ENGINEERING MANAGERS INTERVIEWS

#5 We Are Here To Create a Team of Leaders. On Leader Superpowers by João Alves, Engineering Manager at Adevinta

João Alves, an Engineering Manager at Adevinta is my 5th guest on the Agile State of Mind Leadership Podcast. We worked together (where else if not at free-now) and I remember him as a passionate engineer and leader. Today he leads a platform team that builds software used internally at Adevinta. João is an avid reader and explorer in the realm of leadership and technology. On the interview, he shares a lot of practices and experiments he has been trying with his teams.

Watch the full interview on YouTube

Control your calendar, don’t let the calendar control you

One of the first tips João gives to first-time managers is about scheduling the meetings. You should be in control over it, over your calendar. When you will have meetings and when it is time to focus and think.

“Especially for first-time managers, make sure that you are the one in control of your calendar. You say when you are going to go to meetings and when you are not.

Distribute the meetings, especially 1:1s throughout the week, make sure that if you have ten 1:1s, you have five one week and five the other week. Avoid having one day full of 1:1s because that’s truly exhausting. And you won’t even have time to think about the feedback you want to give to people, which then shows. Because when people receive bad feedback they realize immediately that you didn’t think about it.”
João Alves, Engineeting Manager at Adevinta

Maria Chec and Joao Alves talking about Engineering Management

Ask “Awesome Questions”

I speak with my guests about the 1:1s and how they conduct them with the team members. It is interesting to know that they usually talk about career development, personal growth, and also spend some quality time on a simple chit-chat about personal lives. João says that especially after the pandemic the human connection cannot be overrated and it is important to know about each other’s personal situations. E.g if someone lives alone they might seek more social contact than someone who lives with a big family.

He also points out that for career development sometimes just changing the phrasing of the question helps get a more detailed answer. Thus, for the 1:1s he recommends using the list of “Amazing Questions”. And changing them every meeting to introduce some variety.

Writing becomes a superpower

We talk about async communication and how writing becomes a superpower to be able to get your point across to multiple people. Writing helps the transparency and inclusiveness.

That’s why I think writing becomes a superpower. Because writing scales, really well. If I share a document, I write it once and I can share it thousand times, and people can get exactly what I want to talk about while if I do this through meetings I can be like three weeks talking with everyone, to try to build commitment across something and the result will not be as inclusive.

João Alves, Engineeting Manager at Adevinta

Uncomfortable situations

Joao’s idea to empower people is by putting them in uncomfortable situations. How else you’ll make sure they can do something? Of course, not everyone can or wants to do anything but typically you will find who is better in which domain: writing, presenting, pair-programming, etc.

We try to empower people (…) by putting them in uncomfortable situations. Presenting in public, making sure they collect requirements from the users and they get firsthand feedback. It’s not just the Product Owner talking with users. What’s more they do support, they will these kind of activities and then I really believe thatsmart people, they, they do a better job when they have more context. And we strive to give this context to everyone to expose people to different roles.

João Alves, Engineeting Manager at Adevinta

Letting the team choose the framework they will work in on a daily basis is also a huge sign of empowering them. Joao shares how they decided in the team on how to collaborate.

Individual contributors can be leaders in their own discipline.

Praise more than just coding

It’s fantastic to see that the new generation is keener on communication and soft skills. I’m not sure if it’s because they have more people on YouTube and Twitch, and they are just used to this kind of communication but for me it is something that we should absolutely seek.

Do not forget it is your job, as a Manager to set the expectations for the people you lead. As a manager set the tone, and praise not only coding but also the glue work.

And we should set the tone as a manager. I think there’s one big important part of the job which is setting the tone. If people are joining the team see that you not only praise people think they can progress in their careers just by coding

Listen to the full episode on Spotify, Apple Podcast etc.

Listen to the whole Engineering Manager interview as a Podcast

Joao’s Recommendations:

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Maria Chec

Maria Chec

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Agile Coach and Content Creator at Agile State of Mind https://www.youtube.com/c/AgileStateofMind and Head of Agile Practice in Fyllo