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Principles of Developer Experience: An Introduction

September 15, 2020

If you’re hoping to attract developers to build on your product, it’s not enough to simply release an API. Your product might be for developers that work at your company, partners that you hope to integrate more closely with, third parties that want to sell on your marketplace, or customers that are clamoring for a way to automate their businesses. In all cases, you’ll have more success if you think about your developer platform as a product.

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The KPI that measures Product-Market Fit

September 9, 2020

Asking the users of your software, “How disappointed would you be if you could no longer use this product” is a great way to gauge satisfaction. It’s also a good way to measure product-market fit.

The answers aren’t going to tell you if you’re there yet. But the trend of answers will tell you if you’re moving in the right direction.

If you ask this question to a different small group of your users every week, you can measure trends over time in those that say they’d be extremely disappointed to lose your product.

The answer scale I prefer is a simple three-point scale. Users can answer “extremely disappointed,” “somewhat disappointed,” or “I don’t care.” This makes it simple to answer and also makes it a simple metric to track.

Using this scale, the percentage of people that pick the “extremely disappointed” option is your product-market fit performance indicator. The larger percentage of your users that feel this way, the more likely you’re delivering the right product to the right market.

There’s no such thing as a good or a bad percentage. Comparing your numbers to another company’s won’t be useful. The only useful measurement is if your number is going up or down. As long as it’s trending up you’re achieving or retaining your product-market fit.

Don't use NPS to measure user happiness for enterprise software

September 7, 2020

Net Promoter survey from SurveyMonkeyNet Promoter Score (NPS) has become the standard metric for gauging customer satisfaction and loyalty. Ask people to rate from 0 to 10 the question, “how likely are you to recommend this product to a friend or colleague?”There’s a ton of valid criticisms of the metric and methodology, but for enterprise software, there’s an extra problem.

The NPS question is not relevant to the end users of the software.

Does it matter to the future of your expense management software if an entry-level outside sales rep at your customer would recommend your software?

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Ask One Question To Help You Reach Product-Market Fit

September 3, 2020

Everyone wants product-market fit, that magical state when the market you’re selling to wants the product you make. But how do you measure it? How do you know that you’re on the right track? How do you know what you should be doing next to advance toward product-market fit?

There’s a single question you can use to identify what your customers want from you.

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How to scale your product team from one product manager to an entire organization

August 25, 2020

Note: This post deals with the scaling issues of a high growth company that starts with a single product person and needs to grow beyond that. That’s the structure and path I have the most experience with, and if you’re doing something different, this might not apply to your situation.

Most companies start with a single product manager. As the product grows in size and complexity, the demands on the product manager’s time increase, and you hire several product managers to share the load. This is usually a haphazard process leading to problems.

As your product management team scales, you’ll have issues around redundancy, communication, and consistency.

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Software engineering manager interview questions

August 6, 2020

How do you interview software engineering managers? The core job of an engineering manager is to support the team, making sure they have what is needed to do their jobs, whether that’s information, more people, space to explore a problem, or promotion of their work to the rest of the company. It can be an ambiguous role. Technical people like questions with firm answers so it can be hard for them to effectively interview someone for a squishy position.

Here are some questions I like to use to get a sense of who an engineering manager is and how they work.

A developer manager will be hiring other people, so I like to find out how they recruit and interview.

  • Describe your hiring process. How much support do they need, and is that appropriate for a company your size? Someone coming from a big company might be used to pre-packaged job ads, recruiters that do all the scheduling, and panels that screen resumes. Someone from a small company might not know how to effectively partner with an internal recruiter.
  • What are some questions you ask in the interview? Do they ask a lot of direct technical questions or do they leave evaluating technical fitness up to their team?

Newer developer managers often have trouble getting out of the weeds and still want to build.

  • How do you approach technical decisions with the team? Are they still trying to be the architect?
  • ‌When do you feel the need to assist or take over someone’s work? Are they the former superstar developer and has the mentality that they can do it faster and better? Do they understand how to let someone struggle a bit in order for them to grow?
  • Tell me about a time that you thought your team was making the wrong technical decisions? What did you do? How did things end up?

How do they view other teams? Only part of building successful software involves the actual building.

  • Describe your typical day. Who are they talking to? If it’s their team only, it’s a red flag. A development manager should be spending lots of time talking to other teams. If they’re spending lots of time in design sessions, they might still think they’re an engineer.
  • How do you work with product management? A great developer manager views Product as a partner, as the other side of the coin from them. A mediocre developer manager expects product to tell them what to build. A terrible developer manager thinks Product just needs to get out of the way.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to balance the needs of the technology with the needs of the rest of the business. Can they effectively work with other parts of the company, or do they view it as "us vs. them"?

See how they handle team issues.

  • Tell me about a time when your developers didn’t empathize with the users.
  • Tell me about a time when you had a developer that produced great work, but didn’t work well with teammates.
  • Tell me about when someone quit because of you. We’ve all been there. Are you self-aware enough to know it happened, and what did you learn from it?

I also like to understand how they smooth out the info going to the team.

  • Tell me about a time you held information back from the team until you had more information?
  • When might that not have worked? Specific techniques for keeping the team from whiplashing from one direction to another as business reality changes, but also doesn’t keep the team in the dark.

Finally, I like to understand their views on how to grow and nurture their team.

  • Tell me about a few people you’ve managed, then talk about how your approach differed (or didn’t) for each.
  • How often do you meet with your team members 1:1? What would cause that to change?
  • What do you talk about in your 1:1s?
  • How do you make sure the team is always growing and improving?
  • Tell me about a time when you needed to train your team but had no budget for training or conferences?

Recently Written

Principles of Developer Experience: An Introduction (Sep 15)
You can create a great developer experience for everything you build. Introducing the six principles of developer experience.
The KPI that measures Product-Market Fit (Sep 9)
If you ask this question to a different small group of your users every week, you can measure trends over time to determine if you're moving toward product-market fit.
Don't use NPS to measure user happiness for enterprise software (Sep 7)
Measuring the satisfaction and enjoyment of end users is a key to unlocking product-led growth. Net Promoter Score is the wrong tool for this.
Ask One Question To Help You Reach Product-Market Fit (Sep 3)
Learn what adjacent problems you need to solve to become twice as valuable to your customers.
How to scale your product team from one product manager to an entire organization (Aug 25)
As your product management team scales, you'll have issues around redundancy, communication, and consistency. Here's now you might solve those.
Software engineering manager interview questions (Aug 6)
Here are some questions I like to use to get a sense of who an engineering manager is and how they work.
A framework for onboarding new employees (May 15)
There’s no single good way to onboard an employee that works for every role. Here's a framework for creating a process that you can adapt to each situation.
TV hosts as a guide for software managers (May 10)
Software managers can learn a lot from journalists or late night TV hosts and how they interview people.

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