The news has been filled with stories of layoffs at many of tech’s biggest companies, so where are all those engineers going?

Scott Carey, LeadDev’s Editor-in-Chief, rolled up his sleeves, dusted off his skills as a trained journalist, and set out to answer that question. What he found was a simple question with a complicated answer.

On this week’s episode of Dev Interrupted, co-host Conor Bronsdon interviews Scott about the shifting job landscape, spotlighting the findings in Scott’s pivotal article, “Where are all the laid-off software developers going?”

Beyond the dynamics shaping the future of tech employment, the two discuss why non-traditional tech companies have difficulty hiring engineers [hint: it’s not money!], whether or not the “boom times are over,” and the major trends LeadDev is seeing within the engineering community. 

Episode Highlights:

  • (3:00) What is LeadDev?
  • (8:00) Where are all the laid-off software developers going?
  • (15:00) Transitioning to jobs outside of tech
  • (18:30) How big tech influences the job market
  • (20:30) Software engineers "know their value"
  • (27:00) Major trends: Are the boom times over?
  • (32:00) Developer productivity and Gen AI
  • (38:30) LeadDev's upcoming events

Episode Transcript:

(Disclaimer: may contain unintentionally confusing, inaccurate and/or amusing transcription errors)

Conor Bronsdon: Hey everyone, welcome in we are back on Dev Interrupted, I'm your co host Conor Bronsdon, and today we're joined by Scott Carey, Editor in Chief at LeadDev.

Scott, great to have you with us.

Scott Carey: Nice to be here Conor, thanks for having me.

Conor Bronsdon: You're joining us from the UK, right?

Scott Carey: That's right, yeah, I am in a very grey London at the moment, but we have just come off a very vicious heatwave, so I'm very much enjoying the respite over here.

Conor Bronsdon: I think I'm in the same boat, and as Lead Dev's Editor in Chief, I know you have an opportunity to travel around the world to meet with thousands of engineers.

Learn about their content and hopefully escape those heat waves sometimes. I actually first met you when Dev Interrupted brought our podcast to LeadDev New York to record episodes with some of the amazing speakers you had on site. And we're really excited to be joining you again, this time at LeadDev West Coast in San Francisco, October 16th and 17th.

A little pitch, there's a list of mile long of great speakers that we can't wait to meet. If you haven't already registered, especially if you're in the Bay Area, you should definitely do it. This event is not one you want to miss. We'll definitely include a link in the show notes for it. It's going to be a lot of fun.

You can meet up with me and the rest of the Dev Interrupted crew. And yeah, go check it out after this episode or pause right now and go and register. Scott, given that you have so much access to engineers around the world and engineering leaders, the work you do to plan and program these conferences on different continents, you have your finger on the pulse of the engineering community.

And in particular, I want to talk about an article you wrote in July titled, Where are all the laid off software engineers going? It really caught my attention and I think it's an important conversation because it's a confusing time right now in recruitment, particularly in tech, as there's these views around what's actually happening and how strong is the market.

But before we dive into that, I know we're saying this term Lead Dev and a lot of our audience I know who you are, but I want to make sure that anyone who isn't familiar knows a bit about Lead Dev and its mission. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Scott Carey: Yeah, sure. We're a content and conference company, based here in the UK.

A lot of people don't know that because as you said, we, operate conferences, all around the world, two in the US one in Berlin and then one here in London at the moment. Yeah we have a quite simple mission. Our mission is to help, software engineering managers get better at leading their teams and delivering software.

So really we, when this company was started, a few years back, it was, really at that time when engineering management as an actual kind of discipline, really started to emerge and people started to apply. Broader leadership skills and frameworks to software engineering.

And we really saw an opportunity to help engineers come together and learn those skills and put them into practice. So that's what we've been doing. We do it through our conferences, but also we have, a big library of online content. So written content from practitioners and also from journalists, covering the really hot topics.

And then we also have a regular series of webinars, covering the biggest challenges that folks are facing. All the way from, senior engineering managers down to, staff plus.

And that's definitely a mission that resonates with us, obviously. We're a show that's all about how to improve as an engineering leader, how to learn from others.

Conor Bronsdon: and I've seen LeadDev's role in shaping the narrative of what's happening in the software industry and in particular, as you point out, in shaping the growth of engineering leadership, which is something that, even though we don't think about it this way, is still fairly nascent as an industry.

Scott Carey: It is.

And we, yeah, we absolutely hope that we, can help in that regard. That's very much our mission. But like we, it's been a really interesting couple of years because, we're coming out of this market where things were really great for a really great time. It was growth, and people had all these resources to, to throw at the problem.

And it was all about best practice and learning from, the biggest and the best companies and all these kinds of, engineering management influences started emerging. I'm writing great books on the topic. You're Will Larson's, you're Camille Fournier's. Like it started to become really clear, like how to do this at the best level that you can.

And what we're starting to see now is a slight shift and maybe a whole new way of thinking about that. So you did. Yeah, as this industry, it never lets you rest. It never lets you settle your laurels.

Conor Bronsdon: So that does bring something up to me, which I think is a, an interesting segue into this conversation around job transitions and growth.

You have a background as a journalist. How did you find your way into this mission?

Scott Carey: Yeah, and my role here is still like brings to bear a lot of those journalism skills, but I now just have a lot more variety to my role because we're programming events. We are running webinars, we're doing sponsored content, we're, still publishing loads of written content, which is, my...

background. That's my, area of expertise. But yeah, really like I got into journalism not really knowing what I wanted to do. I just knew that I wanted to write for a living and I'm pretty nosy. I like talking to people. I particularly like hearing about people's jobs and at the time This was about 10 years ago.

Like tech was just the hot thing. It just, to me as a journalist getting into, the world of business journalism, like looking for an industry to cover, like it just seemed obvious to me that I wanted to cover technology. And it wasn't that easy to get my foot in the door, but luckily I had a friend at the time who was working for Business Insider.

And I just got talking to him and I said, is this as cool as it looks from the outside? And he was like, yeah, he was like, it's just nonstop. I was covering the travel industry before, which sounds super fun and interesting but is actually like. Slow, like it's just a slow industry. You get a new aircraft every now and then you get a new hotel chain every now and then, whereas tech, it's just something new every single day.

So I was really keen to get into it and I haven't looked back since. So I've just been covering this space now for a number of years. And I still love it. I still, I'm just intrigued by the challenges people face and the stuff people build.

Conor Bronsdon: Absolutely agree with you that growth around just new ideas, new things, new concepts is so huge.

As someone who also shares I'll say a non traditional tech background, I had a career in political organizing, before transitioning into tech. And I think that Kind of passion as you come into it and you realize how much new is happening, how much excitement, how much potential there is, even as we continue to develop certain lines of technology, there's always the next thing, there's always the next opportunity, it really drives home the importance of some of the things we're doing, even if all that you're doing is making one process more efficient, the reverberations of that worldwide are massive.

And, because of that, I think, yeah. A lot of folks were rocked when these massive layoffs took place at, Google, Microsoft, Meta, all over the place, Twitter, obviously not to mention scale up startups we've seen, massive amounts of software engineers get laid off because of operating expenditure concerns or other, burn rate challenges people are having, or a variety of other reasons, whether real or imagined.

And. After this massive run up of success the industry has experienced the last 15 years, it was a bit of a shock to the system. And you wrote a really stellar article about it of talking about, where all the laid off software developers are going. Can you outline for us a bit about what the conclusions were you've drawn from your research?

Scott Carey: Yeah, and, it was just nice for me to do some writing. I hadn't done any writing in a year since I started this job. And the reason I did it is because people just kept asking me. They were saying, Where are all these laid off engineers going? We just hear about this relentless stream of layoffs. 

And it wasn't obvious to anyone where they were landing because they're all we heard was that people were getting laid off from the big tech companies. There wasn't any funding, going into startups. So there weren't the opportunities there. They've always been there for people in technology.

And so everyone was like, okay, obviously they're all going to the enterprise. But then I started talking to people and no one was going to the enterprise. So I just had to, dust off those journalism skills and go out and try and figure it out again. So I spoke to a bunch of, we, we're really lucky to have really good partners in like talent and, and hiring over here.

So I, I reached out to them to try and dig in some data and seeing what they're seeing in the data, but then also just had some anecdotal conversations with people who'd recently been laid off to find out what their plans were. And just ended up with a really. Nuanced picture, of actually where people are landing because, when it comes to careers, like there is just no singular answer to that question where are all the laid off engineers going.

Conor Bronsdon: I remember a conversation with a mentor from years ago where he described his career not as a path, but as an ice flow where, you are on this piece of ice and you have to make these decisions about what the next ice chunk you jump to is, but there is this impact of the currents around you, which might be economic climate or how's that company doing, or who's the manager going to be.

And these currents are things that you can try to project for, but you're not going to be able to fully control. And that's always stuck with me as we think about our career journeys, because I think a lot of folks think. They see someone successful and they think it's a straight line, because it's a lot easier for us to, and a lot more exciting for us to hear about these massive things people have done.

And we ignore the pitfalls and the side projects and the odd pathways people took to get there, even now after trying to recognize that more. And you had a lot of great personal anecdotes from engineers in that article about how individuals experienced. These are really challenging layoff circumstances and the factors that heavily influence their next career move.

What kind of factors were you seeing affect these decisions the most?

Scott Carey: Yeah, I think the thing that surprised me the most was just how much kind of personal circumstances played into this decision. That seems silly to say, but like back in the day, it was really just, I'm going to keep moving up the ladder.

And you don't really have to think too much about this stuff, but when those decisions become a bit more fraught, because you might have to go down a salary level, or you might have to change industry, or you might have to take on a new challenge that actually requires a lot more hours from you than you were used to doing, and you've got two young kids at home.

All these circumstances really play into that decision, and that was coming up time and time again with the Dev The folks that I was talking to because the people who were further along in their career weren't really willing to take that step back to move forward again. I spoke to one person who, had worked in what we would call big tech or that may be more on the scale upside, but, they had a really good salary and a really good role and they just knew where they stood in the organization.

Whereas if they wanted to then go and go to a scale up and. Worked really long hours to try and get that company to where it is and build a team and change the culture. Like at their point in life, like they just weren't up for that challenge. And that's fair. Like they were planning for retirement.

They just needed to work five or six more years, at the like salary they were working at just to, to fulfill their plans. And so that was, Like that was a story I heard a lot. And then there were other people that were the other side of the spectrum, where they're like this is an opportunity.

know, I've just left Google. I've left Facebook. I knew exactly what I did there. I was a cog in the machine. And now, actually, I've learned all these skills and I want to go and bring them to bear on somewhere where I can make a real impact. I think the only thing that really hit home when I was having those conversations with people is that those opportunities now are much fewer, and far between because there aren't this wealth of startups coming through because of the funding landscape, because of what's going on in the world where those opportunities are, are not just swimming around.

So it's, it is difficult for people to, to find that next step. And so I found a lot of people are sitting tight and just waiting for the right opportunity, which is an absolute privilege for engineers because a lot of them have earned very well for a number of years, and you can't do that forever, but it is a privilege to be able to sit there and look for the next opportunity.

Conor Bronsdon: It definitely speaks to the importance of retaining some savings, having an emergency fund, because even when, we think these boom times are going to continue, there are these risks, and we don't control these broader economic conditions that affect us. It is also interesting to see what's happening in the funding landscape at, say, the seed, pre seed, Series A level versus Series B, C, D onwards.

Because I'm happy to say we're seeing less of a slowdown, if not more. Very minimal, at like seed level where it's like very new startups are still getting funded. But the problem to your point is that they only do a small portion of the hiring compared to the folks who are scaling and getting those, large series C raises.

And that's where we're seeing a major slowdown is those scale ups, those folks who are maybe meant to be the next unicorn or were considered a unicorn and now probably would have to raise it down round.

Scott Carey: Yeah, and honestly if you're not playing in a really sexy area right now that funding isn't really there.

Unless you are super interested in Gen AI or, one of these other areas that's hot right now, there's not those opportunities out there. It's interesting. I spoke to a few engineers like who were transitioning about three, four years ago, and they landed at the exact right time and they know how lucky they are because they landed in something they were really interested in, at a time when they had just got some fresh funding that was going to give them enough runway to get through this, but there's plenty of other horror stories on the other side of that didn't go that way.

Conor Bronsdon: And I know there are trends that show a significant proportion of laid off engineers are actually looking at industries outside of traditional tech. So finance, healthcare, manufacturing, what do you see that meaning for these industries in terms of digital transformation and talent acquisition?

Scott Carey: Yeah, that, that stuff has never gone away. And I used to work at InfoWorld and we covered enterprise. And this has been the, the big story even before the layoffs is that how do I access that talent? How do you compete with Google? That was always, that would always be the bogeyman.

How do you compete with Google? Where you don't have the same money. Now you do maybe now you do because, they're freezing hiring and there's all this talent out in the market. The only thing is that's a really neat and simple narrative. But actually when I was talking to people, like it's not quite happening in the way that people, the way that those organizations maybe thought, they maybe thought they could just get out there and just Hoover up all this talent.

But actually the more conversations I had with people who were trying to do that, they weren't overly enamored with the people that were available, or they weren't quite sure whether it was the right thing to be doing right now to be Hoovering up loads of talent and making the mistake that those companies had just made, but a couple of years further down the line.

Despite the temptation. So I think it's, they're in a really interesting spot, they've been waiting for this opportunity and in different organizations. I always think of like finance and insurance and companies that have really big, interesting challenges and plenty of money to pay engineers, but also it's a lot tougher to work in those regulated industries.

Like you have to pick up a lot of, those kind of difficulties with developer experience with things being a little bit slower, a little bit more red tape, it's as a engineer are you willing to do that? And I saw a lot of engineers blanching at that side of the job where it's I really don't want to be hamstrung.

I really don't want to like, Constantly be banging my head against these, kind of old systems when I'm used to working with the latest and greatest tech. So I think the challenge for those organizations remains the same, even though the circumstances have changed a lot. But the talent is out there, but the kind of sell for them is maybe slightly less about the money and less about the big challenge and more about giving them the experience that they want.

Conor Bronsdon: That's super interesting to consider because we talk a lot about developer experience on this show, and recently it's becoming more and more of a topic of conversation for engineering leaders. But I think we, we don't always see such stark examples of its impact on hiring and retention. We talk about it, we'll say, oh, it helps me retain engineers.

And I think we're seeing it here on hiring to your point of, oh, companies. that have good DevEx are more likely to land top engineers. So it's a great reminder of that importance. And it's interesting also because those companies are often major tech companies, the Microsofts, the Apples, the Amazons, the Netflixes.

And not only, do they have the advantage of having incredible platform teams and they've invested You know, billions in that they can, leverage and hiring retention and speed up the processes. They also have an outsized impact, as you mentioned with Google, on job market dynamics. How are you seeing those major tech companies impact the dynamics of this, job market currently for engineers?

Scott Carey: Yeah, it's caused a massive shockwave. Like it's, as I was saying it's put this kind of like flood of talent on the market. And I think a lot of people are struggling to work out what to do with it. They're trying to work out how to sift through, that talent and, working out if, if they're the right.

People for them and if they have the skills that they want to be a little bit more entrepreneurial or be a little bit more outside of the box. And I, the lot of the folks I was talking to, they just weren't seeing what they wanted from that talent pool. So that initial excitement got tempered quite quickly, in terms of what was available.

I do. Just to go back to the last point, I do think that these enterprise organizations need to rethink the way that they try and attract engineers a little bit. I think that a lot of it has always been based on the finances. And I think that now, because like I'm seeing suppression of salaries, I think that they can pay them, but actually what they really should be focusing on is What's the cool challenge I have and how are you going to be able to solve it?

I think that a big insurance company, like it seems really unsexy from the outside, but if they start to talk more about the fact that they have this wealth of data and they've got all these exciting ideas, but you can get engineers excited about that stuff. But I don't think they do a great job of telling those stories.

And really talking about what they're doing inside their engineering organization. Cause they're so conservative about sharing stories all the time. So I think that's really, what's hamstringing them more than, the finances.

Conor Bronsdon: A lot of companies are still trying to stick with this tried and true recruitment strategy and the market has shifted.

The dynamics have shifted and the needs of developers and the desires of developers have certainly shifted. So are there other areas where you think companies should be adjusting their recruitment strategy as they approach this?

Scott Carey: Yeah, I think that like focusing on the challenges the differences and the DevEx as well, I think are things that I just don't see these organizations do.

But outside of that, it's, this is the time for them to try and do that. Like they've been waiting for this opportunity to have. More talent available to them, and to miss it would be a real shame because the market will bounce back, right? Tech isn't going anywhere. But yeah, I feel like they're missing that opportunity at the moment.

Conor Bronsdon: You mentioned earlier that the majority of laid off candidates, or at least a large plurality, are not looking to downgrade their positions. What do you think that says about the value proposition and resilience of software engineering roles, even in challenging economic climates?

Scott Carey: They know their value.

Software engineers know their value. And that hasn't changed. I was really glad to see that even in this market people weren't really willing to make that step back. Some of them are going to have to because There's lots of circumstances where maybe your visa requires you to get a new job, or you might have a financial situation where you really need to do it.

And I think those people will be fine. Like they, they will get back to where they want to be. It's a shame, like you never want to make that step back in your career. But in the. Brought in like the broadest sense, like most engineers know that their skills are still very in demand. As you said, like the demands of digital transformation have not gone anywhere.

The demands to, deliver new technology has not gone anywhere. We know that engineers who are left behind are absolutely feeling the crunch because they're getting asked to do the same amount of work with smaller teams with less colleagues. And like they, so they can see it. They're not stupid.

Like they know that these. Skills is still going to be in demand. So a lot of them are willing to sit tight and just wait for the market to bounce back so they can get back in there.

Conor Bronsdon: Sounds like you don't think AI is replacing developers anytime soon.

Scott Carey: I don't see it. I don't see it. I just, I really do think that whenever these things come up, they have this miraculous ability to somehow actually increase the amount of work that people end up doing.

Because there's now an increased expectation. I was reading a thing in HBR the other day about the rise of citizen development. Now that AI is there and I was always so bearish on no code, low code. I just never saw anyone give me a good example of a citizen developer in an organization that actually launched something that people use.

And I'm sure they exist, but I just never really saw it. Whereas with AI now, like I think that there is a much more opportunity for someone in your finance department to build a very quick app that solves a very annoying pain point for them. But as the piece said, someone's got to manage that.

Like bigger now, estate of applications. I just feel like it's somehow, like every one of these technologies that says it's going to save us time and make, give us a four day working week. It's somehow going to give us more work.

Conor Bronsdon: I'm still holding out hope for the four day work week. I have to say that's, that sounds pretty nice sometimes.

I know there are other entrepreneurs and, Software engineers who are taking the opposite direction saying hey, we want to double down want to work more Maybe I was a staff software engineer at Meta. I'm gonna go found something now. I've to your point earlier I have these skills I've built up.

I have these connections What are you seeing on that side of things where software engineers are maybe going to be co founders or early employees at some of these? smaller startups

Scott Carey: Yeah, I was like, I was amazed actually by the numbers here. Like the amount of, software engineers that were looking at this market and, losing their jobs or leaving their jobs and deciding to go and start their own business is just a level of kind of ambition and bravery that I do not have like I absolutely take my hats off to them.

Yeah, there was, I was working off this, this piece of analysis by BizReport, and it said that 13 of every 100 people who recently lost their jobs had started their own companies. Wow. And like most of those, so most of those founders so 9 out of every 100 startups being established was by a former software engineer.

And what it, like what it told me was just like, this has always been the case. Like a big, successful startups have always bred more entrepreneurs. Like you get like the classic example that I'm loathe to use, but I can't think of a better one now is the PayPal Mafia. But here in the UK we have the GoCardless Mafia.

So GoCardless was a fintech company here, but like five of the, Found founders or people who came on pretty early or went on to found companies like Monzo, which is a really big Challenger bank here and other companies that you may not have heard of but who have been very successful So I think it's always happened I was just really surprised to see software engineers doing it now in this like Situation where there isn't a lot of funding out there, but it just shows you that like there's still that kind of bullishness, on new tech ideas and building a business around it.

I'm really happy to see that's not completely gone away. I just really hope that, they can find a way to get these ideas funded. Cause that looks like a real challenge right now.

Conor Bronsdon: It's definitely exciting. I'm hopeful that in the next year or two, we'll see that funding market open up a bit more for them.

AI space, which doesn't seem to be having any problems.

Scott Carey: But just do what, what was it, Sundar, during the Google conference, just call it saying everything's AI. That's how you get your funding now,

Conor Bronsdon: Yeah, just add, do an ai domain, you're good to go. I am curious, were there any other, surprises or, takeaways that you had from the research you did?

Scott Carey: Yeah, not a lot of other surprises. I just think that as you said, like the knowing of their value from software engineers, like that was, quite surprising just how much they, they could see that and weren't being cowed by what was going on in the market.

I think a lot of people outside of tech look at it and see a bloodbath, but actually a lot of the folks I was talking to were like, we're not too worried. Like we know it's going to bounce back. It looks like it's temporary blip. And, a lot of these folks haven't lived through this before.

And we really like tech rode out 2008 pretty well. Like the last one would have, that would have really felt this way would have been the dot com bubble. And there's a lot of folks in engineering that weren't around for the dot com bubble. So yeah, me included.

Conor Bronsdon: If you're not watching on YouTube, we both raised our hands just now.

Scott Carey: Yeah, not to brag, but not around for that. So yeah, I think that it's a bit new for some people, but I think anyone who has, been around for that stuff is going to be sitting there and saying, don't worry, son, like this is it, this is all going to be okay.

Conor Bronsdon: I think that's an inspiring note to end that conversation on and zoom out a bit, because as we alluded to at the start of this episode, you've got great insight into what's happening in software engineering leadership and software engineering broadly.

Obviously, one of the major trends that we've been dealing with is what we just talked about. These major layoffs, the impact they're having on the industry, how folks are adapting, huge concern. But there are also other major trends that. We've seen this year. Can you talk a bit about what you're seeing and what you expect for the next year or two?

Scott Carey: Yeah, I think, the layoffs element of this is a symptom of the broader thing that we're seeing, which is just this kind of feeling of unease amongst the software engineering community that like, this is the end of boom times. And like that feeling is completely warranted because as we've been talking about, like the economic situation out there is different.

Like we haven't actually hit a recession, but like it, it definitely feels like one. Money is not as cheap as it was. No, it is not. And I think that like seeing, like when I was doing the research for that piece, like the thing that really crystallized for me was just like the way that the whole market is being crunched in the middle.

Like I had, I'd realized that the, the difficulties at the top end were happening because of over exuberance, post pandemic, over hiring, my favorite example that people don't talk about a lot is Peloton. Peloton was like, Oh great, people are just going to use Pelotons the whole time now.

So we're going to build a factory that builds Pelotons. That was a disastrously bad decision, but like that in microcosm is what happened to a lot of tech companies. Zoom is a big, like big one where it's just Oh, like people are just going to zoom all the time now. And we're just going to react to that.

Whereas actually, people really underestimated like how much things were going to come back to, to pre pandemic levels. So I think that I was nascently aware of what was going on at that top end of the market and how that was going to have a knock on effect. But what I wasn't prepared for was the.

Crunch on the bottom end of the funding as well. Meaning that like, all you were left with was this middle. And I think that was, putting people under loads of stress. So the layoffs is a symptom of that, but actually the broader trend that we're trying to really wrap our head around now is like, how do you navigate the end of boom times?

Especially as I said, for a lot of engineers that have only known that world and a lot of engineering managers that have only known like this. sounds like it's reductive and I don't mean it to, but basically it was just like, there was a lot of problems that you could hire your way out of, or you could throw more infrastructure out that you now can't do that.

So I think that there's like for us. Programming events into 2024 and thinking about our content. It's really what is the new set of challenges that this kind of brings up? And how can we be as early on them as possible? Because from a lot of the conversations I'm having, like people are figuring out a lot of this stuff, but we're hoping that by the middle of next year, we have started to identify folks who have been early on figuring that stuff out or have found a way, and they can start to share some of those stories with our audience.

And, it just really puts into context like how early we are in whatever this next wave is

Conor Bronsdon: Do you think there are particular challenges that you want to hone in on? Is it, hey we used to be spending so much time on hiring and like how to hire well, and now we need to focus in on, this aspect of engineering leadership is that a multitude of things?

Scott Carey: It's going to be a multitude of things, but I think because at LeadDev, we're very strong on be like human centric leadership, like servant leadership. we basically have staked one end of the spectrum here, which I always like to think is the opposite of the Elon Musk end of the spectrum of like engineering management, which is, we want people to care about their people and progression, and we want people to deliver great work and whatever you need to do that.

So that's really where we kind of stake our claim. And those are the. the stories we go out and try and find. And I think that doing that... In this market, when I talk to a lot of engineering managers in our, community, like that is the stuff that's causing people loads of anxiety. It's like, how do I promote and progress people in my team when there's less opportunities for them to do that?

How do I reward people when the pot of money is smaller? How do I make those decisions when My CEO is asking me to give them like lines of code as a metric. And I have to explain to them over and over again, why that's a terrible idea. But as I was reading Gurgly's, Pragmatic Engineer newsletter the other day, and he was like, at the end of the day, if the CEO and CFO want some metric on your engineering you're either going to give it to them or they're going to get it themselves.

And you'd much rather give it to them. So these are things that are definitely causing. A lot of people in our community, anxiety. And as I said, like no, no one that we know of yet has got it figured out, but we're hoping they do. And then we're hoping we can help share those stories with people.

Conor Bronsdon: Absolutely. That's something we think a lot about. Obviously, LinearB is the other company I work for. We, Dev Interrupted is part of what we do. And so we're very bought in on this idea that cEOs and CFOs, they want to better engineering. We are not going to stop them from doing that.

So let's make sure they do it the right way. let's look at team performance. Let's look at how can we improve team efficiency. It's not punish individuals who maybe are doing things that don't show up clearly on a JIRA board or don't show up clearly in lines of code.

And to your point about the kind of musk esque style, there's a lot of folks who are just like, no, I'm just going to use this metric even though it doesn't necessarily, apply well and is going to cost me, people long term because of that negative developer experience we alluded to. So it's frustrating for us, I think, to see this as an industry where we really want to do right by our people and give them, these growth opportunities you mentioned.

Scott Carey: Yeah. And I think going back on your point about gen AI, cause we, we can't not talk about generative AI at the moment.

But it's an interesting kind of factor in this in that it just adds to the problem because you're asking engineering managers to rethink how their teams can deliver what they were delivering with less people. A lot of people are going to see generative AI as an opportunity to add some resource without adding human resource.

we haven't seen like that level yet, but I think that's where people are like looking at it going and thinking that they can figure that stuff out. So that's another factor that like we're definitely seeing in terms of like, how does generative AI change. The output of your organization, how do you manage that?

Like these are all definitely things that, we're seeing people grapple with already. And we really want to get our teeth into that topic, this year and especially into next year. And help people navigate it because it's. And it's definitely going to throw up some, effects that we don't foresee.

Conor Bronsdon: Yeah. That's something we're talking about as well is how do you map the ROI of generative AI code? Actually happy to have a full conversation with you on that at some point. Cause I think we have some interesting ideas there and are having conversations with data partners that I'm excited to talk about more once.

They, become more public. The other thing you alluded to there, I think, is the debate that's happening around developer productivity, right? So the recent thing that's kicked it off has been McKinsey coming out with their framework and saying, Oh, this is the approach you should take. And a lot of us thinking there are some issues with that framework that could be improved, let's say.

And to your point about Gergely and Pragmatic Engineer, he and Kent Beck did a fantastic two part response to that. I still have nuanced critiques of them. We're actually going to have a full episode coming out before this. If you haven't listened to yet, you'll want to make sure we do we're going to be talking in depth about that framework, but.

I think that debate isn't going away to your point. And there, there's a need for us to be the ones that shape it because it's great to have us align to the business metrics. But if you ignore the operational metrics and the understanding of what happens in engineering, just to say, Oh now the business cares about lines of code or the business cares about the ARR delivered by this team.

But ignore, maybe that cuts the SRE team. Maybe that cuts, security teams. And we need to make sure that we are actually. The ones shaping that conversation and bringing the expertise. And I think engineering leaders who just say, Oh I don't want to have these metrics. I want to ignore this conversation.

We're not going to be able to. It's just not where the industry is going. And, the CEOs have this expectation of sales and marketing and CS that have these metrics that they can easily understand and have been able to do it for a while. And we're coming out of our nascency that we talked about earlier, where engineering leadership was this like very niche new thing.

And now it's, worldwide and growing and there's more and more engineers. We have to start evolving as an industry. And so let's make sure we do it in a way that's healthy and improved developer experience. Lets us become more efficient, supports teams instead of punishing individuals.

Scott Carey: Yeah, we've actually, just closed the survey because we're doing a team performance report, later on this year that we're really excited about, that when we, started planning it, this wasn't the big topic of conversation in engineering management, but it suddenly has become it.

And we really wanted to go out and find out, just what everyone's talking about. With the two ends of the spectrum there in terms of what are the metrics that are useful? What are the ones that aren't? What are the challenges people have reporting team performance? How do you align that with business goals?

we really just wanted to try and finally get a handle on it because the more you read about it, like the less, seemingly with this, because it just seemingly is a really difficult nut to crack. And I think the answer is probably that's because it's going to be individual to your organization.

It has to be customizable. Yeah, exactly. You've got to take the tools that are available and adapt them to your organization, depending on what you need. Because as we saw in the initial results that we're going to be publishing in October. at our West Coast conference, is that some metrics clearly are important to everyone, but then there's others that are important to, to, smaller groups of companies.

That doesn't mean that those are the wrong metrics. It just means that they're appropriate to them. And that's a big lesson for us in this space that no one's really figured out yet.

Conor Bronsdon: Yeah. 

So the next stage of that debate. The next stage of the Google Dora report, which is obviously the industry standard. And to your point, like it forms a foundation of a lot of what we do, but needs to be adapted for some organizations. Maybe they care about different metrics versus others.

I'll say we're also going to be releasing. Full Updated Benchmarks Report, so building on the DORA research, taking all of the data from the platform teams that we work with and, establishing what are the standards that we see across teams at the elite level, the lower end. How can you think about these general benchmarks, but you have to go beyond that.

Like those are just tools to help you begin to understand and build a framework your organization needs to customize based off of what actually delivers value for your team and for your business and. Depending on if we're using pair programming regularly or mob programming, or everyone's using individual PRs and working async, there are major changes in what you need to be considering.

So I appreciate the care that you and your team are bringing to that conversation, because I think it's really important. And that's something we talk a lot about is like making sure every organization can program and customize their approach, because without that, I think there's huge risks to applying a one size fits all framework.

Some folks have tried to do.

Scott Carey: Yeah, and I love that benchmarks report. We just don't have the data that you guys have. Yeah, it's always a must read for me.

Conor Bronsdon: That's very kind of you. We're excited to see what your survey has to say. I think that'll be really interesting. And speaking of that's a great segue.

First talk about LeadDev West Coast. Where can folks go to learn more?

Scott Carey: Yeah. So LeadDev. com, the, you've got all of the events at the top of the page there, you got LeadDev, which is our kind of flagship, conference for engineering managers. But also we have LeadingEng, which is for, your kind of director, VP, senior.

It's a very different format. It's much more intimate, more roundtables. You spend a lot more time getting to know, the other people in the room, than you do at LeadDev, which is that more kind of theater style conference. We've got something for everyone there.

And yeah, all the details are on there. And then also at the bottom of the page, you'll find, there's a Contribute link, where if you want to write an article for us, or if you want to submit a talk for one of our other conferences or West Coast next year, you can get all the details there as well.

Conor Bronsdon: Highly recommend checking out that contribute link because, there are some fantastic talks. I know you get what, 600 plus talks per conference. It's amazing. 

Scott Carey: Yeah, our host in London, Mary Williams, said that it's harder to get into LeadDev than it is to get into Harvard, which we are dining out on.

Conor Bronsdon: That is a great line. I will say you put together some fantastic articles. We referenced the one you wrote. We've had the pleasure of writing a couple, and there are folks. From all over the industry definitely recommend checking it out and reading more, and we're, I think we're really excited to publish one of yours in an upcoming article on our sub stack too.

Thanks so much for this collaboration and for coming on the podcast, Scott. It's been a pleasure to talk with you as always, and can't wait to see you in a couple of weeks.

Scott Carey: Yeah, thanks, Conor. Thanks so much for having me. It's been a blast.

Conor Bronsdon: Thanks for listening, everyone and Scott, we'll see you and hopefully some of our listeners, in the Bay Area October 16th and 17th.

Come say hi to Dev Interrupted. If you do make it, we will have our giant dome where we'll be recording podcasts all day. And come say hi to Scott as well. We love to meet the people from the community and we'll also see you next week for another installment in our series on the journey of an engineering leader.

Thanks so much, folks.