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Embodying a Growth Mindset for Engineering Leaders

Personal Growth
Leadership
Ownership
Career Path
Performance

7 January, 2022

Balki Kodarapu
Balki Kodarapu

Director of Engineering at Shogun

Balki Kodarapu, Director of Engineering at Shogun, provides some resources that he uses to broaden his horizons and expand his growth mindset through podcasts, books, and hands-on experience.

A Forever Changing Complex Industry

My career as an engineering leader has been a lot like the software I’ve built over the years. The journey is complex, riddled with unexpected problems, and always a work in progress. With every software system, there is always a bug fix, performance optimization, enhancement, or another patch to release. There is a constant need for growth - basically, there isn’t a finish line.

Our industry is changing at a breakneck speed, and to be successful, growth alongside the software is necessary. Given the nuanced and fast-emerging world of software engineering leadership, engineers can all be forgiven for thinking that there aren’t a lot of resources for us out there. I’ve combined some of my top podcasts, books, and hands-on learning experiences that have helped me grow.

Recommended Resources for the Growth Mindset

Podcasts:

Podcasts have been a game-changer for me, as they offer the chance to learn and grow as I go about other aspects of my day. Here are my favorite podcasts as an engineering leader:

  • DevOps Radio
  • DevOps on AWS Radio
  • The 6 Figure Developer
  • The New Stack Makers
  • Soft Skills Engineering
  • StaffEng
  • TalkScript
  • Rubber Ducking

Books:

Books offer the chance to explore a topic in-depth on one’s own time. Here are my top books that helped my growth mindset tremendously:

Leadership & Self-deception by The Arbinger Institute

This book tells the story of Tom, a new middle-manager of a fictitious company named Zagrum, who gets a fast lesson in self-deception. This book reminded me that almost every relationship (at least 95% anyway) could turn positive by changing my own attitude. I recommend reading this every six months to really get the most out of it.

High Output Management by Andy Grove

This book was written before email or the internet even existed. Yet, it teaches core principles of conducting business and managing teams that feel as relevant today as they did over 20 years ago. Amazingly, I found we are constantly refining those principles with the implosion of technology today.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

This book explains the foundation of any team in a pyramid, where trust is the foundation. If your team doesn’t trust you or you don’t trust your team - how can you expect results? This explains the other core principles of No Fear of Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, and Attention to Results.

Hands-on Experience

To be the best engineer one can be, practice is essential to master the craft. The best of the best in the engineering industry are looking to learn and practice their craft to stay at the top of their game. There are two main methods of going about this, working with your peers and working by yourself.

If an individual is looking to build their Peer and Mentor Network, I recommend the following avenues that were incredibly helpful for me:

  • PlatoHQ (paid mentoring)
  • Rands Leadership (slack)

But there is no substitute for hands-on practice when it comes to the core craft of engineering. One way I scratched my own itch for software development was to start a side hustle.

Working on a recreational project is arguably my favorite way to sharpen my craft (writing code, exploring new tech, experiencing the evolution of infrastructure first-hand, etc.). For a myriad of reasons, managers can’t always get their hands dirty in their primary role as engineering leaders. For one, it’s practically impossible to find time during the day with packed meeting schedules or strategic initiatives. Usually, the scale and sophistication are much bigger, so they don’t want to just “tinker” or introduce unnecessary risk. Finally, it is not a healthy dynamic for senior engineering leaders to zoom in and compete alongside our best engineering talent.

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