What did you find moreinteresting?" It was fun that, all the great feedback that people, uh, get[00:11:00] from, " after doing the workshop, after reading these chapters,I was finally able to give feedback to people that I never felt comfortabledoing before. I now see how important it is."

And again, andthat's part of the, of the growth that we were discussing from being an IC to aTeam Lead where suddenly looking at feedback as a, as an act of kindness andnot as an act of potential aggression. Once they get it, it's great. Actually,the day after the workshop I had someone that came to me and said "justwanted to share that today I gave feedback to someone and I was looking to doit for months. So now I finally got the motivation to do it and it was great.And the person thanked me." And I had people saying, "okay, yeah, I'mapplying this to my personal life as well." Which is so good. So this ismore on the feedback. Then we did more sessions on practical stuff. How to [00:12:00]run one-on-ones which again for someone starting, "how do I runone-on-ones, should I focus more on this and that?"

So these are all team leads that they're now startingto lead their own teams, but at the same time, they work together in thesecurity groups for, for Datadog. One of the important things that I wantedthem to also be aware is that they have two teams, essentially. They have theirteam, the ones that they are directly responsible for, but the group in theroom, it's also a team. Because at the end of the day, if one is verysuccessful and is delivering but the other is failing then the end goal, youdon't have a good result.

So, making sure that they were aware that the teamleads themselves are a team. And so they need to work as a team, they need tocommunicate, they need to share goals. And that's why [00:13:00] then we didthis exercise where we gathered everyone around the table, we had some cardsthat displayed different strengths.

And then every body, picked three cards. Which werethe strengths that they recognize, that then explained to the group why theyrecognize their strengths. And then the other people around the table were ableto call additional strengths that they were not aware of. And it was surprisingbecause many times people will go, "oh no, but you also have this strengthbecause I've seen it here and here and there." And this is very powerfulin creating strong relations.

And then after a round talking about strengths, weasked, "okay, let's do around talking about not the weakness, but thestrength that you would need to, to develop. And everybody, again, being openand showing some vulnerability about, "okay, this is something that Iclearly need to work on." Feedback from the team.

[00:14:00] Andit was clear that after that session, and people still talk about it thesedays,how great the session was, to make sure that there's transparency withinthe group. Everybody is okay about being vulnerable about what they need to, todevelop. This was a great moment for the team. Then we did some more, two orthree sessions about mission, feedback, about what does it mean to be a teamlead. But I'd say that these were the highlights.

Eiso: You mentioned vulnerability and being vulnerable. AndI'd love to ask both of you actually. I'll start with you, Jason, and thenwe'll segment back to Nuno.

How do you look at the importance of vulnerability andopenness? Particularly for leaders early in their career. And how do youencourage people to develop that? And maybe Nuno, you can even add a little bitmore color to the book you just mentioned, Radical Candor, that I'm a big fanof. I don't know if you've read it, Jason, but I know you'd love it [00:15:00]if you haven't.

Jason: Yeah. I'veread that a couple of times. On topics of vulnerability, actually quite a few ofthe topics I think that we talk about in management leadership today in general,I have a very similar viewpoint on, which is, vulnerability is a good examplehere.

I think that when a portion of us talk about that, we have thisexpectation that, you know, because the way the vulnerability looks that it canlook like therapy or something along those lines. And I don't believe that tobe the case. I believe what it is is actually just showing that you're human.And you, just like everybody else, have similar human things.

So a good example of this is sometimes I'll wake up and I wakeup with headaches sometimes, and I'll go into a meeting early in the morningand I'll just say, "Hey, just so you all know, like you're getting aversion of me that doesn't look the same as normal, because I've got a prettybig headache today and I expect it will go away in a couple hours." or"I didn't sleep well that night." and I can say like, !I don'tknow," or "I'm not sure." And [00:16:00] to me,those are actually vulnerable in modern, unfortunately, modern tech. Those arevulnerable moments because there's an expectation that everyone would have itall sorted out. So for me, that's what I'm really trying to show.

I do think like when you go to the other side of thefence example on the vulnerability and say, "Hey, this is all abouttherapy." Like that's, again, that's like out of balance with what it isbecause vulnerability could also be, "I want to have a hard conversationwith you. That is uncomfortable for me just as much, but I'm not going to saythat because that's not what leaders do. They don't, they don't make it aboutthemselves, they make it about you. But this is going to be a really toughconversation, you know?" That's vulnerable.

Nuno: Yeah, totally, totally. Well, that's a, that's a verygood point, Jason, the fact that sometimes just being able to say, "Idon't know when someone starts in a new leadership position, they feel thispressure to know it all, because they feel that they're going to fail if theyjust say, "I don't know." And the point with this exercise is exactlythat, so [00:17:00] that yeah, you should be comfortable because it's actuallythe best thing. And we were here to help you.

Jason: It'sinteresting because "I don't know" what I do tell people is usuallyalmost all answers or things in life in general, but particularly in leadershipwhen you're running companies and as you get higher and higher. There are twopart answers. And so the first part might be, "I don't know." And asyou left it there, it might become unacceptable. But if you said "I willfigure it out", that's the way to do it.

Nuno: Exactly.

Jason: And so whatyou try to show people is it's okay to do this. It's okay to not know, but it'snot okay to just let it sit there and then kind of wash your hands of thesituation. You've got to then be able to say, "I don't know, but I'm goingto go figure it out." And then on the flip side, there's a, unfortunatelyagain in 2021, there's an element of trust that needs to go in that the otherperson, the other side of the table is not going to flip the table on you forsaying the first part. They're going to listen for the second part. But youknow, there's a lot of modern [00:18:00] leaders out there who don't operatethat way.

Eiso: So Jason, I'm going to put you on the spot becausein, in the last two minutes you referenced, you know, "in today's..."or 2021. What has changed recently or what is, what do you feel is currently inthe air that is making you add that last little part to it of, "Hey, in2021," what is the, where are we today and how have we got there? And I'mgoing to throw you on the spot after as well, Nuno, how you look at this.

Jason: Iactually do believe as an industry, we are in our own Newton's Cradle, which isbabies in the nineties, maybe the early two thousands where. Performance-basedalmost maniacal leaders, like we elevated people like Larry Ellison and Stevejobs, "visionaries" like that, who I don't believe were actually goodleaders, but they "got many people on their organization to bemotivated," et cetera, et cetera. But that was like overly oriented to oneside. And then there was a Zeitgeist that [00:19:00] basicallysaid: "No. And it pulled Newton's cradle to the other side, which is we'regoing to talk about vulnerability in the therapy sense or only focus on culturewithout execution and outcome, and only focus on how you're feeling, andmanagers' jobs are to only make their teams safe and psychological safety,which I think are all incredibly important elements, when they're in balancewith execution.

And that's the point, as an industry. I feel like we've all gonethat way. Not all of us, but you know what I'm saying? Likethe major Zeitgeist has gone that way. And I believe both of them individuallyby themselves are wrong. Both of those need to be put together and done well.And that's actually what real leadership looks like.

And I think there's always been leaders who have done both, butfor whatever reason, there's a zeitgeisty ish type of narrative that hashappened in each one of the various time epocs that we're different. And oursright now. Like particularly on social media, [00:20:00] ittends to be about one side of the fence or another. And I actually think we're,we're slightly going away from that now, too. If you look at social media, manypeople are actually gravitating back towards execution, primarily because,there are so many people that have realized, "well, if we're only on thisside of the fence, we're actually not achieving business outcomes.

Nuno: Yeah. And on my experience, there's nothing that'smore exciting and engaging, as achieving those business outcomes. Soultimately, that's that's what makes teams excited and happy. So whatever wecan do to make that happen, it's great.

Getting back to the point, Eiso, I think it's something thatI've seen change recently with, all the pandemic, people are more and morereflecting about they're choices, what they want to do with their lives.There's a lot of people considering leaving the industry, changing jobs. Yousee how there's this huge shift everywhere. [00:21:00] Ithink that this puts an extra, we now need to be extra careful about makingsure that people find not only comfortable and that they're delivering, butthey also find there's a strong purpose to what they do. I think it's becomingmore and more relevant, the purpose. And seeing people leave for smallercompanies, where they can have bigger impact, work on areas like climatechange. You see that more and more, which is, which is interesting. But then aswe manage our teams, it's something that it's clear that I feel it changing.

Jason: I agreeentirely with that. I think what's happening is a lot more employees haveagency in their own lives and they're realizing that they are able to makethese choices. And so they can choose the duality, which is what they work onand who they do it with. And, because of that. I think that we're starting tosee a lot of those shifts.

I feel incredibly lucky, given my age, what I've seenin the industry, but I do also feel like I'm [00:22:00] in between certainstages. If I was born five years earlier, versus five years later, as anexample, what would be the difference in my views on life or optionality? But Ithink like five years from now, you're going to see a whole lot of people whohave realized, as employees and as programmers or whatever, they actually holda lot of power in the situation. And just 2005, as an example, nobody would saythat about employees and particularly, you know, going after, you know, 1999 to2001 and '07 and '08, even. So it's, it's a great time to be an employee inthat regard. And it's incumbent upon leaders to recognize this and change.

And I think we've started to see that. You see asofter version of Microsoft than when Bill Gates and Steve Balmer were there,but they've over oriented to one side of the fence. They're still good. Nowthey're pushing back towards execution. Now you can see in some of the languagethey're talking about. It's interesting. I think if you look at the macrotrends, it's quite interesting.

Eiso: It feels like almost every macro trend that we cantalk about [00:23:00] is always a pendulum shift. Right? It's there's always aboom and a bust. There's always an extreme and nothing is ever a zeitgeist ifit isn't polarizing, because otherwise it's just boring.

There are a lot of companies out there that are balancing thatexecution and great care for their people, going as far back as probablyhundreds of years. But it's like you said, the zeitgeist of the moment isusually the polarizing ideas and I'm still always surprised the impact thatthe, let's call it even social media in this case, can have on, on shiftingopinions and driving us in an industry from one side to the other.

From people who, you know, X years ago would have been extremelystrong believers of the GE style performance-only execution. And today are onthe complete opposite side of the spectrum of it's only about the happiness andhealth of my team, and the . Execution side is less balanced. And I think, likeyou mentioned, there's a part of it, which is agency that everyone is gettingthemselves, and that also comes, I think, with more wealth in tech, bettersalaries for people who are building software. The fact [00:24:00]ofbeing able to go remote gives you a lot more optionality.

But at the same time, when we look at this, what we'rehaving is, when we look at the smaller companies, right, Startups, et cetera,there you don't have choice. Because you will die if it's only about everyonebeing happy, right? So you have to ship.

And that's, Ithink Nuno where you say that at the end of the day, every engineer I've evermet and worked with, and myself included, at the end of the day, when you seeand feel that sense of, "Hey, we're bringing value to the end user, we'reshipping with a great pay, like we're getting things out there." That allof us gets us more excited than almost anything else. But of course, thefoundation of psychological safety and happiness of work needs to be there.

Nuno: Yeah, definately. And sometimes the challenges is howdo you connect that delivery two outcomes, whether it's user satisfaction orbusiness value. Sometimes I have this story, when I joined the screen, theother part of the team that was working on agents, building agents. So it'sinstrumentation, really [00:25:00] low level, really detailed code. So it'srunning on a customer application. So it needs to be very, very, very, very lowperformance, never breaks.

So when I joined, they had this Dashboard, where theybasically had the tickets. The dashboard showed: critical, high, medium,tickets, number, growth. So it's just very operational and something that I wastrying to change, as we shifted more from a one side engineer, one side to aproduct engineer organization where everyone was together, but business impactand outcomes were the goals.

I started todiscuss with, with some people "how can we make their work closer to thebusiness? So, we realized that. We could identify the ARR that each of these languageswere generating. So we had people working in Java, [00:26:00] Ruby, Python.Seven different languages.

And so we created this dashboard that showed us howmany customers, what's the ARR and in showed how all the different languageswe're growing. And that not only created some, a little bit of gameificationfor the team, but also started to change the mindset of the team more towardsthe business.

I remember before the acquisition from Datadog, wewere doing OKRs and had one of these agent engineers that said, "okay, Iwant my OKR for this quarter to be, I want to have the go agent reachhalf amillion in ARR." So suddenly his goal was not to eliminate, uh, softtickets or to have zero tickets. It was, it was a business goal. And from herethen he wanted to talk to product people. He wanted to talk to sales. He wantedto talk to people, so "how can I make this [00:27:00] happen?" Andthings change there. It's interesting. It's still related to motivation andgetting people to focus on something bigger than just their work and get themexcited about purpose.

Eiso: I love this Nuno. You know this is my jam. And, atthe end of the day, like I am a very, very strong believer and I know you areas well, Jason, at the end of the day, if you can show people the true impactof their work and allow everyone to really align, like what are the goals forus as a business, as a team-first mentality as a whole company, you end upgetting the most magic happening, because anybody who says that a singleengineer in a low-level part of the stack does not care about the impact thatthey have, no matter if those users are an internal team or external customersis lying. Because I haven't come across those yet.

We all lovebuilding software and we love building it for people. So I love what you didthere. And it's, and I think you guys are in a unique position where you havesuch a clear line, right, of being able to say, "Hey, agent in thislanguage leads to that revenue. Unfortunately not every business, that [00:28:00]line is as clear, but hopefully over time it does become that clear foreveryone.

Jason: I was goingto say, I think it's actually incumbent upon leaders to try to draw some ofthose lines sometimes for people too. Nuno, if you listen to the podcast, youknow, sometimes I delve into sports metaphors and I'll do it again here becauseI like to.

I think that a coach in a sports team's job sometimesis to explain the overall, you know, you got to win the game, we've got toscore the points. But then sometimes they got to do the subtlety too. It's likethe reason why we're going to block this way on this play is because we wantthe outcome of this play to look this way and it dictates that.

And so it helps them to explain the overall concepts.And I think once they can draw those lines, and they can help train the folksto start thinking about those things, that way, which is what I heard you justsay, is over time, these, engineers themselves start to think that way. Thenyou know you can win, because then you could scale too. You can bring broader,more complex concepts in and people will understand it. Because they willthemselves [00:29:00] break it down.

So I think it's incumbent upon leaders to try to drawthose lines, teach and continue to do that, and then the next generation, thisis where it becomes critically important. The next generation of leader needsto do that. They need to then take on that mantle and not expect that the old-that you and I and our CTO or VP of Engineering will continue to do Their jobis to help draw those lines, too.

Nuno: Exactly that's, I also like to frame it to, to theteam that our job as leaders is not to do the job is to provide guidance and tohave very clear priorities what's most important at this stage, and then helpthem create these frameworks or these metrics or proxy metrics or north stars,however you want to call them. And help them get to a level where the team canconnect to it. Because sometimes, Eiso as you were mentioning, sometimes it'shard to correlate the work of a team with [00:30:00] ARR.

So we need to find something in the middle. Okay, ifit's not ARR, what are the proxy metrics that we know we anticipate will begood proxy metrics. Okay. Is this enought for the? Okay. Not enough. So let'sgo one level down. Finding that, again, that balance where we find metrics thatthe team can understand and that okay. We know how we can influence this. thisis part of my world. And getting to that point, I think that as leaders, to me,that's the best thing you can do for your team.

Jason: There's a,now friend,at GitHub, a long time ago, who was reporting to me, and saidsomething along the lines of "yes, every once in a while I find myself ina position, I just keep thinking to myself, WWJD, What Would Jason Do?" Isaid, that's great, but really what would Jason do? Answer the next question.But why? Why would you do that? And if you can get to that point and get yourteam to start saying, "we're going to do this, and here's the reasonwhy." Again, now we're [00:31:00] winning.

Eiso: I love that. And so, Nuno, I want to come back onsomething that is segmenting a little bit to earlier of the episode. When youand I have lunch, you said something to me that totally stuck with me, whichsays: you have this new leader who had just become a team lead and you told heryou do not work for HR.

Can you elaborate a little bit on that? Cause I thinkthat's an important thing for people to understand.

Nuno: Yes, definitely. So, yeah. And that's related to whatwe were discussing earlier, about moving just towards one side of the scale.And in this case, clearly the people scale was overweighting, and it's easy forpeople to, to get excited, especially if you're, if you have a good instinct,if you are a people person, you'll try to do it. And I was in this situationwhere I was seeing that this person was more and more involved with the peopleside of management and less involved in the technical or the release side.

So I was obviously [00:32:00] trying to guide thisperson, but there was a moment, where again, radical candor, there's thismoment where you need, after showing you care, let's be very clear. And that'swhen I use this idea that you don't work for HR. So if she's just concernedabout the people topics, this is just too narrow for your function. Andactually that led to a great discussion where, "okay, maybe I think I I'mgood at this, so maybe I could pursue this as a career."

And then my advice at this stage would be "Okay,obviously that's an option, but if you do that, then you're going to be soclose to HR that in terms of career, in terms of, your differentiation, you'regoing to play head to head with HR people. So in terms of the value that youcan bring to a company, people that [00:33:00] can balance the two together anddo a great job, they are not that common. So, and you have it. So if I were inyour shoes, I would clearly invest on having these two roles, because in thiscase, as there's all the potential to do that. But again, personalchoice." But that was by advice.

Eiso: We've spoken about going too far on the people sideor, or going too far on the delivery side. Well, I know that Jason I've coveredin quite a few episodes talking about the, let's call it the soft skills or, orthe people's side, or someone recently said "the soft skills are actuallythe hard skills."

But in terms of, of taking this new leader that youwere just talking to, what tools are you providing her to be able to developthe side that is really around delivery. And also maybe what we were justtalking about. How does someone who has just become a team lead draw for theirteam, the link to the actual impact that the team is [00:34:00] looking tohave?

Nuno: Essentially the, it's all about making sure that thebusiness and the technology, it's part of their responsibilities. So being ableto guide the team, not only in the people topics, but also in business,reminding them, asking questions, understanding what they're doing from atechnology point of view. Being able to challenge them on all these areas. Thisis extremely important.

Also to earn their trust as a leader, especially whenyou're starting, if you don't show that you can also be a good tech lead thatyou understand the business that you know how to have impact, usually you mighttend to struggle a little bit there. To really earn the trust of the team, ifyou can work on that side so that, so that you can influence and you can guidethem also on these areas, it's usually much more powerful.

Jason: I like tohave this [00:35:00] conversation with folks when I find that they, again,going back to balance, they're kind of out of balance. And I find that peoplecan get out of balance in many different ways, but a very common one is to beout of balance on the people's side. But if you want to reframe it, which is,extracurricular this is how I do it, which is, "Hey, when the job is done,when your core job is done and you've got time left, how can you spend thattime? It is up to you. We can figure that out based on your interests and skillsand abilities and that nature. But if the core job is not done and that, thatis not there, you've not earned the right to go do the other things justyet." And you, if you start to reframe it that way it helps peopleunderstand.

And then there might be an expectation, mismatchdifference too, which is, "Well, I understand. But I don't actually enjoythat portion of the job, I prefer these." Then we have a roll mismatchbecause the job is the stuff you dislike. And if you like the other things thatthere is a [00:36:00] core function that looks like that, and some other partof the org in all likelihood. And if that's what you want to focus on, then wecan go put you over there, which I think is what you were saying with,"you don't work for HR" in that specific scenario. So if you wantedto focus on that, we can, we could have that discussion, but it wouldn't be inthis role. This role has something different and we need something differentout of that role.

Eiso: I think that's a great final summary. I'd love foryou, Nuno,to leave us with some parting words today. And particularly for people who arethinking about making the shift to become a team lead or people who haverecently done so.

Nuno: I think that getting back to vulnerability, ask forhelp, don't try to do it all on your own. Make sure to get some support. It'svery easy to be lost. It's a new role. So it requires new tools. You stillprobably don't master those tools and that's fine. That's fine. you're learningsomething new, you need to crawl and then walk before you [00:37:00] run.So that's fine. So find someone that can help you. If your manager is a greatmanager, a great leader. Perfect. If not, try to reach out, mentor with someother people in your organization, outside the organization, read some books,join some communities, listen to this podcast. But don't, don't just put it onyour shoulders to make this journey on your own. It's much easier when you havesomeone do it with you.

Eiso: Thank you so Nuno, this was fantastic.

Nuno: Thank you Eiso, thank you Jason, it's been [00:38:00]great.