8 mins

2021, what a year! For many, change was the only constant, but our community embraced it and shared their stories along the way.

If you missed any of 2021 with LeadDev, here are the top 10 ideas you should be taking with you into the new year.



Last year we partnered with some amazing contributors in the engineering world, who covered everything from flow state and technical management to remote work and strategies for building your career. Here are our top five picks:

1. Sarah Drasner, Why flow matters more than passion

Sarah Drasner (Engineering Director at Google) tackles the ongoing debate of whether flow or passion is more important when it comes to doing great work. She shares why someone who hasn’t designed their whole identity around programming can keep working when challenged (and no, motivation is not the answer). It turns out folks do their best work when in a flow state, regardless of their level of passion. Check it out!

2. Charity Majors, Should engineering managers be technical? 

Should people be hired into engineering roles if they have management skills but not necessarily engineering skills? Why is one skillset treated as non-negotiable and the other as easily learnable? In this article, Charity Majors (CTO at Honeycomb) makes her case for why engineering skills are non-negotiable and managerial skills are capable of being acquired later. She succinctly explains what an engineering team needs from a technical and non-technical engineering manager, so that you can find the best fit for your team.

3. Amy Newell, You’re not just a manager, you’re also a boss

Amy Newell (Senior Director of Engineering at Wistia) shares her insights from management over the years and touches on the power dynamics between employer and employees, the use and abuse of power, compassion, empathy, and so much more. This article is full of practical tips to help you manage the power that you wield with care, and shines a light on the subliminal messages you should be looking and listening out for as a boss.

4. Kiana Mohseni, Starting a new job in a world of ‘digital by design’

Working digitally by design (permanently remotely) from the outset is something that an increasing number of people will be experiencing when starting new jobs this year. In this article, Kiana Mohseni (Director of Software Development at Shopify) shares the factors that made her remote onboarding experience a positive one, the dangers that digital onboarding can pose, and how companies can steer around those for everyone’s benefit. This short read explains how Shopify bridges the disconnect when onboarding new talent remotely, and how you can too.

5. Andrew Hao, How to expand your scope as a staff-plus engineer

Much has been said about engineering managers, but what about senior individual contributors? How can you pave the way for your own career progression? In this article, Andrew Hao (Staff Engineer at Lyft) shares how investing time and energy into cultivating relationships, having patience in project outcomes, and staying strategically aligned with the organization will enable staff engineers to grow and progress into more senior roles.

As Andrew puts it, ‘ambitions are not always recognized so you need to be responsible for your own growth trajectory’. This article shares some great ways for you to do exactly that!


We also continued to produce a number of industry-leading online events and courses over the last year. Here are our top five picks:

1. Yonatan Zunger, Role and influence: The IC trajectory beyond Staff 

Yonatan Zunger (Distinguished Engineer at Twitter) discusses the increasing independence required of senior individual contributors progressing in their careers,  as they move from looking at ‘how to execute the task’ at a junior level to ‘what needs to be done’ once they’re senior. He succinctly explains that, as you progress, there is less specificity in the problems; it’s more ‘go and find the problems yourself and then fix them’.

Also, if you’ve not yet come across Yonatan’s four disciplines rubric (applicable to building influence in any job in the world), you must watch this talk.

2. Leslie Chapman, The delegation equation

Sharing your legos is always difficult. In this talk, Leslie Chapman (Distinguished Engineer at Comcast) addresses the friction between being great at what you do as a senior individual contributor and having to delegate some of the things you love or are very efficient at so that you have capacity for bigger picture thinking. Whether you’re a senior engineer with a full plate or just trying to figure out how to be a better delegator, Leslie will tell you everything you need to know (and in just nine minutes!).

3. Arquay Harris, Storytelling techniques for creating impactful presentations

As engineering leaders, you’re often called upon to present to others and advocate for your teams, and effective public speaking is a fundamental part of your role. How can you harness storytelling techniques to engage audiences and deliver compelling presentations?

In this talk, Arquay Harris (VP of Engineering at Webflow) shares the ‘elite eight’ story structures behind most of the great talks we still reference today. This video is full of useful tips and key takeaways (and a few movie spoilers). If you’re preparing for your next presentation, this is the blueprint you need!

4. David Yee, Building healthy feedback environments

David Yee (Executive Director of Engineering at The New York Times) offers invaluable insights into how to reduce the unhealthy and useless aspects of feedback and how to get the process right, including the crucial element of delivering recipient-orientated feedback respectfully and empathetically.

This talk really is a must watch. Tip: have a notebook at the ready!

5. Krystal Smith-Moore, Turning conflict into empathy on engineering teams  

In this ten-minute (okay, eleven-minute) video, Krystal Smith-Moore (Software Engineer Manager at Mailchimp) teaches listeners how to turn conflict into a positive force by using empathy in engineering teams. This short talk is packed full of valuable takeaways that you can implement today to encourage meaningful conversations and prevent conflict from arising and destabilizing your work dynamic. This is a toolkit that everyone on your team should have.

Look out for more great ideas in our articles, talks, and events over the coming year. And if you would like to contribute your knowledge to the LeadDev community, please get in touch!