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Episode 23: The many flavours of managing managers with Maggie Litton

    Guest Biography

    Maggie loves building organisations that enable people to do useful things. She’s worked at Fortune 500 enterprises and startups of all stages. She specialises in optimising remote organisations and reducing accidental complexity.  Maggie is currently Director of Engineering at HashiCorp.

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    Transcript

    Patrick Kua: Hi everyone. Welcome to the managing managers podcast. Today we have Maggie Litton. Maggie loves building organisations that enable people to do useful things. She’s worked at Fortune 500 enterprises and startups of all stages. She specialises in optimising remote organisations and reducing accidental complexity and is currently director of engineering at HashiCorp. Welcome to the podcast.

    Maggie Litton: Thank you! Thanks so much Pat for having me.

    Patrick Kua: It’s great to have you on and I’d love to hear about your leadership journey. Tell us about how you ended up in management.

    Maggie Litton: Sure. I would say that it’s an accident. bBut it’s probably more an accident that I ended up in the tech industry. Not so much an accident that I ended up in management because the IC path was not going to be a very long one for me, given my background. Like I said I landed in the tech industry by accident. My programming skills were very self-taught and haphazard. If I was really gonna be serious about an IC career I would have needed to go back to school, get some more formal training. At that point in my life I’d already been through 3 different college degrees and I just didn’t want to do that. So management was just an easier path for me. Also my first job was at a small startup and nobody else wanted to do the management and nobody else really had any training or experience doing it. And I did at that point. In a former life I had been a manager at a couple of different places. So I filled a need there that nobody else was filling at the time.

    Maggie Litton: But really I think the two biggest reasons that drove me personally into it were… First of all wanting to know what the hell was going on. I felt like going into management was maybe the best or only way to really figure out where is this coming from? How do all these pieces fit together? Turns out I think I was right about that. And lastly I had a really strong desire to make things less stupid. I find especially as things get bigger, there’s a tendency for things to get stupid. You have to make compromises and I really wanted to try to be more thoughtful about those kinds of things or at least understand what is at the source of the stupidity.

    Patrick Kua: Yeah I mean it’s such a great example and fantastic that you’ve had a great career without needing to be an individual contributor. I think we have such a great place for people who come from so many different backgrounds and can be really successful. So I think that’s a really good demonstration of that. And what I heard there in terms of the two motives of, as you said, or what I heard, the seeing the overview. Or seeing a bigger picture. I think that’s definitely something that a lot of leaders and managers appreciate. But also that other side of as you said is a bit less stupid. I love the phrase and, you know, I was talking to a leader recently about the moving towards a mean of mediocrity. I think that’s such a great opportunity as a manager of either understanding what’s causing that or also being able to influence that. That’s really fantastic. It sounds also like your team was probably very lucky to have you. Somebody who was an experienced manager versus some poor IC thrown into it who don’t have any of those skills.

    Maggie Litton: Well I was very lucky to have them as well. I want to say that. I feel very grateful for that opportunity. That career change that really did send me in a completely different direction.

    Patrick Kua: Great. Excellent! So I understand a little bit about how you got into management. Maybe you could talk about how you ended up being a director? So what happened there if you can remember back to your first time?

    Maggie Litton: Sure. So I think really it was a lot of time spent in management roles. Which led to a lot of pattern matching abilities for me. Once I had done that at a number of different places with a number of different stages, naturally some of those companies themselves started to grow. And my career grew with them. So my first director roles tended to be at places where I might have started out as a manager but the company grew. We grew and divided teams and suddenly it was bigger. Then I moved from there to being a director at companies that were so small that really the line between director and manager was probably pretty fuzzy. From there I moved on to companies where I really was getting director roles in orgs that were already big enough to need a director and I wasn’t coming in as a manager and growing with the company. Does that answer the question?

    Patrick Kua: Yeah. Absolutely. I’ve talked to a number of people, particularly in rapid growth environments and that’s a very common journey. I think where everyone’s growing. So we need somebody who can manage other managers all of a sudden. I find it fascinating because you’ve played a director role in several different companies. And it’d be interesting to hear if you think about some of those differences of the director role across those companies, what are some differences that stand out for you?

    Maggie Litton: Yeah. That’s a great question, actually. It has been quite different. So at the first couple of director roles I had, like I said, were very small startups. By that, I mean, there were less than definitely 50 people in engineering. In some cases maybe less than 50 people at the entire company. Initially at least. The fabulous thing about being a director at that stage is just the autonomy I had. I could just do stuff. I didn’t have to ask. I could put things in place without a lot of consensus building. That part was fabulous. It was also sometimes tiring to have to constantly be building the road in front of you. Not necessarily reinventing the wheel. Building the wheel constantly because you have nothing when you’re that small. There was also the anxiety of just being at such a small company where you don’t know if it’s going to work out yet. There were times when we didn’t know if we were gonna make payroll next month.

    Maggie Litton: Then later on in my career probably one of the most unique roles I had and one of the biggest learning experiences for me was being a director at a smallish startup that was not really engineering centric. That was really the first and only time I had worked at a place like that. It was very educational for me because in hindsight I feel like I was not the right leader for that organisation. I was too engineering-centric. To give you an example of what I mean by that I can remember one of the major tasks we had was to move an app that had been running on-prem. And by on-prem I really mean like on a single person’s laptop. And turning that into a service running on AWS. And colleagues in other departments like marketing or finance or sales asking me totally legitimate questions like, “What is the cloud? What does that mean? Why does this need to be in the cloud?” And I did not do a good job answering those questions.

    Maggie Litton: I had never been asked questions that fundamental I guess before. I did a disservice to my fellow directors and executives because I don’t feel like I did a good enough job answering their questions and I think that led to me being very well liked and respected within my own department and being distrusted is probably too strong a word but I think people outside of engineering were wary of engineering because we seemed like a black box that they didn’t understand. In retrospect I think I also did not have a solid enough understanding of how was engineering and technology going to fit into the business plan for that company. As engineers, obviously we really thought we were central. Everything about that company. And in retrospect, I don’t think that company was a tech company. It was very useful though to be some place where you’re not the centre of attention. I think I learned a lot from that. I also had the luxury and the fabulous opportunity of being at a successful SaaS startup in a hypergrowth phase. The joys of working somewhere with product market fit that is growing.

    Patrick Kua: So exciting.

    Maggie Litton: Yeah. It’s amazing and it was such a relief to be in that position. In that phase it’s both overwhelming because you are growing really quickly. Things are changing all the time. You never quite have enough structure in place to handle the level of activity going on. I spent a lot of time hiring there. A lot of time doing org design for really the first time because I had an org that was big enough to need that. I’m a huge fan of a team topologies philosophy at that time and had a lot of opportunities to experiment, excuse me, with different team structures in that organisation. So that was a lot of fun.

    Maggie Litton: Now at HashiCorp. I’m at a public company for the first time in a really really long time. And depending on your perspective, maybe it’s a mid-sized company. It feels like a mid-size company to me. Compared to places I’ve been more recently. It is very different to be at a public company again. It’s also different to be in a place that is not in a hypergrowth phase. In fact, this is the first place I’ve been in a long time where we’ve been through a round of downsizing and the focus is more on how do we make the folks that we did hire over the last few years productive when working on a gnarly legacy system that we’re trying to rearchitect on the fly. So more about how do we onboard people so that they can be effective? How do we introduce, say the staff engineer role, which my org did not have? So it’s a bit of a mix of putting new things in place like the staff engineer role, while also having a lot of the basic corporate structures in place already. So a mix of both.

    Patrick Kua: That’s fantastic. And thank you for the sort of contrasting different experiences. Giving us that sample of what it’s like to be in a place that’s not so much of a tech company retrospectively but lots of great learnings. And thank you for sharing those experiences there all the way to the hypergrowth scaling to what you describe now as the public company where I can imagine there’s the normal rhythm and routine, given that there are expectations from public companies to fulfil and their duties also to the public. So great extreme and a big variety of different experiences. So thank you for sharing. Let’s talk about your current organisation then. So maybe you can explain a little bit about the shape of your current org structure?

    Maggie Litton: Sure. So HashiCorp works with what they call an EPD triad and that’s Eng-Product-Design. So each of our product lines really consists of the 3 leaders from those groups working together in a tight organisation. My org right now is about 35 people or so. It’s 4 engineering teams. I have 4 line managers and 4 ICs reporting to me. Those ICs are a mix of staff and principal level engineers. We are a remote first org, which has been the norm in my career honestly. I’ve almost always worked at remote first places. And my org is almost entirely located in North America so although we are remote, the time zone spread is not too wide compared to the other places. And my org works on a product called Consul which has both a self-managed flavour and a cloud version. I work primarily with the self-managed product right now but the goal is to morph that into a much more cloud based business over time.

    Patrick Kua: Great. That’s a really clear crystal picture. I can imagine what your organisation looks like. And with the EPD or engineering, product, design, so outside of those other roles, product and design, who are other people who would consider maybe peers and who do you interact with outside of that trio in your group?

    Maggie Litton: Sure. The folks that I work with the most are probably my peers in the customer support organisation. Definitely. Because obviously we’re trying to stay in touch with what customers are doing with the product. What issues are they having that helps inform what we need to do better within engineering. Also definitely the head of what we call our SME group subject matter experts. These are really a mix of folks who are in the field organisation in some capacity. So biz development. Might be a solutions engineer. Or solutions architect. Sales. Things like that. I work pretty closely with my counterparts there as well. Partly because Consul… it’s been around a while but it has gone through some pivots in its life as a product. I find that we’re in a phase right now where we’re really having to reintroduce the field org to the product. So we want to make sure that people understand it. They know how to use it. They know how to tell a good story about it.

    Patrick Kua: Great. Excellent! Very crystal clear picture. Thank you. I find it really fascinating and I think it’s really good that your team is really connected to customer services. And also I guess the full lifecycle. Everything from business development to field people to the people who are using it and I think that’s such a healthy place that many organisations aspire to but many organisations don’t get to. So I think that’s a great place that your group is in.

    Maggie Litton: Yeah I have to say that that’s probably the closest I’ve worked. Particularly with field organisations of anywhere in my career. I have found that very rewarding. It hasn’t always been rewarding in other places. It’s sometimes a source of tension and I feel really good about that relationship in my current role. So that’s been a pleasure.

    Patrick Kua: That’s fantastic. Maybe going to the topic of managing managers. So what’s maybe a current challenge that you have or you own as a director and not something that one of your engineering managers would take? So just help us understand what you’re maybe responsible for that maybe one of your EMs aren’t?

    Maggie Litton: Sure. A great example is we recently needed to overhaul our on-call practices and incident response. We had things in place. But honestly it was primarily just a couple of the engineers who’d worked on the product longest being over relied on. Basically. So we really needed to professionalise our on-call support. I tried coaching my EMs on that initially because I wanted to give them that opportunity. I wanted it as much as possible to be something that had support from the teams up because it was gonna affect all of them. I realised, fairly soon, that wasn’t working and it wasn’t because those managers were not doing a good job. It was because they really were not equipped to make that successful. Because, first of all, this was going to be a really big change for the org. It had not been the case that everybody was expected to be on-call.

    Maggie Litton: It was not going to be a popular change within engineering. And a lot of the managers were relatively new to the company versus engineers who have been there longer. Also a lot of the managers didn’t necessarily have a lot of experience with the kind of production support that we were going to need to be doing. So it was unfamiliar territory for them. In multiple different ways that probably added up to too much ambiguity. Not feeling like they really had enough influence and authority to pull it off. I think that was probably true. I needed it done relatively quickly. Like for a lot of different reasons and so I ended up deciding to step in and drive the bulk of that myself. Getting that in place. So that was one example.

    Maggie Litton: Another example is currently, we’re in the process of developing our first KPIs for the engineering organisation. That’s something where I’m definitely doing that in collaboration with the managers that report to me. And especially depending on their areas of specialisation and expertise, I might delegate portions of that to them. Like figure out how are we gonna measure this. But I do think it’s been helpful for me to remain involved to set the broader perspective on things and especially to help prevent people from getting too lost in the weeds. Or optimising more for metrics that work for a team but are less relevant for an org. I think having my perspective there to keep it at the right level has been helpful.

    Patrick Kua: Yeah that’s two really fantastic examples. I think what my takeaways are is definitely one around the scope of authority. Maybe it’s easy to push change within your own team as an EM but trying to do that org wide may feel unnatural. Particularly if they don’t have that experience or time in their company and that respect perhaps from other people. That takes time to build up. Then the second one, which you talked about, which is also around that perspective. Is that it’s easy I think for people to optimise for their team but you have that broader perspective of teams of teams. And what your peers or other departments would like. So I can see how that’s a really important thing to own or to be actively involved in to shape. Because you’ll end up with a better solution for what is better for your organisation. So thank you for sharing. IwWant to jump to a talk that you gave which was… it’s a great title, “When the movie isn’t like the book: failure modes in strategic alignment.” And you cover a book that several people on the podcast have talked about called, Good Strategy, Bad Strategy. So maybe you can give us a summary as to what are some of the failure modes that you talk about?

    Maggie Litton: Sure. First of all I will say I love that book. By the way the talk is not in any way a diss on that book. I would say the most common failure mode I see, by far, is simply that there is a strategy. It’s just very poorly communicated. And that’s especially common if you’re at a company that has been growing a lot. Or has had a lot of churn. Or is remote. I find those things tend to happen. Another case is there is a strategy and maybe people even understand it pretty well but individual teams don’t see how they fit into it. Or maybe they don’t fit into it. And that worries them.

    Maggie Litton: In reality, not all work is strategic work. Not all necessary work is strategic work. And that’s okay. I think it’s our job, those of us in middle and upper management, to make sure that people know that’s okay. And that we don’t value and reward teams that are not doing strategic work less. I mean I feel that making enough money to keep the lights on is strategic.

    Patrick Kua: It’s super important.

    Maggie Litton: And lastly this is really more of a variant on the first one, where maybe there’s a pretty clear product strategy that most people could repeat, but they don’t know what is the engineering strategy. Is there some technical direction? And similarly I find that there usually is one. Even if it’s only contained within one principal engineer’s head. Like that principal engineer probably did have a very strategic approach to what they’re trying to do. But they may not be communicating it. They may not be writing it down. And actually Will Larson has recently written… I think it’s a presentation actually or folks see his newsletter. He’s written about this recently as well. I think really the number one issue is write it down. Communicate it. Verbalise it. Say it over and over and over and over again.

    Maggie Litton: Especially in a remote organisation. Because communication is just so lossy. Like you just cannot overestimate how lossy it is in remote organisation. I think, again, as directors or executives, it is our job to make sure that we’re communicating that stuff effectively. Most of the time I think we err on the side of not repeating it often enough. Or not repeating it in enough different channels and mediums. Or not repeating it in language that actually makes sense to people.

    Patrick Kua: Yeah. No. Great. Great example of different failure modes. I am hearing here such a key focus on communication. At that level of a director across many teams there’s the having to repeat it across many channels and to make sure that people understand their relevance to the message that you’re trying to communicate. Can you think back to any leader that you’ve worked with engineering that was very good at communicating strategy and if so what are some examples about how they did that with teams?

    Maggie Litton: That’s a great question. The sad truth is, I’m going to say almost all of us are not great at it. I have certainly worked with leaders who were very good at, say, communicating in an all-hands meeting. Overall company and product strategy. I’ve worked with a number of CEOs who were really great at that. I would say at my current company HashiCorp, Dave McJanett, for example, does a great job of that. At my previous company many of the executives at CircleCI were great at that. Where I think it’s a lot harder is people in middle management who do a really great job of translating that to teams. Or repeating it to their teams. Again, no shade on folks I’ve worked with but honestly, I don’t have great examples because I think this is a huge failing for most of us. I don’t want to pretend that I’m great at it either. But I try. I try really hard.

    Patrick Kua: Yeah. No. Yeah. I think this is a good reminder that we’re all human. And often these are also new skills that everyone is learning as they step into director and you never get it right given that everyone is, each person is always different. Every team is a little bit different. Maybe you can share some concrete favourite ways when you’re all thinking about how I need to communicate engineering strategy to my teams. What are some favourite ways that you like to do that?

    Maggie Litton: Well the first thing is to make sure that I really truly understand it. And can then articulate it in my own words. And to some extent oversimplify it. Try to remove the jargon. Especially if there is business speak or marketing speak in it. Try to be as specific as possible. Especially when I’m talking with engineers. I want to try to be tangible about what is it that your team does that contributes to this. One super obvious thing that I do that probably sounds a little pedantic or paternalistic is to even explicitly say that thing I just said to you, like, that was a strategic decision. The fact that we have chosen to build a product that works on multiple different platforms. That’s actually a strategic decision to differentiate us in the market. That was not a reactive decision to a noisy customer. And the reason I want to be that explicit about is I often find people don’t recognise some of the most simple or obvious things as intentional strategic decisions. It’s like, oh well that seems too easy. I was expecting something more sophisticated or complicated. And, no. A lot of times I think good strategy is very simple and obvious.

    Patrick Kua: Yeah. No. I mean it’s such a great example. Because I think there is that ambiguity or what you imagine somebody says something strategic. It’s going to sound big and grandiose. And, as you say, a lot of this is about the intent and I love the way that you talk about demarking explicitly that this is an intentional strategic decision. I don’t think of it as paternalistic at all. It’s just being very clear and explicit. I think that’s super helpful because I think there are so many decisions or topics that get talked about. But I think here you’re putting an emphasis on it. Literal emphasis. Of saying this is important. I think that’s super helpful as well. I think one of the things we talked about with this strategic word and I think people have so many different interpretations about that. One thing I think sometimes you have to give feedback to engineering managers or other people is to think more strategically. Or to act more strategically. What do you think about when you hear that phrase and how do you help people act or think more strategically?

    Maggie Litton: I think the number one thing. And again this sounds almost so simple and basic to be meaningless, is preserving time to think. To analyse. To do research or to read and keep up with what’s going on in your field. Your market. Your industry. Because especially as managers, it’s so easy to find yourself in back to back to back to back meetings all day long. Sometimes spending a lot of time in those meetings. Having difficult conversations or having to be really on in some way and at least for myself I cannot do long-term big picture strategic thinking in 15 minute chunks here and there. Between a day that’s otherwise booked solid.

    Patrick Kua: I don’t know of any one that can do that.

    Maggie Litton: Also I can’t do it at 4:30pm, after I’ve been in meetings all day long. Or on Sunday night because the time that I had blocked out on my calendar on Friday got eaten up with something else. I can’t do it in those circumstances. So I really do think the number one skill is finding ways to carve out blocks of time and mental space for yourself. Time when you’re not reacting to the latest fire. That’s by far the most useful thing that I have found. Also I touched on this before but just making sure that I’m aligned. Or at least I understand what is the larger company or a product strategy. And how does my group fit into it? Again, because especially, if I’m in a bigger company where I may not have direct contact with the C-suite on a frequent basis I want to make sure that I really do understand why these decisions have been made. Why these things are important. I don’t want to assume that I’ve got it right.

    Maggie Litton: So if you’re lucky and your organisation or your leadership group is really effective in the way it operates, maybe you’ll get that naturally. That’s not much of an issue. But like I said maybe if you don’t have direct regular contact with the C-suite maybe you need to more actively pull some of that. Or verify your assumptions about things. And that doesn’t so much help me act more strategically but it helps me make sure that the strategy I’m acting on is actually the one that’s aligned with what the company is trying to do.

    Maggie Litton: Getting out of the weeds. Or being able to recognise when you’re in the weeds. I’ll give you an example which is probably going to be a little controversial at least for some of my colleagues who work with me right now. So I know of a director, an engineering director, who got a lot of praise and recognition recently for working on an experimental proof of concept project. Actually involved in coding this up himself. On the one hand I understand why this person got a lot of recognition and credit for that. Like they put in a lot of extra time on top of their day job to do this. They were investigating a technology that might be useful for us. But on the other hand my first reaction to seeing a director, who had spent a lot of time on a side coding project like that, was that… first of all was this denying maybe one of our staff engineers an interesting project? And as a director I understand the desire and the need to remain technical and everybody has their own personal bar for how much coding do they feel they need to do to remain current. But as a director, was that really the best use of time? Personally I thought it was a little indulgent because it wasn’t something they were just doing on the weekends in their personal time. It was something that, for good reasons, they got really excited about and they probably spent a lot of time on. I honestly don’t think that was the right use of a director’s time.

    Patrick Kua: Yeah. It resonates definitely with my experience as well because I’m asking myself questions like, if this is also celebrated is that also then setting an expectation about what other directors should be doing?

    Maggie Litton: Oh it absolutely is.

    Patrick Kua: Which is strong individual contribution. I always think about the difference between senior managers and leaders. It’s about outcomes. Not really about how you do it. That’s why you have teams. You have Staff and Principal people. Unleash their creativity, their skills and experience on these hopeful outcomes. But you’re there as a sponsor. Not the person doing it. So yeah. There’s some interesting questions there. I think going back to the point of a strategy and what you were talking about getting out of the weeds. I think that’s the important part of orienting in the right direction. Is it moving in that longer term picture? Or aligned with what is already defined as a higher overall strategy? I think those are really key lessons. And very very good examples that you’ve shared. I’d like to maybe start moving into the close. So if you were to provide any advice to a first time director or manager or managers, what would it be?

    Maggie Litton: I think to figure out how much room do you have to let people try things on their own. To experiment. And maybe fail. Because, well for a lot of reasons. One. Because you can’t do everything yourself. So you have to delegate a lot of things. Even if people may not know how to do it as well as you. Or may do it differently than you.

    Maggie Litton: But also because, especially in a management career path, I think opportunities for promotion do not come along as often. Like there are not as many stops on that path. And one of the best ways to keep people engaged is to give them ownership of things. To let them design things themselves. To let them learn on their own what’s gonna work and what’s not. And also, because I know from experience that, me telling people, oh that’s not going to work. Believe me. I’ve tried that like 3 times at 3 different places. It’s not going to work. People don’t believe me necessarily when I tell them that.

    Maggie Litton: Some things you really do need to experience and internalise on your own. People absorb that much better. So that I think would be my biggest piece of advice. Nobody likes being micromanaged. But I think managers really don’t like being micromanaged. They really want to feel like they have some autonomy and authority of their own. So figure out how much of that you can give them. Give them as much of that as you possibly can.

    Patrick Kua: Yeah. Fantastic bit of advice. And completely agree in terms of how one of the expectations for managers is that they have some level of autonomy and so finding that right balance between that safety, of allowing them to make mistakes in a safe environment, and giving them that space. That’s a really hard but great piece of advice.

    Patrick Kua: If you would just say that there were three key skills to develop for somebody moving from an engineering manager to a director role, what would be some things to work on that would help them in that director role?

    Maggie Litton: Well this first one is not a skill exactly. But I think it’s a tendency worth watching out for. And that is don’t devalue management work. Especially in an environment like we have right now where there’s an economic downturn. There’s certainly more emphasis on getting the most out of everybody. And in some cases that means more emphasis on manager roles that are more of a hybrid manager. Manager/IC. So maybe there’s expectations on people to both contribute technical work and manage. I find that it’s very easy, even if that’s not your intention, to devalue management work in favour of IC work in these kinds of environments. I think that’s really dangerous. Especially if you have people, and hopefully you do have managers who have willingly chosen the management path. They are excited about it. They want to do that work. And that work may take up a lot of time for them. I think that’s been very top of mind for me recently. Is to not make him feel like managers are less valuable to the organisation.

    Maggie Litton: Another thing I would say is the ability to communicate your desired outcomes or expectations clearly. Rather than… the best counter example, which I myself am guilty of sometimes, is to give some vague direction and then when it doesn’t turn out like you wanted it to, step in and micromanage it.

    Patrick Kua: We’ve all been there.

    Maggie Litton: The trick is learning how to explain what is really important in terms of the outcome that you’re trying to achieve. Be detailed about that and not detailed about how is the person going to go about doing it. That is not as easy as it sounds. Probably there is no shortcut, in my opinion, for having solid extensive management experience. If you’re going to be managing managers. And by that I mean not just have you done a thing once but have you done it multiple times? So that you know what works and what doesn’t. For example, how many people have you hired? How many people have you fired? How many layoffs have you been through? It takes time to build up that experience and there’s really not a shortcut. There are great books that you can read. There are great talks but in my experience, there’s no substitute for that.

    Patrick Kua: Absolutely. I mean the experiences and the lessons that you go through from experiencing it firsthand are very difficult to replace with simple book knowledge from that side. Absolutely agree. One thing that’s often the case that I hear with directors is it gets lonelier the higher up you go. So what helps you? What does your support structure look like so you don’t feel as lonely?

    Maggie Litton: First of all I’ll say it does. And my support structure is not as great as I would like it to be. Or certainly in parts of my career have not been as great as I would like it to be. Some things that I do that have worked. So I do read newsletters, books. Talks. Go to conferences. I do find those things useful. But I also find the value somewhat limited. Things that have been more helpful to me have tended to be former colleagues more so than current colleagues actually. So either peers or people who reported to me in a previous company that I’ve stayed in touch with. Those are probably my strongest sources of support now. I really think it’s the fact that we have moved on to different places that, in some strange way, has made us closer. Because I will admit I have never had a really strong first team experience. I probably have something to do with that myself. But it has never happened for me that say, my peer eng director, in my org has been one of my strongest allies or sources of support. It just has not happened for me personally. Sometimes my boss has been like that but not often honestly. And especially as I have gotten the privilege and the luxury and the ability, I’ll pay for that support. I’ll work with a coach for six months on something. So those are some things that work for me.

    Patrick Kua: Now there’s some fantastic options. There is something about having a little bit of distance I think that definitely helps feel like you could talk more about things and definitely even just simply be heard. That’s one of the challenges always with peers or people in your current environment. You’re always like, well, what do they really want? Or what are their incentives? Which are often very different and so that distance. Definitely appreciate and can understand particularly people you’ve worked with. You have that relationship and in a different environment it can deepen as well for sure. Great that your support network is a lot more extensive than what it used to be. My final question for you is then, if people would like to reach out to you or find out more about you, what’s the best way?

    Maggie Litton: I’m not that easy to find honestly I will say. I’m not active on social media right now. But you can find me on Linkedin. And Maggie Litton at Gmail. It’s probably the best way to get to me if you’re interested.

    Patrick Kua: Fantastic! We’ll make sure the contact is there in the show notes. I really want to thank you very much for spending the last hour together. You’ve shared so many great examples. So much great advice and your stories. And thank you very much for joining us on the managing manager’s podcast, Maggie.

    Maggie Litton: Oh thanks again. Pat, it’s been great. Great to chat.

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