This month, I hit my two year anniversary with Blackmill and I'm stoked about it! I have learnt so much in this space of time. From parenting during lockdowns, engineering culture, leadership styles, best practices, to technical debt and product sprints. I never thought that I would do marketing for a software engineering consultancy. I was never a tech person. Talking about it felt like my head would explode. But here I am, two years on and I'm enjoying it. So much so that I recently completed my first coding workshop!
After 15 years of working in the Dermal Science and Marketing industry, whilst becoming a mum and running the family life, the itch for coding began over a year ago. I wanted to understand the engineering culture, its problems, and the challenges that engineering managers would face day to day, (and I also wanted to tweak the website). But along the way, lockdowns interrupted the work and life balance, a potential opportunity to start up my own marketing consultancy presented itself, and the desire to complete a mini MBA in marketing meant that coding was put on the back burner.
This sentence from Mark Bouris AM resonates with me:
Every single experience — no matter how irrelevant you think it is in the moment c is another building block in how you’re going to get to where you’re going to go. So whatever it is you’re currently doing, take the lessons from it because one day they’ll all count. Have faith that the dots will connect. Knowledge and experience is never wasted
Blackmill's first Community of Practice program will start on February 27th 2023! This program is designed to bring together a community of engineering leaders to develop a support network where you can share your challenges and experiences by focusing on real everyday problems. Weekly sessions across six weeks of engaging dialogue with relevant peers facilitated by Elle and Lachlan. For more details or to secure your spot, head over to https://blackmill.co/do/community-of-practice
Our last Leading Engineering Teams workshop for the year is on Nov 28th–Dec 1st. We have been running this workshop for the past two years and it just keeps on getting better! This time we've extended the sessions and tweaked the content based on feedback and a review of the learning objectives. If you (or anyone you know) would like to upskill and learn how to become a more effective engineering leader, join us! For more info and tickets, head over to https://blackmill.co/workshops/leading-engineering-teams
Our most recent donation was to the Australian Marine Conservation Society, that is dedicated solely to protecting our precious ocean wildlife. The society works on issues that risk ocean wildlife, and led projects to ban whaling, stop supertrawlers, and protect threatened and endangered species like the Australian Sea Lion. You can learn about other charities we give to at https://blackmill.co/what-we-give
Why We Don’t Have an Exit Strategy — what’s better than an exit strategy? It’s a long-term mission that your company truly cares about.
What’s the worst leadership advice you’ve heard? — a Twitter thread on "Hire great people and get out of their way"
Should I create a performance improvement plan for my direct report? — PIPs are a complex tool that each organisation approaches and utilises differently and as a manager you have agency to influence its use
Oncall Compensation for Software Engineers — second article on being oncall, and this one is a review of industry practices
I’m the founder of Privay, a data privacy startup. We take the drama out of data privacy by helping embed it in your workflows. What I particularly love about technology is learning about things from the bottom up. I know a chunk of stuff about how electricity, finance, health and safety, construction and education because I’ve worked on software in those industries. Add that to learning about different technologies, and what you get is work that’s always fresh, always surprising, and mostly rewarding.
Some days, all of it :) I think one of the things I find hardest is that as a technology industry we don’t learn from our past. I often point to situations, books or papers that are decades old when talking to people about problems. Thinking about this, it’s weirdly inefficient for an industry that delivers so many efficiency gains.
Privacy. I can ruin literally any party or BBQ you invite me to with my privacy chat. Less flippantly, right now, I’m on a mission regarding privacy because I realise how much of my career has caused privacy harms. I’ve been the person at the table saying, “well if we collect just that extra piece of data, we can work out…”. Now I’m more aware of the harms privacy can cause; I’m becoming more and more passionate about people in technology stepping up and being more ethical about all aspects of data. We often don’t teach developers, product folk or designers privacy and ethics. And then we wonder why terrible things happen. With technology now so ubiquitous, I’d argue evaluating privacy is becoming a required skill.
I recently contributed to the review of the Privacy Act. It’s the first time I’ve done something like this, and I was pretty nervous. But this post inspired me, and I knew it was important: https://digitalrightswatch.org.au/2021/10/07/how-to-write-your-own-policy-submission/. You should get involved with digital advocacy too.
So many mistakes… Letting my ego rule my decision-making. When I was a senior developer, I went to a team that on paper that was supposed to deliver great things. We all had good reputations from other teams. We did not deliver because we argued about everything. My contribution to that was not listening and telling people loudly how right I was. Years later, when I read The Soul of A New Machine, I could all too easily see how North Carolina failed. The lesson it taught me was that just because you’re experienced doesn’t mean you’re right.
I’m probably not the best person to ask about this. I do technology activities in my spare time too. But I do like to watch sports like cricket with my daughter. And I jog a little — although it’s pretty horrific to see.
Set a culture of kindness and compassion early on. It will not only pay massive dividends for you personally, but it will also get your organisation to stand out from the crowd. If I think about people in technology who I respect (e.g. Kelsey Hightower, Matz, etc.), there’s a strong intersection between kindness and compassion.
I’d equalise education, beginning with making it free at all stages. In technology, we often see tedious debates about self-taught vs bootcamps vs degree-educated. If you want to learn something, there needs to be no barrier greater than your desire to learn it.
Make Privay a success by getting some early customers. Continuing to be the best husband and parent I can be. Enjoying spending time with friends. And getting that jogging to be a little less awkward and a little more fun.
Vegetable oil (my dad used beef dripping which was delicious as a kid but obviously not so great)
100g (3 ½ oz) plain flour
100ml (3fl oz) milk
Heat the oven as high as it will go, 230C degrees (445 Fahrenheit).
Take a muffin tin and put a little oil (i.e. a teaspoon full) in each compartment. Place the tray in the oven for 10–15 minutes.
Mix the flour, eggs and milk into a smooth batter. More bubbles equals better puddings.
Distribute the batter between the compartments of the muffin tin.
Cook for 10–15 minutes. You’re looking for something golden to rise over the top of the muffin tray.
Serve with a roast dinner, mushy peas (possibly my favourite) or a curry if you’re avant-garde.
Now everyone has different and competing approaches to Yorkshire pudding, and they’re passed down from generation to generation. For instance, my dad swore you only ever stirred the batter clockwise. I think you should use a muffin tin to get the best shape of Yorkshire pudding. In all cases, don’t open the oven while cooking and ensure the vegetable oil is very hot before pouring the batter in.
Also, a few weeks ago we made Sugendran's Biryani, but with chicken instead of lamb. We always try the recipes we are so generously given. It just takes us a little while sometimes.
Thank you for showing an interest in our newsletter and we hope that you enjoyed the read. Feel free to contact us if you have any feedback, a burning question, or just a recipe that you would like to share.
Until next time, keep learning!
Everyone at Blackmill