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Level Up - Issue #103


Level Up

August 1 · Issue #103 · View online

Level Up delivers a curated newsletter for leaders in tech. A project by Ideal for busy people such as Tech Leads, Engineering Managers, VPs of Engineering, CTOs and more.

“I’m not allowed to write tests”
I was in a coaching session with a technical leader this week who was frustrated. They said, “My Product Manager (PM) won’t allow me to write tests.” I hear this statement and variations like this quite often. As I explored their situation, I discovered that their PM, like many, put a lot of pressure on the team to finish work, asking about progress, and where people were spending time. This technical leader felt like the PM didn’t value tests as they never asked about them.
I asked how long it took them to show visible work and in this situation, their team would spend about a month before showing finished features. No wonder their PM wondered where they were spending their time!
As we explored this situation, my coachee realised that the PM might have been frustrated by the team talking about code reviews and testing because they weren’t seeing any progress. Since the PM wasn’t seeing any progress, they were likely to ask lots of questions and to apply pressure on the technical leader, seeking assurance the team was focused on value-added work. In turn, this technical leader interpreted this pressure as “not being allowed to write tests.”
I asked, “What can you do to satisfy the need of your PM and show progress earlier?” We explored a number of options but in the end agreed they were going to try working in smaller end-to-end batches, and proactively share feature progress rather than waiting until the PM asked for updates. With these two approaches, the technical leader felt like they would have space to still write tests and meet the needs of their PM.
When I hear the words, “I’m not allowed to X”, I find there are few real-world restrictions. More frequently, these are self-imposed boundaries. This week consider, what boundaries might you be placing on yourself and your team that don’t really exist?
Enjoy this week’s newsletter and be sure to pass it on to a friend or colleague. Want to level up your technical leadership skills? Sign up for the online workshop, “Shortcut to Tech Leadership” or take a self-paced course at the

Are you boundaries real, or maybe, more self-imposed?
Are you boundaries real, or maybe, more self-imposed?
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Pre-Mortem: Working Backwards in Software Design
Tweets of the Week
Some great advice in this thread 🧵👇
Chris Dixon
13/ In summary, it’s important to ask questions about new technologies that go beyond first impressions.

🚂 “Looks like a toy” → How fast will it improve?
💰 “Too expensive”→ How fast will the price come down?
🛠 “Doesn’t solve a problem” → Does it provide new capabilities?
Congrats to John Ousterhout (@JohnOusterhout) 🎉👏. I’ve heard many great things about this book!
John Ousterhout
I'm excited to announced that I've just released the 2nd Edition of "A Philosophy of Software Design". See for more info (including free download of new chapters).
Thanks for making it this far! 🤗
If you enjoyed this newsletter, please send me feedback and share with others!
Want to level up your technical leadership skills? Watch out for future dates for the Shortcut to Tech Leadership online workshop, or check out self-paced courses at the Tech Lead Academy.
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Patrick Kua, Postfach 58 04 40, 10314, Berlin, Germany