Engineering Managers Interviews
#1 Luis Castro: Dare To Break Some Rules
#1 episode of Deconstructing Engineering Managers is about breaking the rules, soft skills, collaboration on tech specs, and fresh air on what it means to be a real full-stack developer
“We wanted to follow some rules but we wanted to break some of the other rules. That’s the whole character of Tom Cruise, the Maverick — dare to follow the military rules but at the same time give it a little twist to make some new moves that nobody has ever done.”
All in a healthy way in an org, of course! Luis is also a co-host of a podcast “No Es Sólo Código”, which is in Spanish and means “It’s Not Only Code” where he and Alexis Duran talk about everything it takes to be a developer:
“There is a lack of people sharing their experiences through the whole journey of being a developer.” You will mostly find videos and articles about tech excellence but not about everything around the coding itself — “What is the management journey, what is your team journey, how do you feel like an individual in a team how to collaborate, all of those soft skills that people are postponing — it’s not important now. (…) Yes it is important now”
Full-stack Developer is a true Product Developer
Luis is a Full-stack Developer and a Tech Lead and he has a very interesting view of what it means to be a true Full-stack Developer — watch out because he won’t mention much technology knowledge there:
“To me, a full-stack is a true Product Developer. Someone that can understand what are the design needs, what are the business model needs, what are the product needs, and how to deliver fast from the back-end to the front-end, etc. So they can manage all the tools in the toolset and that also includes tools that are for product owners and tools for designers etc. This way you can make decisions and judgment calls on things that aren’t in our area of expertise but that still you have knowledge about.”
We continue to talk about the interview process and how the developers' interviews are done in Cameo and used to be done in Free Now where we worked together for around two years. How to involve the team, empower them to take part in the recruitment process, and why it matters.
Do you want to make a Tech Spec for this?
“A Tech Spec is a document where you put your approaches, you may have multiple approaches that you may take or you can use different technologies to solve the issues -you put all this thought process in there. And then you make a recommendation based on the things that you saw.”
The point of the technical specification document is to think before coding. Reflect on possible different approaches and gather feedback from other colleagues who will review it and provide their thoughts. Luis explains how they do that in Cameo. It is very interesting to see how collaboration flows in the whole organization thanks to such a practice.
Tech Lead vs Team Lead
That’s as you know already one of my favorite topics to deconstruct. What do the roles mean? Luis explains the difference between a Tech Lead and a Team Lead, and we also cover the Chapter Lead position — a Functional Lead across multiple teams.
Tech tech tech, soft skills later
We also touch on the inevitable — do you need to work on your soft skills as a developer? We talk about rethinking the education to become a developer to include wide range of skills:
“We are in a world where we don’t get asked enough to focus on soft skills and we also don't have the opportunity to focus as much as we should.”
Luis is a truly inspiring Full-stack Leader. To him, the developer role is not only about coding and he is passionate about spreading the word about it! That’s what he explains weekly on his podcast, which I highly recommend listening to.
In the end, working in technology is all about creating great products, and those products are not only composed of dozens of thousands of lines of code. We build them collaboratively from the moment we start brainstorming an idea to the moment we iterate on a product used by thousands of people. Luis understands this complexity and embraces the whole product lifecycle as an area of focus for any developer.