Today’s a big day – episode 31 of Developing Leadership is out, where you’ll hear me in conversation with Eiso Kant (CEO & co-founder, Athenian) and Jason Warner (MD Redpoint, previously CTO at Github, Canonical, Heroku).
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to discuss what leading with spoons really means: how I lead and get results by helping others discover and honor their own greatness.
Eiso and Jason were amazing – I always learn something new from them, every time, so I do hope you’ll check it out!
I’m also excited to share that I’m kicking off the search for my next leadership role!
Please read more about me, what I am looking for, and testimonials from my work this year below.
Summary: I manage managers, Staff+ engineers, multiple teams, mission-critical teams, parts of orgs, DevOps teams, Platform teams (directly and managing EMs). I’ve led teams that plan and ship new product lines at two companies. I’ve also managed managers that lead established teams for core infrastructure. As an engineering leader I create and teach processes for inclusive interviewing, performance management, scaling/growth, career development and career ladders, capacity planning, and budgets. I’ve led teams with some of the following primary tools and technologies: Python, Ruby, JS, Mobile dev (iOS and Android), Kubernetes, Kafka, Terraform, and a bevy of AWS.
Creating teams of owners
I focus on outcomes, not output, and create teams of owners who deeply understand the mission and how we’re making a difference for our community of users and customers. I lead engineering so that everyone sees the value, every day, of both building a strong company and creating an amazing legacy for themselves. I coach managers to guide every engineer to be able to articulate how every ticket supports our OKRs and makes a real difference for our customers, while also helping them grow and stretch as ICs.
Building real trust and safety in engineering
Every company wants empowered engineers, but trust is the foundation for empowerment — and many teams lack trust. I’ll teach your managers and leaders how to foster trust with my suite of tools around recommended best practices for 1:1s, career development frameworks, performance management, feedback, career ladders and visioning, capacity planning, and more.
Championing the customer
I started my journey tech years ago in front line tech support, and I’ve retained that empathy and passion for the customers since then – from working as a developer to leading orgs as a Director. (I’ve actually been customer-obsessed for way longer, as a small business owner, but we can talk about that over coffee.) I’d love to work for a company that is truly committed to providing a delightful and unique customer experience.
Fostering blameless learning culture
As someone who has always myself to a high standard, I am a devoted student in the school of self compassion; science and psychology have shown us that we learn and grow best when we feel safe to screw up. I champion experimentation and learning from incidents, and show managers how to offer the same for their engineers.
Hiring diverse teams
I have a proven track record building diverse and inclusive teams with world-class technical hires. But I don’t just get folks in the door, I create environments where they feel heard, valued, respected, and want to stay. And better still, I recognize talent and have directly and successfully advocated for the promotion of multiple stellar engineers and managers from underrepresented backgrounds.
Building the structures for enhancing and sustaining diversity
Not only will I directly hire and promote diverse teams, but I’ll teach all of engineering how to change the way they interview to be more inclusive, create better candidate experiences, and get better outcomes. I align with People/Talent and the leadership team to change the actual processes for our company. In my most recent role, I wrote, introduced, and directly trained ~100 managers, directors, and engineers on a new engineering interview format that we used in a growth period when we added ~100 more new engineers, managers, directors, and contractors. If diversity and inclusion is one of your company KPIs, you want me on your team.
Bringing proven DevOps experience
As a leader, I’ve been putting the recommended practices and principles of Accelerate to work for over five years and have some wonderful stories to tell about breaking down silos between dev and SRE, enhancing ownership, creating SLOs, SLIs, and SLAs, reducing toil, and seriously paying down tech debt while shipping every day. I’ve also been on call, served as release manager, and organized incident reviews to support our learning culture.
Leading tough conversations with compassion
Not many managers can say that when they’ve had to let someone go, the person responded with “thank you for all you’ve done to help and guide me. It’s been so evident that you wanted me to win” — but I have. I take my responsibility seriously, I introspect deeply, and I lead tough conversations with compassion — which is why Lead Dev asked me to teach their course on managing underperformance.
Nurturing and retaining Staff+ Engineers with real career paths
From my first Director role, I’ve been fortunate to manage some very senior engineers — so I’ve long since internalized the need to nurture them and provide real career paths. (I wrote a whole post about it that was featured on Software Lead Weekly!) I’ll work 1:1 and with cohorts of Staff+ engineers to ensure that they are engaged, connected, and have satisfying career paths, and with engineering leaders to update or create relevant career path frameworks, ladders, etc.
In my role, it’s not enough to do all of the above on my own – I must grow others. I scale my leadership by teaching the managers and senior staff who report to me, and other managers in the org, how to do the same through by meeting in 1:1s, leading manager cohorts, and providing mentorship.
Leading remote teams
Yes, I’ve been doing it for more than five years.
And doing it all with heart
I’m an earnest, kind-hearted soul from the south (USA). My accent and my gentleness, and my own disinterest in self-promotion, have caused a few folks to overlook me. But make no mistake, I am a transformative force with the track record to prove it. I can help you create and foster the culture of your dreams. If you’re ready, let me know!
What I’m looking for
So now you’ve heard what I offer. What am I looking for?
- An executive leadership team that is introspective, listens, welcomes feedback, and seeks to grow. I will have to give you difficult feedback about your teams and practices, and I want it to be treated with care.
- A product leadership team with a vision and execution skills that wants to truly partner with engineering, design, and user research to create delightful customer experiences. I often have to play a significant role in product leadership, visioning and execution alongside my engineering duties. I would love to work with a strong Product team.
- A culture that understands that we can do best for our customers if we do best for our people. You offer competitive salaries, benefits, inclusive healthcare, time off, professional development, and more.
- Integrity is #1 – I will listen to and learn from diverse voices who speak truth to power, and I will create and protect spaces where they are heard. I don’t command and control and you won’t be able to command and control me.
- Interview process – I expect the interview process to be humane and truly focused on getting to know me and finding mutual fit, rather than putting me through arbitrary tests. I have years of experience writing interview materials and training engineering orgs around reducing bias in hiring. I expect to speak with my direct manager, a VP of engineering, someone from Product leadership, a leader or IC in Design, and an executive. I expect to be interviewed by those who will report to me (non-code test; again focused on how we’ll actually work together). I can move quickly, but we shouldn’t rush.
- Work-life respect and balance – I work (very) hard, but I don’t want my work to be my life. I need time to rest and restore – to work in my garden, be a great partner, cook, make music, and write. I don’t have work Slack or other apps on my phone – I create systems where that’s not necessary. When I disconnect at the close of my workday, I’ll see you tomorrow. I’m based in Nashville, Tennessee, USA.
Thanks so much for reading. If it sounds good, please contact me here, on Twitter at @adriennefriend, or on LinkedIn.
PS: Here are a few things folks who worked with me in the last six months have to say about our work together:
EM: “There is so much from you to steal. All of the decks you’ve put together, the doc templates, the types of questions you ask. I’m just really going to miss that. And I just wanted to share my favorite memory of you, somehow you discerned that I like pie and you sent me a pie and it was the biggest surprise and also the best pie.”
Staff Engineer: “Thank you so much for being there for me. For listening to me complain about things. Not just saying ‘oh that’s nice’ but actually coming back and saying ‘and this is how we are going to fix it’ and then immediately putting together a plan. It was such a transformative difference, I wasn’t even expecting it. But now I will.”
Senior EM: “I think you’re exceptional and I’m frankly jealous of the people who report to you, because you really support them, hold them accountable, and you show how much you care the whole time.”
Director, QA: “There was a tough situation that you came into. I was always inspired with how you took control of that situation and did the right thing. And also when we talked, you were just really kind to me, which was really refreshing. I felt like you saw me and all the work that I’ve done here. And you did it in a really warm encouraging way.”
EM: “You’ve been a great influence on me, I’ve been really honored to work with you, and you’ve really helped me in my career. Your attention to detail, knowledge of different processes, empathy for different people — these are all things I want to see in the executive team and upper leadership.”
Senior Product Manager: “I was not your PM counterpart, but seeing you from across the org, it was amazing to see your leadership, how much you cared, how much you advocated for your teams, how much you advocated for the engineering org, and how much you listened. I think that’s a big theme. You really listen in a way that I haven’t seen before.”
Test Engineer: “If I had a concern, though something could be improved, you were someone who listened to me. I appreciate the pride you took in your work, how much you wanted to improve the engineering org as a whole. I think you really left an impact here. You really set the standard of your position really really high.”
Senior II: “After your boss left, I thought maybe there’s going to be some friction and adjustment period. But the moment I met you I felt like ‘I need to stand up a little straighter, pay a little more attention, have more sense of urgency—and I don’t need to worry. Because Adrienne is going to be focused and she is going to make me focused.’ You do set high standards for yourself and everyone around you, and you are able to do it in a way that is very loving. That is a theme that I keep hearing. You are always actively supporting people and expressing that care and genuine human compassion, very openly, and that makes it so much more satisfying to work with somebody who also wants you to drive and deliver and be urgent. That is a rare combination.”
Staff Engineer: “There was, not too long after you started, a tough situation that you helped me though. I really want to double down and say thank you for that.”
Staff Engineer: “I feel incredibly lucky to have reported to you, I’ve learned so much from your management style.”
Senior EM: “I appreciate your deep level of thoughtfulness in communication, how you handle things. Every interaction I’ve had with you has been deeply thoughtful, considerate, planned and organized. You have this uncanny ability to be fully present in a meeting and chatting at the same time to the point where you are basically completing our sentences for us as we are thinking of them. The concern and care that you show for your teammates and for the people you have brought into this org and mentored, I hope to become that for others.”
Staff Engineer: “You’ve put in a lot of work and effort to create relationships here, to provide that space and trust and safety in your managing relationships, and that is very rare. That is really rare. You care deeply about your people and it shows.”