Conscientious Engineering Management With Scott Hain

Posted on Tuesday, Oct 18, 2022
Sometimes you plan to become a manager, sometimes it just happens. When leading a team with different types of tasks and responsibilities, Scott took some time to find folks who weren’t just like everyone else.


Mandi Walls: Welcome to Page It to The Limit, a podcast where we explore what it takes to run software in production successfully. We cover leading practices used in the software industry to improve both system and liability and the lives of the people supporting those system. I’m your host, Mandi Walls, find me @LNXCHK on Twitter. Hi folks. Welcome back. Thanks for joining us this week. With me on this episode is Scott Hain. Scott, welcome to the show.

Scott Hain: Hey, thanks Mandi, glad to be here.

Mandi Walls: Yeah, dude. So tell us about yourself, tell us about your journey.

Scott Hain: For one thing, I love talking about myself, hence why I’m here.

Mandi Walls: Everyone does. Yeah.

Scott Hain: But yeah, so I’ve been in technology in some aspect or other since I was about eight. I got my first 300 Baud Acoustic Coupler modem. Do you remember those? No? Seriously?

Mandi Walls: No, because I didn’t have any of that then.

Scott Hain: Yeah, it was a hand me down, I couldn’t afford that. But yeah, in terms of actual career, I got a computer science degree, which was of dubious value. So there’s a soapbox there that I could hop on for a while. But just whatever your career path is, to anyone listening, it’s okay. Your career path is the right thing to be doing.

Mandi Walls: Right? So it’s all different. Right? So one of the things we wanted to ask you about today is about your journey from individual contributor engineer into engineering manager, right?

Scott Hain: Yeah.

Mandi Walls: Because you and I met at Chef and you were doing some kind of like, Ooh, you got some grunt work at Chef.

Scott Hain: I was doing whatever the weirdest stuff was. I was the, “Oh, that’s really weird, that’s a customer request. Wait, they want us to enable FIPs on Red Hat four? Is Red Hat Four still available?”

Mandi Walls: “Does it even do that?” Right.

Scott Hain: It doesn’t, FYI. But I made it do that. So yeah, if there’s weirdness, I’m probably nearby.

Mandi Walls: But now you don’t have to do weird stuff anymore. So yeah, tell us about that. So you were an engineer contributor and then now you’re an engineering manager. So how does that flow work? What does your job history look like that leads into that?

Scott Hain: Yeah, so let me fill out the history a little bit more because it does actually kind of lead to where I am today. My initial tech job was a really poopy job, for lack of a better way of putting it. A really freaking poopy job, even. Where I was doing phone support as well as being expected to write a visual basic for a restaurant point of sales service company. It was one of those things where it was very small company, it was a very unpleasant experience in general just because I was expected to do both at the same time and the hours were absolutely bonkers.

Mandi Walls: Those are not jobs that go together well.

Scott Hain: No, no. No, they’re not. Like I said, yeah, that was a really bad experience. I actually left that job and went to work retail.

Mandi Walls: Well, right, yeah. It’s so horrible. You feel like you want to just give up.

Scott Hain: Oh, absolutely. Just another one of those soapboxes that I’ll hop on real quick is I feel like people in the tech industry, engineers and product designers and just folks like that should work in retail for a little while because it’s a great way to learn customer empathy. That’s what I learned, customer empathy. Because yeah, if you’ve never had to deal with somebody whose thing is messed up at two o’clock in the morning and they’re trying to close their restaurant and they just want to get home and they’re getting paid minimum wage, if you’ve never experienced being on the other end of that and trying to help them out, you learn a lot about just empathy. But, soapbox done. So after that I was a Java programmer at IC for seven years and, well Java programmer for probably four or five years.

Mandi Walls: Okay, so how many factory classes did you write?

Scott Hain: Oh my goodness. So this was Java 1.4.

Mandi Walls: Oh dude.

Scott Hain: So I don’t even think that there were factory. I’d have to go look it up, I don’t really remember. Lot of inheritance though.

Mandi Walls: Yes.

Scott Hain: A lot of polymorphic stuff. A lot of polymorphic stuff. A little known, I don’t even know how big this was, but UI framework called Rich Faces. Which yeah, I think it was, and this is not a joke or any kind of slight, but I believe it was written by three dudes from Belarus because one of them actually came over to give an expert workshop and stuff like that. Let’s just say, don’t go out drinking with someone who’s from Belarus.

Mandi Walls: You lose.

Scott Hain: Yeah, it usually doesn’t end well. But after that, I kind of started this team, not started, but was one of the co-founders of building up this team called the BCRH team. Which was build, configuration, run time, help desk.

Mandi Walls: Oh golly.

Scott Hain: Essentially that was Relanged before [inaudible 00:05:46] term.

Mandi Walls: Yeah. The release engineering for-

Scott Hain: Release engineering [inaudible 00:05:52]. Sorry. I’m going to try and not use the acronyms in the shorthand, but I mean that was a really interesting job because the entire fleet was Solaris and old things, I’m talking Solaris 10 and 9.

Mandi Walls: Sure.

Scott Hain: So yeah, running Java stuff and getting these big stacks to actually deploy around the world. It was a very good learning experience for me. I was one of the sort of architects and leads on that team. Which leads me to Chef where we met and where there was a lot of opportunity since I got in there pretty early, not as early as you I think. But got in there pretty early and there was just a lot of that very early startup culture of, something needs to get done, let’s find a person to do it and-

Mandi Walls: “You don’t look busy, let’s do this.” Yeah.

Scott Hain: A little bit less of the assigned roles. So I walked in there my second day and they were like, “Oh, you said Solaris?” Then handed me a big pile of Solaris and AIX CDs and we’re like, “Here, you’re in charge of this now.” I’m like, “Okay.” Little did I know. But yeah, that was a really cool experience. But I was definitely an individual contributor and eventually worked on the release engineering team as well as, I don’t know if there’s a product in there that I didn’t touch at some point in time.

Mandi Walls: Yeah.

Scott Hain: Yeah, I think so.

Mandi Walls: Yeah. So you survived all of that, right?

Scott Hain: Right. Yeah, so that was a good time too. There was a lot of fun and a lot of challenges. Some really good challenges. Because if there’s one thing that I know about myself is that I really like to juggle really hard challenges and do things that nobody, or very few people have done before in the tech world. So that’s a lot of fun. Which leads me to the bad place, right?

Mandi Walls: Oh no.

Scott Hain: This is where we go into the bad place. I left Chef because I was looking for a new challenge because I felt like I’d pretty much done everything there and I was in a little bit of a rut and there wasn’t really a lot of other things I could do there unless I wanted to go into sales. I love y’all salespeople, but that is absolutely not a thing that I could do.

Mandi Walls: That’s another skillset entirely.

Scott Hain: You do you, and I’ll be over here making the thing for you to sell.

Mandi Walls: That’s right.

Scott Hain: So I left there and eventually ended up at a company where I was going to be an architect for the entire release engineering build, that entire umbrella of things, which was, I believe sixteens at that point in time. So it was really a really great step up for me, opportunity to make my mark and just really, really get my feet wet and make a positive change there. Unfortunately, due to some circumstances that I still don’t understand, in the two weeks between when I signed the offer and when I started there was a reorg.

Mandi Walls: Oh my.

Scott Hain: The position that I was supposed to have was given to someone else during the reorg, and I didn’t know who my boss was and I didn’t know what team I was on during the week long, kind of in-person orientation. This was like 2019 right before, COVs hit. So I was like, “All right, well we’ll make the best of this. I don’t know what’s going on and I’ll figure it out and we’ll move forward.” Because it’s like, let’s get down and do the work. So I found out that I was not going to be an architect for these teams. I was going to be a Jenkins wrangler for the team that dealt with all of the Jenkins instances. I was like, “Okay, this is not what I signed up for and this is not the way that I can help this company the most. I believe, without boasting, that my skillset is a little bit higher than what I’m doing right now.” So I went and tried a couple things, talked to folks. There just wasn’t anything there. I worked there for about six months and a bunch of bad things happened there that, not there at the company, but in my life. Won’t get too deep into it, but my best friend died of cancer, I got kind of sick and the pandemic started right around that point in time. So it was just too much. It was too much for me.

Mandi Walls: Yeah, way too much.

Scott Hain: I kind of reached that breaking point. That was also where in Seattle, the weather was hot and everything was on fire, so the sky was orange and we couldn’t breathe. So it was just hell. So eventually I just kind of threw up my hands and I was like, “I give my two weeks notice. I can’t do this.” I had nothing lined up. I had just nothing. It was like, “I just need time. I need some time to cool off. I don’t know what I need. I don’t know what I need right now.” But I was just burned out and upset and needed some recovery.

Mandi Walls: Yeah.

Scott Hain: So I did what a lot of people did during that phase of the pandemic and I texted some of my old friends that I hadn’t talked to in a while and was just like, “Hey, how are you doing? We haven’t chatted in six months or four months, how’s your family? Are you surviving the wildfires that are everywhere on the west coast?” That kind of thing. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who reconnected with folks during that just to be like, “How are you surviving?” So I ended up talking to a buddy of mine who also was a former Chef coworker. They were like, “Hey, we’re hiring over here if you want.” I was like, “Ah, I don’t really care, but okay, whatever.” I was in that effet, “I’m burned out, whatever, I don’t care.”

Mandi Walls: Yeah, get some apathy going.

Scott Hain: Mindset. Absolutely, yeah. So during that two weeks after I’d given my notice, I did an interview with this company. I literally went in not giving care, for lack of a better way of putting it, about, “Do I get this job? Sure, that would be cool. Do I not get this job? Don’t give a bleep.”

Mandi Walls: Yeah,

Scott Hain: It’s fine. Whatever, I’ll survive. We’ll make something happen eventually. So I went in and talked to the sourcer, who I believe was a recruiter then. Basically just like, “Here’s what I do, here’s what I’m good at.” Described the thing. Was just very, very my authentic, authentic, authentic self. For those of you who can’t, well obviously who don’t know me, I have a lot of tattoos.

Mandi Walls: The show is audio only, yeah so there’s no visual aids for all that.

Scott Hain: I have a lot of tattoos, very visible on my hands and stuff like that. I am very much a very transparent person about most things. So I just kind of went in and I was like, “Here’s what I can do. Here’s what I can offer you, and here’s sort what I would like to do in the future.” The position that I was applying for was an IC role writing basically features for one of the products that this company did. They were like, “Okay, cool.” The recruiter, who is awesome, and this is recruiters out there, take note, you should take lessons from this person because they are freaking amazing and I think they’re the lead sourcer now at the place where I am. So that shows you how good they are. But anyways, she said, “You know what? This is not the right position for you, I can tell just by talking to you. You need to go talk to, “name.” Who was the senior VP of this particular vertical, for lack of a better way of putting it, in the company. I was like, “All right, I’ll talk to him, whatever.”

Mandi Walls: Yolo, man.

Scott Hain: Pretty much. I honestly was at that stage in burnout where I was like, “I’ll talk to whoever about whatever. I don’t really … I mean, I’m not going to be rude or anything about it. It’s just like I will bring what I have to the table, and if that’s cool, that’s cool, let’s work together. If not, I’m not going to be bummed about it.” So I talked to this person and they were like, “So I’m starting a team and they’re doing this.” I was like, “Okay, that’s something that I have a lot of experience with. I like what you’re describing as the vision, I’m picking up what you’re laying down,” as the kids say. So apparently I did really good in that interview. But he was like, “Yeah, well, we’d hire you for an IC position and have you just start learning things, go through all that. You and I would work closely together to do what you would need to do to build up a team.” But the main role would be to work with this one product that was having some issues with some things and talk about that and see what can be done and build up some tools or best practices or whatever you want to call it. I was like, “All right, that sounds good. That sounds like something that I am capable of and would enjoy doing. Also, it would be good to not be jobless probably.” So I actually was unemployed for 48 hours because-

Mandi Walls: Oh my goodness.

Scott Hain: Coincidentally, my two weeks notice ended on a Friday and I got my offer on Monday. Yeah, what’s really funny, and this is just a tidbit for Mandi and any other ex-Chef folks or Chef folks that might know, my start date was exactly the same start date that I started at Chef.

Mandi Walls: Oh wow.

Scott Hain: Nine years ago.

Mandi Walls: Oh my goodness.

Scott Hain: Nine years previous, or eight years previous, whatever it was. So that was pretty funny. I didn’t realize it until I had my one year anniversary of where I am right now. They were like, “Wow.” I was like, “Wait a second, that day sounds familiar.” Anyways, moving on. So I started and I worked on the vision, I worked on what our roadmap was going to be, all of this stuff with my boss who was super supportive and everything. What I didn’t really realize, yet, is that I was doing managerial type duties. So I was going through that, describing the type of not … Here’s where I think I’m different in a certain way in how I approach building a team. So I didn’t actually look for the type of people that I wanted. I know a lot of companies do that. They’re like, “This is the skillset for this person that we want.”

Mandi Walls: Sure, yeah.

Scott Hain: I was like, “I need these three overlapping skillsets to make this team a success. Now, who can I get that fits inside that has these skillsets? Be it overlapping, or not?” Because as long as I get this three-way vin diagram of people, be that three people, six people, five, whatever the case may be, however much head count I get. I need someone who is good at this, someone who is good at this. I’m using my hands so let’s just say someone who is good at this kind of thing, A, and this kind of thing B, and this kind of thing C. If I can get people who are good at two or more of those things, awesome. That’s even better. So I kind of went through a little bit of training, there wasn’t really a whole lot available at that time, and put on my hiring manager hat. Because I was the only person who knew what I needed for the team. No other team had been built at this company that was quite what I was doing.

Mandi Walls: Oh okay.

Scott Hain: So I put on that hiring manager hat that I was like, “Okay, this is just another duty that I have for this team,” and started interviewing people and then putting them through a set of interviews that were pretty much standards so that we had an equitable kind of hiring procedure regardless of who the interviewer was. I also had to write my own interview that was for this particular team that was essentially kind of a hybrid of … Well, it was a different interview because this team was doing special-

Mandi Walls: Different work, yeah.

Scott Hain: So went through all that and eventually just built out the team to three ICs and myself and we worked through a bunch of stuff. Really, really solid first three people. Really, really, really solid. Not that they aren’t all awesome, but really solid, top notch, great, great, great, good stuff. From that, that was the core of the team. At that point in time, talked to my boss. I’m like, “Okay, I have a lot of other stuff that I’m doing that’s not writing code, because I haven’t been writing code because I’ve been doing all this hiring stuff and doing all these interviews.” I did probably, I want to say somewhere around 80 interviews in the first-

Mandi Walls: Oh my goodness.

Scott Hain: First six months, which is a lot.

Mandi Walls: Now how many ICs did that result in?

Scott Hain: That resulted in three.

Mandi Walls: Oh my goodness.

Scott Hain: But like I said, I was looking for highly specific skillsets to make it so that I could ensure that this team was going to be successful. There were a lot of close, and the real bummer is that there were a lot of early career folks that I would’ve hired if I didn’t need a couple of senior folks.

Mandi Walls: Oh, that’s a tough one-

Scott Hain: [inaudible 00:20:18] running.

Mandi Walls: Yeah.

Scott Hain: So that was a big bummer for me. But I’ll get more into that in a minute. Once I got those folks, I talked to my boss and I’m like, “I’m doing more managery stuff, then I’m doing codey stuff. So what do I need to do to actually switch?” There’s a process at my company. So I went through the process, which is essentially interviewing for a manager role.

Mandi Walls: Oh, okay.

Scott Hain: I got a lot of really good feedback from the folks that were doing the interviewing. It’s a couple different interviews. They were like, “All right, yeah, these are some things that we would point out that you need to be careful of, that you should work on, but here’s some other stuff. No red flags. We think you can do the job. Let’s move you over officially as a job title and all that fun stuff.” So then I was a manager,

Mandi Walls: Surprise!

Scott Hain: Yay. From then on, I haven’t really had time to do almost any coding. I still try and do some PR reviews and stuff like that. But we’re writing in a language that I don’t know, or don’t know well, I guess you could say. So I’m a little behind the curve on that. But in the next six months, and this will take us to May of 2021, I was able to actually hire one early career person. Then I was able to hire another senior person, and that was awesome. Then in May, I actually got to hire an early career person who has a non-traditional background. They have a, I want to say an archeology degree.

Mandi Walls: Oh, wow.

Scott Hain: They did a six week boot camp in Rails, and then worked as a Python developer for, I want to say, six months before applying here at my place. I took a swing on them because I really liked their thirst for learning, I guess. Oh man, I hit that one. I hit one out of the park because they’re awesome. They’ve been learning and adding value and doing all of those corporate word things within a couple of weeks of picking stuff up and now they’re writing features and things and I’m like, this is awesome.

Mandi Walls: Yeah, definitely.

Scott Hain: So part luck, but part being able to read people. I think that right there is something that’s really important for transitioning from a manager to a … I’m sorry, from a IC to a manager is the ability to read people, be empathetic, read the room, read kind of how people are reacting to what you’re saying.

Mandi Walls: Yes.

Scott Hain: Just having a really good sense of that. I don’t believe in going with your gut because that’s pretty, in terms of hiring practices, because there’s a whole bunch of problems with that, let’s just say.

Mandi Walls: That could be really messy-

Scott Hain: Bias and equitability. But yeah, that’s kind of my journey. Like I said, I have six people now doing awesome work. Yeah, we’re kicking butts.

Mandi Walls: So was being a manager something that you always thought you were going to get into? Or was it just kind of meh?

Scott Hain: Never. I didn’t want to be a manager for most of my career. I was like, “That sounds like it sucks. That sounds horrible. I just want to get down here and grind on some C-code or grind on some Java.” Whatever the thing was that I was doing at the time. “I want to just solve these weird, complicated problems.” As it turns out, there is a whole separate set of weird, complicated problems with being a manager and working with other teams, working with your boss, other people’s bosses. Yeah, there’s a lot of negotiation, a lot of cooperation, a lot of trade-offs that you have to make just all across the board.

Mandi Walls: Yeah, oh definitely.

Scott Hain: I’ve talked for ages, so what’s up, Mandi?

Mandi Walls: Yeah, dude, that’s super interesting, right? Yeah, like you say, you stumble into things and you take advantage of opportunities that just sort come along, right? Sometimes those things are super interesting and really good. I think knowing when you’re not a fit for something and then looking for an interesting opportunity to get out and do something different is interesting too. There’s definitely with, I think, folks that are … Especially over the last couple of years folks burning out, losing interest in the things that they’re doing and looking for other opportunities, just wherever they might be has been disruptive, I’ll say. Also, I think at least some of the folks that I’ve been watching have been landing in some really great places too.

Scott Hain: One piece of advice that I would have for people, and this is sort of something that I did for a while, but I didn’t realize that it wasn’t … Well take it with a grain of salt. One thing that I’ve seen people do is they will get burned out on at their particular jobs, and they’ll be like, “Okay, I’ll take two weeks or a month between jobs.” Then they’ll go and get a job at a different company doing roughly the same thing.

Mandi Walls: Same thing, yes.

Scott Hain: That can work out if you’re in a toxic work environment, right? That’s cool. If you like doing the thing you’re doing, but you have a toxic work environment, go and find another job in the thing that you love. Right?

Mandi Walls: Yes.

Scott Hain: That’s good. If you were expecting change based on moving to a different company and you’re doing the same thing, you’re going to get burned out again, probably faster than before.

Mandi Walls: That grass being greener in other places. At a fundamental level, a lot of the companies out there doing technology work under the hood have all the same things going on.

Scott Hain: You got release engineering.

Mandi Walls: Yeah.

Scott Hain: You got your-

Mandi Walls: You got your agile team putting their noses into things, and you’ve got your platform teams [inaudible 00:26:46]-

Scott Hain: SREs.

Mandi Walls: Yeah.

Scott Hain: Site reliability engineers. Sorry.

Mandi Walls: Yeah, no, we know that one, right?

Scott Hain: Yeah. Okay.

Mandi Walls: It’s cool. But yeah, as much as the industries are diverse across the actual business logic, the actual practice of getting software into production starts to coalesce around some, I hate to say best practices, but they kind of are, or at least more aligned practices. So yeah, like you say, doing the same job for another company isn’t going to make any better for you if you’re really sick of it.

Scott Hain: Yeah, that’s absolutely true. Sometimes some kind of tech innovation will come along that is a little bit of a game changer in certain ways.

Mandi Walls: Sure.

Scott Hain: Like Kubernetes, for example. I haven’t used it much in any kind of production capacity, but that’s been huge for a lot of companies. That kind of came out of nowhere. Well, it didn’t, but there were a lot of good people-

Mandi Walls: It snuck in around the corner.

Scott Hain: But that was like, “Oh, no one’s done this before. This is cool.” For better or worse.

Mandi Walls: So one thing that we like to ask folks on the show from time to time is if you’ve got a myth you’d like to debunk, so around thinking about your career journey, thinking about moving from IC to manager, is there a myth that you think folks might believe in that you can enlighten us on a little?

Scott Hain: One thing, and this may be really obvious, that maybe this isn’t a myth, I’m not sure. But I would argue that both of those particular roles are not necessarily equally difficult, but they are both very challenging and very difficult. A lot of times, I think folks in one position don’t understand the difficulty of the work that is being done by the other.

Mandi Walls: Yeah.

Scott Hain: Give you a great example of this. A lot of managers who have not been ICs in the past will be like, “Okay, when’s this feature going to be done?”

Mandi Walls: Sure.

Scott Hain: “I need it by the 10th of, random number.” They’ll be like, “Okay?” It’s like, “All right, that’s pretty aggressive, but we’ll do what we can,” says the IC or the engineering lead or whatever. The manager in such a case doesn’t necessarily understand if they haven’t been there is that there’s a whole bunch of scaffolding that needs to be set up that it’s invisible work. There’s a whole bunch of foundation stuff that needs to happen. There’s another product that needs a tiny feature in order to make it so this thing. The primary goal is achieve.

Mandi Walls: Yes.

Scott Hain: That is all invisible. The other side is it’s like, “Okay, well you’re just telling me what to do and telling me what the features are.” It’s like, “Yeah, we also have to go to KPI meetings, we also have to do hiring stuff. We have to deal with leveling and promotion work. We have to be very proactive about what different practices are being used for hiring and for career matrices and all of this other stuff.” So there’s a ton of work that each side doesn’t know about each other if they haven’t done that work. So, hey, if you get a chance to be a manager for six months and you’re comfortable with that, then give it a shot.

Mandi Walls: Yeah, give it a try.

Scott Hain: It’s been really different for me. The other side, if you’re a manager and you haven’t had a chance to be an IC, give it a shot for a little bit. I mean, if your company’s flexible enough and it’s possible. I mean, it’s not going to work for everybody, obviously.

Mandi Walls: Yeah, some places it definitely will, 100%. For larger institutions, larger organizations, I think it’s an interesting practice to give folks that sort of ability to do an apprenticeship or change duties for six months or have a second demand or whatever, where you spend a certain amount of time with another team just taking in what they’re doing on that side.

Scott Hain: Especially even shadowing.

Mandi Walls: Even shadowing is great to just talk to people about what they’re doing. I wouldn’t want to subject someone to all the meetings I sit in, but I’m sure there’s other folks out there that would be happy to learn from.

Scott Hain: Mandi, yesterday was an 11 meeting day for me.

Mandi Walls: Right? How do you even know what meeting is about what topic at that point? Right?

Scott Hain: Yeah. To be fair though, where I am in my career, in my experience, that was kind of an anomaly. I don’t usually have 11. It’s usually more four to six, realistically speaking.

Mandi Walls: Yeah, awesome. So to round us out, finish up, is there anything that you wish you had known earlier on that you kind of maybe learned the hard way?

Scott Hain: Yeah.

Mandi Walls: Along all of this? I’m sure there’s-

Scott Hain: Yes-

Mandi Walls: A few battle scars. But anything that really sticks out?

Scott Hain: From a managerial standpoint where I really put my foot in my mouth a number of times or, is that the right saying?

Mandi Walls: Yeah.

Scott Hain: Yeah, whatever. Where I screwed up and there were consequences that I had to learn and take my punishments for it. I mean that sounds really, really harsh, but it was stuff that I messed up and it did have consequences for other people, which I feel really bad about. So the thing that I had to learn the hard way was optics and what that means for folks. I didn’t know about this as a thing in terms of being an IC. Never had to deal with this, never even thought of it, probably would’ve benefited from knowing about it then. But the optics of the things that you are doing and how you are presenting things to other teams, how you are, if someone on your team is working with another team and it isn’t exactly the … If it’s something that is out of the sort of basic, I don’t want to say, purview of your team and you have someone from your team go and work on something outside of the main project that you’re working on, that usually is bad optics. Because it’s the people who are on the team that you’re “supposed to be” working with are like, “Why are they doing that? Why aren’t they helping me?” That’s just a small example of it. Internal transfers, you got to make sure that there’s … There’s a lot of politics involved with that. If you don’t do all the right things and whatnot it can just appear like, “Oh, well that person gets to get away with whatever they want.” It’s sort building trust and you can easily mess that up if you do something where it seems out of character or the optics are bad. That’s just something I don’t think you can teach people as much.

Mandi Walls: Well, I think that’s hard too, especially in software engineering where some of that stuff just feels like, “Oh, it’s playing politics,” or some of that stuff. Some of it is along the lines of, like you were talking about earlier, making your work visible and making sure all those other things are apparent, what their value is, and that’s a whole other practice. But some of the other stuff feels-

Scott Hain: That’s hard, by the way.

Mandi Walls: Oh yeah.

Scott Hain: That’s really hard.

Mandi Walls: Absolutely. We had a whole episode on that with Dominica Grandes earlier.

Scott Hain: Oh, nice, nice. She’s great.

Mandi Walls: Really hard. She’s awesome. But yeah, it can feel like that’s not important stuff, but getting people to understand what you’re doing and why it’s valuable and how it adds to the end product is important.

Scott Hain: Yeah. I mean, it can be easy to forget when you’re having success with your team and everything like that, but you have to remember as a manager and as an IC, but as a manager really, you have to advocate for your team and you have to basically prove that you’re providing value and that your team is providing value. That’s the main thing. Also, I like to protect my team from random other requests because I’m very possessive of my team and I want them to be focused.

Mandi Walls: That’s a whole other podcast, yeah.

Scott Hain: Hold on, do you have another hour?

Mandi Walls: Yeah, right. That’s a three part episode.

Scott Hain: Yeah.

Mandi Walls: Totally. Well, awesome. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Scott Hain: Yeah, totally. Thanks for having me.

Mandi Walls: Folks definitely have a different path into different kinds of jobs and into management. I know some folks are very deliberate about it, it’s part of their goals and this, they’re working on it.. other folks are just like, “Hey, you want to go run team? You want to do a team?”

Scott Hain: There’s no wrong way to do it. There’s no wrong way to do it. Well, there probably is if you’re-

Mandi Walls: There could be.

Scott Hain: [inaudible 00:35:55] nepotism and all that stuff.

Mandi Walls: There’s a lot more ways to do it right. Well, awesome. Well sir, thank you so much for joining us.

Scott Hain: Yeah, absolutely.

Mandi Walls: For folks out there, thank you for listening to us this week. We’ll have another episode in a couple of weeks, and in the meantime, we’ll wish you an uneventful day. That does it for another installment of Page it to the Limit. We’d like to thank our sponsor, PagerDuty, for making this podcast possible. Remember to subscribe to this podcast if you like what you’ve heard. You can find our show notes at, and you can reach us on Twitter @pageit2thelimit using the number two. Thank you so much for joining us, and remember uneventful days are beautiful days.

Show Notes

Additional Resources


Scott Hain

Scott Hain (he/him)

Scott has been in the tech industry for over 15 years and has been in nearly every role that’s possible, with the exception of frontend development because he can’t do CSS to save his life. (Mad props to the FED folks out there, I love you!) He lives in Seattle with his partner and their three cats, Freyja, Dr. Leg, and Elle Fury. (Doc and Elle were named by an AI written by Janelle Shane, go check out her stuff!) Scott is also a serial user of unnecessary parentheses (sorry) and in his free time plays and records a lot of music.


Mandi Walls

Mandi Walls (she/her)

Mandi Walls is a DevOps Advocate at PagerDuty. For PagerDuty, she helps organizations along their IT Modernization journey. Prior to PagerDuty, she worked at Chef Software and AOL. She is an international speaker on DevOps topics and the author of the whitepaper “Building A DevOps Culture”, published by O’Reilly.