Young Reacts #190

I got leadership training based on the famous personality test MBTI last Tuesday. I hadn’t had such training, so I was curious about how the MBTI results could help us work better as a team.

Unfortunately, I found the training reaffirm my skepticism over personality tests. The coach emphasized a few times that these test results are merely meant to drive conversations. But during the 4-hour exercise, those nuances were lost, and I felt boxed by the four letters of my MBTI test — some commented how someone got good scores, which upset me.

I understand that when at scale, we need a way to group many people because it’s impossible for one to understand thousands deeply. But we are talking about a dozen close colleagues that we interact with daily. We should rely on open and honest conversations, not these tests, to understand each other.


Software Engineering ⚙️

What’s TypeScript compiling? Use a treemap to find out.

It will be slow if JavaScript has to chug through 100MB of source code. This source code bloat is why faster native code-based tools like swc and esbuild are gaining popularity.

RedwoodJS vs. BlitzJS: The Future of Fullstack JavaScript Meta-Frameworks

I enjoyed reading this deep-dive on new generations of JavaScript frameworks. While the author preferred the less-opinionated nature of BlitzJS, I prefer the opinionated technology choices of RedwoodJS: serverless, React, and GraphQL ❤️

People ❤️

Talking About Layoffs

I appreciated the author’s courage to share her pain of getting laid off. Before reading this article, I hadn’t considered how people who were let go cannot have closure around why now, why me, etc.

Becoming an Organizational Leader

A few of my reports expressed interest in growing to be organizational leaders. Since I am not at that level either, I had difficulty guiding them. That’s when I found this thorough article by the Square engineering team. I loved reading about different areas one can effect organizational changes.

Business 💰

Y Combinator narrows current cohort size by 40%, citing downturn and funding environment

Even the most prestigious funds and accelerators are not immune to the economy.

Interesting Finds 💡

How I Used DALL·E 2 to Generate The Logo for OctoSQL

I’ve seen lots of weird images DALL-E generated. But this is the first one where the image serves a valuable purpose. This article got me interested enough to join the DALL-E waitlist.

Earth is spinning faster than usual and had its shortest day ever

What’s more shocking is that Meta has dedicated engineers working on the leap second problem.

Young Reacts #189

Even though it’s not official, I believe the recession is here. It is my first time experiencing a recession as a working adult. While I haven’t heard anything at work, it does worry me to see other companies laying people off. Now I am wondering if I should start practicing LeetCode again.


Software Engineering ⚙️

My Big Fat Monolithic Alert

My team’s service is a monolith, with multiple teams contributing to it. Like in this article, we suffer from pagers from other teams’ code. Adding metadata to the alerts and routing them based on the metadata is a simple yet powerful technique to create accountability for other teams.

The CSS behind Figma

Figma is one of the tools that pushed what’s possible on the web. So it’s worth learning how they built their app, and the author did a great job explaining it.

People ❤️

Exclusive: Leaked salary data show huge pay disparities at Twitter

Since money is finite, all compensation structures make trade-offs. Equal work, equal pay is a perfectly valid structure, just like the cost-of-labor-based structure. The companies should be upfront about their policies so that the job candidates can walk away if they don’t like them. Twitter’s failure here is not its compensation structure but its lack of transparency.

San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe removed tips a year ago. Despite pushback, it won’t bring them back.

Related to the article above, changing the compensation structure once you already have staff will always be painful.

Business 💰

Changes to Shopify’s team

Shopify laid off 10% of its employees. It’s obviously painful for a lot of people. But at least the CEO admits that he got it wrong:

It’s now clear that bet [that the channel mix – the share of dollars that travel through ecommerce rather than physical retail – would permanently leap ahead by 5 or even 10 years] didn’t pay off. What we see now is the mix reverting to roughly where pre-Covid data would have suggested it should be at this point.

This word shows a much clearer thinking than other CEOs just blaming the macroeconomy.

Zuck turns up the heat

Meta, for the first time, had its quarterly revenue drop from the previous year. In response, the leadership urges the employees to rise above the occasion and accept the lower compensation due to the lower stock price. The article shows that some of the staff are not happy.

Young Reacts #188

I made my personal record of deadlifting 405 lb! It was my goal for 2020 (my record then was 365 lb), but it went out the window with the pandemic. I am stoked to hit this milestone.

I attribute this achievement to the psychologically safe environment at my current gym. People at the gym celebrate your progress regardless of where you are on your journey. Even when you fail your rep, they applaud you for trying. It would have taken me many more months if I didn’t feel safe trying a bit heavier than I knew I could. Psychological safety is not just for our work.

Onwards to 495 lb 🏋️‍♂️! (maybe?)


Software Engineering ⚙️

Hardcoded password in Confluence app has been leaked on Twitter

Obviously, hardcoding the master password is not great. I am very curious about the circumstances behind this. What motivated the developer to hardcode this? How did the team and the process miss this?

Introducing Zed – A lightning-fast, collaborative code editor written in Rust.

Even as Atom sunsets, new code editors are born. I found it interesting that Rust has enough positive aura that the team chose to include this implementation detail in the marketing title.

People ❤️

Advice for Engineering Managers Who Want to Climb the Ladder

As one climbs the corporate ladder, there are exponentially fewer positions available. So it is vital to broadcast one’s interest and prepare oneself for when the opportunity shows up. Reading this article reminded me of how I regretted not publicizing my interest in managing at Netflix.

A Staff-shaped Hole

For some, a staff engineer role sounds like a perfect job—they can work on interesting technical problems without the stress of managing others. But the reality is more complicated. “Leading without authority,” the hallmark quality of a staff engineer, is easier said than done.

The 5 Levels of Delegation You Need to Know to Lead Well

Task-relevant maturity is a concept I am familiar with, but this framework gave me a practical guide on how I can delegate to my reports with different skillsets. The five levels of delegation are:

  1. Level 1: the report does the research, and the manager makes a decision based on the investigation.
  2. Level 2: the report does the research and makes a decision, but the manager needs to approve.
  3. Level 3: the report does the research and makes a decision, and the decision is implicitly approved unless the manager intervenes.
  4. Level 4: the report decides without requiring approval and shares their decision with the manager.
  5. Level 5: the report makes a decision, and the manager does not need to know.

Business 💰

Understanding America’s Labor Shortage

There are many reasons for the labor shortage, but one I found most interesting is that there were 4 million more new businesses started in 2020 (employees are turning into entrepreneurs).

Google exec suggests Instagram and TikTok are eating into Google’s core products, Search and Maps

I was mindblown by this stat 🤯:

40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search

Young Reacts #187

Last week, I attended a networking event, which made me remember how uncomfortable those events are for me. If there is a forcing function to meet someone new, like sitting at the same table, I do just fine. If not, I can’t pull myself together to talk to a stranger. I ended up leaving an hour early to escape the awkwardness.


Software Engineering ⚙️

magic-regexp: A compiled-away, type-safe, readable RegExp alternative

I talked a few times that the compile-time JS tooling is getting more powerful. This library is another example of that. It lets you write regex in type-safe DSL and replaces it with a plain regular expression during the compile time.

Facebook has started to encrypt links to counter privacy-improving URL Stripping

It’s a common practice for online services to add tracking parameters to the linked URL like “utm_medium,” “_branch_match_id,” etc. Privacy-focused browsers offer the option to strip those tracking parameters. The author reports that Facebook started encrypting the tracking parameters with the URL so that removing those parameters is impossible. I couldn’t find them myself, but maybe it’s being A/B tested. Still, another step backward for privacy.

People ❤️

Lifestyles

It’s not always possible to be intrinsically motivated at work. But I still find it important to pause, examine what drives me, and adjust my priorities.

What are your company’s anti-values?

If it’s not painful, it’s not prioritization. By extension, if you see no failure mode in your company’s culture, you don’t have culture.

Weaponizing Amazon Leadership Principles

Culture is impossible to describe in a few words like “freedom and responsibility” or “customer obsession.” So it’s easy to misunderstand and appropriate them for whatever we want at the moment. For example, at Netflix, I saw different folks misuse “freedom and responsibility” to make short-sighted decisions, optimizing locally. How can we continue to educate ourselves and our colleagues?

Business 💰

Netflix to Partner With Microsoft on New Ad Supported Subscription Plan

Microsoft will not only provide the technology but the sales team to Netflix. I am curious how the member base will change once the free, ad-supported plan becomes available. I suspect the average revenue per user will go down, especially in developing countries.

BMW starts selling heated seat subscriptions for $18 a month

Last week, I shared a VPN company moving away from the subscription model despite its benefit. But BMW couldn’t pass up on the opportunity for a steady cash stream.

Young Reacts #186

We are well into Q3 planning at my work (we are already ten days into Q3, but my org usually finishes our quarterly planning half a month into a quarter). When I started in this role, I felt disoriented because I didn’t have context on most items on the roadmap. It didn’t help that I hadn’t been part of quarterly planning previously and that my PM was stretched too thin to provide the context.

But after nine months, I find myself actively leading; I have work I want my team to accomplish, I know why other teams are asking for our help, and I understand how the process works. My mentor at Netflix told me to be patient before I started this role — that it would take much longer for managers than engineers to build context and work productively. Now I understand what he meant.


Software Engineering ⚙️

Things You Should Know About Databases

90% of the operational problems my team are on databases (especially transactions), so I found the part on database isolation levels in this article useful.

Bun is a fast all-in-one JavaScript runtime

Here is a yet-another Javascript runtime. Bun differentiates itself by using JavaScriptCore (the engine used by Safari). When I first read this, I was skeptical since I remember an effort to make Node run on other Javascript engines (node-chakracore). But it looks like that effort is now refocused on addons. So using JavaScriptCore is a meaningful differentiator.

GitHub Copilot Labs

GitHub Copilot has an experimental feature to explain a code snippet in plain English 🤯

People ❤️

The Pushback Effects of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Age in Code Review

Google published research on how its engineers of different demography experience different levels of pushback.

Women authors face higher odds of pushback than men; Asian, Black, and Hispanic/Latinx authors face higher odds than White authors; and older authors face higher odds than younger authors.

Causality is difficult to show, but we must watch how we interact with different colleagues.

Business 💰

Elon Musk says he won’t buy Twitter

On July 8, Elon Musk sent a letter to break the merger agreement. I can’t imagine how stressful it would be to work at Twitter right now.

We are removing the option to create new subscriptions

SaaS is all the rage because, once a paying customer signs up, they stay paying for a long time. But this VPN company chose to give up the subscription model for customer privacy. The decision must have been difficult but may have been easier as the founders own 100% of the company.

Interesting Finds 💡

How a fake job offer took down the world’s most popular crypto game

A phony job offer duped an employee into downloading a malicious PDF file, which compromised the company network.

How to blur your house on Google Street View (and why you should)

I didn’t know it was possible to do this. I can see myself doing it if I lived in a single-family house.

Young Reacts #185

Last week, I completed two mid-year promotion packets. Promotion committees determine engineer promotions at Square, and a manager’s role is limited to recommending a promotion and preparing the promotion packet, which should detail a potential promotee’s past achievements. As the committee members are not personally familiar with the promotee’s work, the packet has to contain a lot of evidence. So the manager and the promotee have to do some deep archeology.

I found it quite painful and time-consuming, so I will recommend to all my reports that they record a summary of their work as they wrap up a project.


Software Engineering ⚙️

How we avoided alarm fatigue syndrome by managing/reducing the alerting noise.

Defining a measurement of a complex situation is half the battle. Once we have a metric, it’s easier to sell the idea to the team, track the progress, and declare success. But metric definitions should be team specific. In my team’s case, we define a noisy alert as any self-resolved alert, unlike this article.

Ecma International approves ECMAScript 2022: What’s new?

ECMAScript continues to make progress. This year’s most significant change is the addition of private field declarations (the original proposal), quite more substantial than the year before.

Fresh 1.0

Here is yet another JS framework promising to deliver minimal JS to the client. This one is optimized to work well on Deno’s edge computing platform (Deno created this framework).

People ❤️

Power Tool: Fact vs. Story

A few months ago, I was going through a confidence crisis and was afraid that I could get fired. My mentor advised me to separate the facts from the stories I told myself. I found signs that my org valued my contributions (sponsoring my coaching program, continued support from my skip-level leads, etc.). I got over the hump and am now doing much better mentally, and my team has turned around.

Interesting Finds 💡

How Meta uses AI to better understand people’s ages on our platforms

Age is an essential factor for platforms to tune the users’ experience. But how do you protect users even when they lie about their ages? Meta uses how a user interacts with the platform to deduce their age.

What is black and white and read all over?

This font is designed to simplify emojis specifically so that it’s less skeuomorphic and more symbolic.

by Jennifer Daniel from the above-linked article

Young Reacts #184

After sending my first bi-weekly update e-mail to the team, following The weekly CEO e-mail, I’ve gotten some great responses. People liked to see the progress of the projects they were not directly involved in. I plan to continue for two months and evaluate if my team continues to find value in my updates.


Software Engineering ⚙️

Astro Online Playground

I don’t follow the Javascript ecosystem as closely, but I was blown away by this demo. Astro, a Javascript framework optimized for static content, provides an online playground through StackBlitz. StackBlitz lets me install the framework in your browser and use it as I would in my local environment. Tools like this make my old Javascript environment at Netflix look primitive.

Why We’re Sticking with Ruby on Rails at GitLab

One of my principles when designing a system is to make doing the right things easy. That’s why I feel uneasy about monoliths; it’s too easy for uninformed engineers to destroy the architecture. This article asserts that if you have the governance and the modular architecture in place, it’s possible to maintain a monolith at scale.

People ❤️

Stop Overcomplicating It: The Simple Guidebook to Upping Your Management Game

This article made me realize that it’s more important to perfect the core management activities rather than chase the latest trend in the business world. I am unsure if I will follow the author’s framework (Direction, Coaching, Career) verbatim, but it looks like a good framework.

How To Elicit Effective Commitments

Just as there is an art to giving and receiving feedback, there is an art to requesting and giving commitments. The requestor should specify who, when, and what so there is no misunderstanding. If the request isn’t explicit, the giver should know to clarify.

Job performance feedback is heavily biased: new Textio report

Acknowledging our own biases is the first step to fighting the biases. If you are curious about your personal biases, try this Harvard Implicit Association Test.

Meta bans staff from open discussion of Roe v. Wade decision and is deleting internal messages that mention abortion: report

I first negatively reacted when I read this. I was upset that people couldn’t talk about their personal hardships at work. But then I realized it might be a kind thing to prevent some employees from doing a victory lap over Roe v. Wade.

Business 💰

Leaked transcript: Inside Elon Musk’s first meeting with Twitter employees

If I worked at Twitter, I would start interviewing immediately if I hadn’t started. Even if I agree with Musk’s perspective, “there would have to be some rationalization of headcount and expenses to have revenue be greater than cost” sounds too ominous.

Young Reacts #183

Today is Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, in the US. Last year, it became a national holiday to celebrate, not the Emancipation Proclamation, but when all enslaved people became free after the American Civil War ended. Let’s take time today to learn more about Juneteenth’s origin and the continued struggle people of color face.


Software Engineering ⚙️

Tracking On-Call Health

It’s hard to get meaningful data on oncall. We can track the number of pages and incidents we get, but what can we do to improve our experiences? Is it more training, more instrumentation, or something else? We need to get qualitative feedback from the oncall engineers to answer that question.

Sunsetting Atom

Atom, the once-popular text editor that the Electron framework spun out of, will be sunset in December this year. While I haven’t used Atom (I used Sublime and Visual Studio Code), I am grateful for all innovations Atom made possible with Electron.

People ❤️

The weekly CEO e-mail

I’ve been meaning to do more written communication now that my team is larger, making it harder to keep everyone in sync. I am no CEO, but I will take the format here to send my first update tomorrow.

Business 💰

Down Rounds: Deal With Reality

If one joined a late-stage startup for a payday in a couple of years, they must find the current valuation downtrend frustrating. One late-stage startup I talked to in 2018 had a valuation of $1.2B then and $8B early this year. I keep seeing rumors about its IPO, but I assume the IPO will be pushed back a couple more years now.

Remote work or in the office? Why the tide could turn again

The article argues that we may return to the office as the labor market weakens due to the recession. I don’t buy it. The decision-makers of such policies also benefit from the remote-friendly work environment and will object to reverting to the old way.

The Latecomer’s Guide to Crypto Crashing

Bloodbath continues in the crypto world for crypto companies and investors.

Interesting Finds 💡

Is LaMDA Sentient? – an Interview

An engineer at Google claims that LaMDA, Google’s chatbot, is sentient and must be treated as a person. If one talks like a person, is it a person? Think about that as you read this transcript of a conversation between the engineer and LaMDA.

Young Reacts #182

I am back in the US and from vacation. It felt great to disconnect and spend time with my family and friends, some of whom I haven’t seen for almost three years. While the pandemic isn’t over, I am glad we have learned to live with it.


Software Engineering ⚙️

The Away Team Model at Amazon

Square uses a similar away team model where an away team jumps in and works on another team’s code base. My team is a host team for a few away teams and sometimes struggle collaborating with that many away teams. So I found it helpful to read that teams should use the away team model as a last resort.

People ❤️

Problem, Solution, How, and Execution

Rubric to evaluate your product team

We all start in our careers as doers. We are given the instructions and execute them. But as we gain more experiences, we go upstream: how, solution, and, finally, problem. And that growth of work ownership coincides with the increase in work scope, from 1-2 week projects to multi-year strategies.

Not My Job

Even if you are a respected senior leader of a team, you cannot tackle everything. You should choose which problems to focus on, which ones to delegate, and which to let go of.

Business 💰

Metaverse: another cesspool of toxic content

In Meta’s metaverse platform, Horizon World, a group of avatars sexually assaulted a researcher’s avatar. Some may say it’s a human problem, not a technology problem. I used to think that too. But this astute commentary changed my perspective:

If this is a really hard problem to solve at scale, then that means that the technology is not ready to be scaled. Facebook could choose to prioritize the safety of its users from virtual rape and sexual assault and solve that problem before trying to scale the technology. It did not. Misfortune has nothing to do with that decision. (Link)

Cruise can finally charge for driverless robotaxi rides in San Francisco

I remember Cruise’s recruiter telling me in 2018 that they were targeting the commercial launch in 2019. It’s 2022 now. How difficult it must have been to solve both technical and regulatory challenges.

Interesting Finds 💡

AirPods Evolution

This article has CT scanned images of multiple generations of AirPods with some commentaries on design choices. It was interesting to see where Apple placed different sensors.

Young Reacts #181

I will skip the following week’s newsletter as I am traveling to visit my family in Korea. I hope you get some time this summer to recharge as well!


Software Engineering ⚙️

Proposal: GraphQL Composite Schemas Working Group

There have been a lot of movements in the federated GraphQL space. Just recently, Hasura launched its offering (GraphQL Join), and Apollo launched a new major version of its famous Apollo Federation. The proposed GraphQL working group wants to ensure minimum consistency between different federation solutions.

People ❤️

Persistent Models vs. Point-In-Time Goals

Just as there is a hierarchy of executions (company-level vs. team-level), there is a hierarchy of KPIs (north star metrics vs. project-level metrics). When I’ve conflated them in the past, it became frustrating to measure the success of projects because attribution was not easy.

Do We Still Need Teams?

In some past roles, I felt my “team” was not a team but just a group of people who reported to the same manager. Now, I have the vocabulary to describe that group: “co-acting groups.”

Anti-pattern: The Engineering Managers’ Group

This article made me reflect on how often I interact with my peer managers. And the answer is, I don’t really 😅

Business 💰

A Framework for Navigating Down Markets

I found some techniques helpful in evaluating startups: valuation multiples (valuation divided by annual revenue) and burn multiples (cash burn divided by net revenue add). If you are talking to startups, ask them to share the necessary information (revenue, burn rate, etc.) to get these.

Interesting Finds 💡

Bionic Reading

Bionic reading is a clever way to highlight the essential parts of words so that our brains can read texts faster. I am curious how it will be to read blog posts with this when the extension launches. The following is the first paragraph of my previous post with bionic reading. How does it feel?

My team experienced an outage this week. All outages are enlightening, but this one stood out as it cut across the systems owned by two other teams. One team launched a feature that dramatically increased the demand on our system, which led to an issue with the other team’s system. When the other team resolved that issue, my team’s system experienced a sudden increase in demand, falling behind the requests.

Uncertainty Saves Lives – the Peltzman Effect

Peltzman Effect, or Risk Compensation, is a theory that people behave more dangerously when they feel safer. You can see that from driving and dealing with COVID.