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Establishing Credibility In A New Team

Ashley Miller

Director of Engineering at Datadog

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Problem

"When I first started at Datadog as Director of Engineering, I took over the management of a team of 14 people, with both new people and veterans of Datadog. The veterans had helped to build the systems, while I had no experience with them at all. I needed to very quickly learn what all the systems did and how they fit with Datadog's architecture, overall."

Actions taken

"I decided to approach this from both a technical and a personal perspective. On the technical side, I got the environment set up locally, so I could play around with it, test it, and see how things connected. Over a few weeks, I then read all of the development guides and followed them and all of the wiki pages on things we owned. I also started reading code and looked at all the monitors and errors that were happening. Anytime there was a problem, I would try to see if I could figure out what was going wrong. This allowed me to determine how much I understood the system. For changes that were happening with code reviews, I started reading the open pull requests. By following all of these steps I was able to see how what we were doing fit into Datadog's larger picture and was able to see what was going well and what was problematic about what we were working on. For the people side of things, I wanted to ensure that everyone was working on things they were excited to work on. I deliberately set up one-on-ones to get to know my team on an individual basis. I asked everyone on my team what they liked about what they were working on, where they wanted to be in their career, how they liked to work, and who they liked to work with on the team. In addition, I asked about what they thought about our systems and what they would change in order to get their perspective about how they thought the team should work, where they were, and where they wanted to go. I was then able to use that information to assign people to projects they were passionate about."

Lessons learned

"When you start managing a team of people you don't know, it's really important to get to know who they are, what motivates them, and what they like and don't like about their jobs." "As an engineering manager, knowing and understanding the people working for you is as important as knowing code."


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Ashley Miller

Director of Engineering at Datadog


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