The engineering director shadow experience at GitLab

William Arias ·
Apr 1, 2022 · 3 min read · Leave a comment

My engineering director shadow experience reminded me of a concept that gained relevance during the pandemic:

"I am because we are" set in the context of the actual state of the world: I will be safe when all and each of us is safe.

The inspiration of these ideas stem from the Ubuntu Philosophy and, if seen from another angle, could mean:

"Ubuntu implies that everyone has different skills and strengths; people are not isolated, and through mutual support, they can help each other to complete themselves."

During the shadowing experience, I realized that it is easy to get comfortable with my own world and department-specific view, which can be very foreign to other teams. The reality is that we are all interconnected and each bit of group success is our success. Is there an incident? A bug? A delay in hiring? It affects not only the department DRI (what we call at GitLab the Directly Responsible Individual), but it can have an impact on all of us, and it can be disguised in different ways. A reliability challenge is not only an engineering problem; if there is an unresolved issue that goes on for too long, it can end up hurting GitLab’s reputation and brand. The issue can impact not only the goals of engineering but also of other teams, including marketing.

To navigate this interconnectedness, treat all individual efforts as a consolidated unit efficiently and transparently. This is one of my key takeaways from the shadowing program: Having a fair amount of humanity, humbleness, and people-oriented skills is important. I went into this program assuming I was going to experience mostly hard, deterministic skills but the reality was very different.

A day in the life

Shadowing Wayne Haber, director of engineering for Growth, Sec, and ModelOps, is a unique experience, especially for someone who doesn't spend a lot of time with upper leadership at GitLab. Wayne begins the shadow week with a prep coffee chat where he walks you through what to expect from the week, some tips, and his general criteria for success in the program (take notes and offer feedback!).

As the week kicks off, you'll first notice you'll be taking part in meetings, a lot of meetings. This is not a bad thing. However, you are going to be treated to a backstage pass to what mission-critical meetings at GitLab look like, how relationships are developed, how KPIs are decided and set, and much more.

During my time with Wayne, I attended a variety of meetings from skip levels to a 1:1 with Wayne's boss. In those meetings there were a lot of nuances to observe and an opportunity to soak up how our engineering directors apply the CREDIT values. Wayne encourages people who take part to get involved in the meetings, be vocal, be willing to engage, take notes, and offer feedback. This is an atmosphere that helps to cultivate a sense of "No Ego" and promotes collaboration.

TL;DR

I totally recommend taking one week to enjoy Wayne's adventures. It is an enriching and humbling opportunity to connect with colleagues that you might not come across if you are on another team. As mentioned before, we impact each other more than we might usually think!

“Want to step outside your team and learn something new? Here's a look at the engineering director shadow program at GitLab.” – William Arias

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