[from the archives] Our guest today is Scott Carleton.

Scott has a passion for building communities and empowering self-growth through education. Scott is currently the VP of Technology at Andela, a global engineering organization dedicated to fostering the next generation of elite tech talent across Africa. Previously, Scott co-founded Artsicle as CTO, building a global community of visual artists now featuring over 6000 creators in 100 countries. His work on Artsicle’s discovery engine, which was able to create a personalized experience for passive users, earned NYER’s “Best Use of Technology” award in 2013. 

This episode is for you if you’re into #learning #hiring or #mentorship.

Favorite Quotes

  • You hear a lot that “its all about the people”, but you don’t really get it until it kicks you in the shins.
  • I think a lot about communication through a company in the context of dynamic systems and controls. You can have an input of information where someone’s unaligned or there’s some dissonance, and you’re not going to feel the full impact of that until it works it’s way through the organization.
  • In the early days, I felt like I needed the “best” engineers. That came out as needing Stanford Grads. But what I realized very quickly was that they had very different expectations and needs. I couldnt provide for them the right kinds of challenges because we were still hunting for product market fit.
  • I’ve found that in hiring I should look for “potential” and not “pedigree”.
  • We created a culture of really customer focused engineers. The engineers really own their parts of the product. They *really* care about it’s usability.
  • Friction rises in communication when information doesnt have a place to settle.
  • Chat is a tool. I’m sold on it. A tool is necessary but not sufficient. You need the tool to be able to create the behaviour you want, but you need a cultural change or a behaviour/belief change to use the tool effectively.
  • Chat allows us an always on meeting in its worst form. At best, it’s an asyncronous tool to keep everyone in sync.
  • On chat, my top belief is “Get everything into public channels”
  • The health of an engineering team is: How many issues are raised and resolved, and how fast is that iteration?
  • Finding out how to have the right focus for a conversation in a chat channel is important.
  • When I first started doing 1:1s, I totally didn’t want to do it. I’d make up excuses. Every 1:1, there were engineers who would complain and I just wanted to avoid that. But it turns out 1:1s are invaluable because you’ll always discover something important that you don’t know.
  • If you’re having problems in your organization, a 1:1 is like taking a knife to that problem and sinking it a little deeper.
  • When I first joined an organization with an existing engineering team, the first 1:1s were very much “clearing out the backlog” — Figuring out the existing problems.
  • I have a passion for developing peoples potential.
  • How do we measure someone’s learning velocity – how quickly they’re picking up new skills?
  • The killer problem with distributed teams right now is whiteboarding. It’s just *so* hard to do remotely.
  • Distributed teams are about trust. How do you get the information you need? How do you communicate outward & upward so that we have trust at all times? We need to know we’re all pushing in the same direciton.
  • Whats really incredible about sotware development is that the people who are building the applications have a lot more information about the problems thye’re solving than you do. You really want most solutions coming from the bottom up.
  • I focus on how I can expose business problems to the team. I tell them what we’re solving that quarter, and I put retrospectives on the calendar.
  • Zone of Proximal Development is the Goldilocks Zone for Learning — It isn’t too easy, it’s not too hard.
  • In learning science, you’re trying to “observations”. If you know a skill, you can observe whether an engineer has certain behaviours and beleifs.
  • Customer relationships and ownership of your work are really important for engineers.
  • The height of collaboration is really direct feedback.
  • The most generous thing you can do is give really good critical feedback.