Andrew Odewahn of O’Reilly’s three tips on the future of work, leadership and learning and development

We’re so excited to be partnering with O’Reilly, the mega online learning platform. We’ll be collaborating with them on brilliant content, high-quality videos, and comprehensive learning and development resources in the near future, for the benefit of our community. 

So, what better way to get a feel for the people behind the company than putting their CTO, Andrew Odewahn in the CTO Craft spotlight. Here he shares his key ideas on how and why leadership is going to change.

Take it away, Andrew…!

Tip 1: Processes should be informed by needs

The pandemic has been challenging for everyone in different ways. As we all adjust to this new way of working – particularly with more people working from home – you have to take the time to figure out team structures. Ones that understand how to make sure your company has workable processes that accommodate people’s needs including being much more flexible about the time. Treat people as individuals and ask them what they need so that your organisation and leadership is doing everything it can to support them and ensure they can accomplish their goals without burning out.

Tip 2: Have compassion

It might sound corny but leaders need to go forward and lead with empathy. Try to understand what’s happening everywhere with the pandemic. I.e. in parts of the US, people have been dealing with Covid-19 and bushfires which have required them to evacuate their homes and live in camping grounds during the pandemic. Often, you don’t know what plates people are juggling and It impacts the way that people might approach a problem or the energy they dedicate to work. So we as leaders also need to adjust and try to understand and make room for that and create a team structure and configuration that allows leaders and other team members to support each other that bit more, when necessary.

That is not to say you don’t have to focus on what you need to do as a business and continue to make progress against your objectives. But that sense of empathy and that sense of working as best you can to help each individual person is the key. 

Tip 3: Continuous learning = motivation

People should be learning all the time and you should have a budget for it. Being the company that we are, we’re in a great position where one of the benefits we offer is our employees have the freedom and ability to learn whatever they want and keep progressing. 

For other organisations, it takes a more concerted effort to create opportunities where people can not only learn new skills but safely use them and improve. For example, we have a programme called Spark Time where developers, designers, and product people can spend one day a week focussing on their own interests as long as it’s related to something in the platform. From this, we’ve had a number of people who have created new testing frameworks that we’ve adopted, different libraries or engineering techniques that we’ve implemented. People see it as a real source of career development and one that they can point to. 

As a leader, you always have to be thinking about how to retain people. Understand what each person’s goal is and where they want to go next. It’s a mistake to plan and think someone will stay put for 20 years, get a gold watch and retire. In some ways, you always need to be looking over your shoulder and thinking about how you are motivating people to want to be there for the longer term. Be intentional; let people explore and have opportunities to learn and talk about the things they find interesting.

Don’t underestimate the impact of things like Spark Time and learning opportunities on innovation. Sometimes it’s small things that are created, sometimes it’s big things. But it’s not about the outcome, it’s really about providing that outlet to people to be creative and see their ideas make it into an end product. It’s something people get really excited about.

Final Thoughts…

Something that every engineering leader should probably read and learn from is a book called Accelerate by Dr Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble and Gene Kim. It’s a great resource and lays out a lot of solid principles and provides a really good framework for how to think about engineering and engineering processes.


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