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March 12, 2024 33 mins

This week, host Conor Bronsdon welcomes back Kelly Vaughn, Director of Engineering at Spot AI, to talk about building influence as an engineering leader. Kelly shares insights on the importance of leadership skills for both individual contributor and managerial roles and outlines her three pillars of trust, communication, and empowerment.

Conor and Kelly discuss strategies for staying technically fresh despite moving up in management, exploring the balance between staying close to product development and avoiding micromanagement. Lastly, they touch on the potential of AR/VR technology, with a focus on the business implications of Apple's Vision Pro and the future of immersive experiences.

Episode Highlights:

1:09 How should engineering leaders think about building influence?
03:53 The impact of changing roles or companies on your performance 
08:07 Why you lose important context when making assumptions
09:32 How ICs can help manage their team
10:49 Key ways to build influence and trust
16:00 How important is trust when giving or recieving feedback?
22:27 How do leaders stay close to their product as their org grows?
28:58 Our thoughts on Apple Vision Pro and AR VR in general

Show Notes:

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Kelly Vaughn (00:00):
We always hear on the leadership side of things,

like you don't want to hold backyour best engineer because you
don't want to lose them.
If this job is no longer suitingthem, help them move on so they
can thrive in their careeragain.
The last thing you want is anengineer who's just not happy
doing their work.
How do the best softwareengineering organizations in the
world set and track goals.
LinearB worked with more than3000 org staff, effectively

track their KPIs and set goals.
And March 26th and 28th LinearBCTO.
Yishai Berry is hosting aworkshop to share those best
practices with our fellowengineering leaders.
This workshop will delve intothe data behind the fact of goal
setting strategies eliteengineering organizations use
successful companies that areusing goal setting.
Plus provide a free how to guideand reporting slide deck for you

to leverage.
You can register today at thelink in the description.
Hope to see you there.

Conor Bronsdon (00:52):
Hey everyone.
Welcome back to Dev Interrupted.
I'm Conor Bronsdon and today I'mdelighted to be joined once
again by Kelly Vaughn, Directorof Engineering at Spot.
Kelly and I promise not to talktoo much college sports here,
which we were doing right beforethis call.
Um, and I think we have someexciting topics to dive into
since, uh, Kelly, I know you'verecently kicked off an
engineering leadership course onbuilding influence for

Uh, congratulations.

Kelly Vaughn (01:15):
Thank you.
Yeah, this has been many monthsin the making and I finally
found the time to finish it andI just ran the first cohort of
the course and based on thefeedback I received, it's a
really, really good course and Icould not be happier with how
everything went.
Outside of things takingslightly longer than I expected
to and I added an additional 30minutes to each day for extra

time, I would not, like thecontent, nailed it.
So happy.

Conor Bronsdon (01:43):
Obviously we can't get all the insights from
this course in this kind ofconversation, but building
influence is such an importanttopic and not something that
everyone thinks about naturally.
I know you took these twoperspectives, one of the
individual engineer, how toapproach this, and one of the
engineering manager, how toapproach this.
What's the overview for how boththese categories should be

thinking about buildinginfluence within their
organizations and externally?

Kelly Vaughn (02:09):
Yeah, that's a good question.
So regardless of whether youhold a managerial role or not in
an organization, influence playsout the same way.
Uh, I believe there are threepillars to building influence,
and those are trust,communication, and empowerment.
Now, how you take these pillarsand really have them play out in

your day to day is going to varybased on your role.
And it was really cool havingsuch a mixed cohort of
experience for the first, thefirst, the first cohort that I
ran for my course.
It was about 50 50 ICs, likesenior ICs.
And you can see how they're allworking towards that same idea

of building influence, but indifferent ways.
So, you know, let's take, forexample, the first day we talked
about building or identifyinggaps in your team and helping to
fill those gaps.
What we are talking about at thebeginning is how to basically
categorize each of your teammembers as a high performer,
medium performer, or lowperformer, and then what type of

high performer or low performerthey are, because a high
performer is going to need adifferent challenge than a low
They're going to need differentsupport than a low performer,
and the risks that run from eachof these types of team members
is going to be different aswell.
So, as an engineering manager,you can use this information to
help coach and guide your team,whereas with lower performers,

of course, you might have tomanage them out or choose to
part ways with them.
What you're going to be doingthere is different as a manager
versus like a senior IC or justan IC in general.
And if you are that individualcontributor, if you're
identifying gaps on your team,just based on, you know, how you
work with your peers, you canalso mentor them as well and
even identify where theirstrengths lie and where you

identify yourself in thiscategorization and how you can
learn from your peers too.
Part of the relationshipbuilding is knowing who you're
talking to and knowing how youtwo can work together.
So whether you're a manager oryou're an individual
contributor, this plays out thesame way.

Conor Bronsdon (04:12):
And this kind of mapping of the team, is a key
skill because it identifiesopportunities for growth within
your team and ways for you towork better with your team as an
IC or manager, to fill thosegaps.
What is the mindset or approachthat each kind of group of
people should be taking as theythink through this process?

Kelly Vaughn (04:33):
The number one thing you need to remember when
you're doing some sort ofidentification and exercise is
people move around in thesecategories.
So, somebody who is currently ahigh performer, who moves into a
new role.
Let's say they move from a midlevel to a senior IC and they're
taking on more challenge, oryou're moving from IC to manager

You're no longer going to bethat high performer.
Naturally, because you're stilllearning the ropes.
If you join a new company,you're not going to join a
company immediately as a highperformer.
You need to figure out thebusiness context.
You need to understand thehistory of the company and what
you're doing in order to do yourbest work.
Can you quickly become a highperformer?

I think the other flip side ofthis is also, we all have things
going on in our personal lives.
You know, let's say you'removing, let's say, uh, you have
a baby, let's say, you know,you're going through some kind
of traumatic event in your life.
You're not going to becontinuing to operate as a high
performer during that time.
So you might move down to belike, okay, I just want to focus

on getting my work done, show upto work, do my job, leave at the
end of the day, set it aside.
That's all I had the energy andtime for, and that is absolutely
acceptable, but you're not goingto be seen as necessarily as a
high performer during this time.
And there's nothing, again,there's nothing wrong with that.
And so it's important as you'reidentifying people on your team,
think not just their day to day,how they're actually doing their

work, but what else is going onin their lives?
You know, what else is happeningin their day to day that could
be impacting the work thatthey're doing?
You know, when you're workingwith engineers, it's not just
about the code that they'rewriting and the PRs that they're
reviewing and the communicationthey're having with their team.
We are obviously all more thanwhat shows up on Slack or Teams.

Conor Bronsdon (06:16):
I've definitely experienced this as a leader
where, you know, early in mycareer as a manager, I had a
high performer on my team whocame in and frankly, on board
really quickly.
The first nine, 12 months theywere crushing it.
And then year two, uh, you know,there's some company strategy
shifts and I could see themstarting to struggle with it,

but they never really, you know,kick back into gear.
And I had a one on one with themwhere I asked them just very
frankly, like, Hey, what's goingon?
Like it.
It doesn't seem like you'refeeling as aligned with the
strategy, you know, is that thechallenge?
What's going on here?
And it turned out they werehaving a personal life crisis
and hadn't really felt they hadthe opportunity to speak up

about it.
And I think that kind of thing,we underestimate how much impact
that is.
A lot of us, I think, tend tofocus on like on the work and
say, Hey, this person isn'tperforming like they used to a
month or two ago or last year.
And we forget that life contextsometimes.

Kelly Vaughn (07:14):
Although you do make a goodpoint on shifting company
strategy, and I think this isanother really important thing.
With engineers, I mean, witheverybody in a career in any
company, we all are drawntowards different types of
You know, I have always been inthe startup space.
When I worked at CDC, I hatedit.

It was too big.
I was, you know, I didn't reallyfeel like I was adding that much
value, whereas in a smallercompany, I know the value I
My husband, on the other hand,he worked at a start a small
startup for a while and he saidnever again.
Like, I need to be at likehundreds, at least hundreds of
users at the company or, youknow, or greater.
I say users because he's in ITand so everyone's a user to him.

There's that difference.
And as you're, let's say you'reat a startup, And you're growing
from zero to 10, 10 to ahundred, a hundred to a
Your strategy is going to changeover time.
It has to, you know, what got ushere today is not going to take
us to the next step, butunderstand that your team may
thrive in a smaller ship it willfigure it out environment

versus, Hey, we now havehundreds of customers, a
thousand customers, and we canno longer take that risk that we
could take before on figuring itout as we go.
We need to be more, we need toslow down.
And so people don't want to slowdown.
And that's when you often startto see that high performer shift
to a medium performer, or even alow performer who you expect to
be doing a better job.

And that's when you have thatcheck in like you have with this
individual here.
And you're just like, hey,what's going on?
Sometimes it is a personalthing.
Sometimes they're just notaligned with the company
And that is absolutely fine.
You know, we often say, turninga company is awful and like
people are leaving, obviouslysomething is wrong, but people
are always going to be naturallyleaving and joining different

And you know, we always hear onthe leadership side of things,
like you don't want to hold backyour best engineer because you
don't want to lose them.
If this job is no longer suitingthem, help them move on so they
can thrive in their careeragain.
The last thing you want is anengineer who's just not happy
doing their work.

Conor Bronsdon (09:12):
Cause their performance is goingto be where you need it to be.
There's going to be tension thatthat creates.
And I think especially instartups, there's a kind of tour
of duty sometimes where someonewill have two years where
they're really performing foryou.
And then.
You raise your Series C andyou're hitting that next level
of scale and suddenly there's alot more people on the team and
maybe it's not the right fitanymore, or maybe the company

direction shifts to your point.
And it's really easy for us tokind of make these assumptions
where we go around like, ah,this person isn't delivering
what I need from them.
You know, it's probably becausethis changed, and we have to
build enough trust with them andhave these frank conversations
to say, hey, what's going on?
If we tend to assume we're oftenmissing context, whether it's
personal or their perspective onwhat's happening within the

company, that may be crucialunderstanding how to ensure
they're getting the most valueout of the role and that we're
getting the most value out ofthem as a teammate.
But that's really a managerperspective.
How should an individualengineer be thinking about these
kind of growth opportunities?
Or do you think they should betaking this influential role
themselves and saying, Hey, letme go and be proactively meeting

with team members who I thinkare struggling?

Kelly Vaughn (10:18):
When you're an IC and you're working with these
team members, you're going to bemuch closer than your manager is
to the day to day.
Especially if your manager ismanaging a larger team.
You know, I have ten directreports across two teams.
With that, I'm not seeing everysingle thing that's happening,
but if this engineer and thisengineer are working together, I
know that they're going to bemore in tune with the highs and

lows of what's actuallyhappening, and I'm not going to
be able to catch everything.
And so this could be anopportunity, for especially if
you've built trust within yourteam and one of your engineers
comes to you and says, like,Hey, I had a conversation with
so and so I'm a little concernedabout their future and how
they're feeling at the company.
If you haven't seen it, but theyhave, you can still flag it with
your manager and the manager cantalk to them because if you

identify somebody as a flightrisk, you know, what do you,
what, what are you hoping to dothere?
You know, do you want to keepthem?
Usually the answer is yes.
Uh, especially if there is anopportunity for them to get to
be happy at the organization.
And if they're not, thenobviously you can help them out
of the company.
But it's, it's all aboutbuilding that trust from the
very beginning.

Conor Bronsdon (11:22):
So what are some of the baseline things that you
recommend people do as they'relooking to both build influence
and build trust so they canleverage that influence better?

Kelly Vaughn (11:31):
Be authentic and meet regularly.
Honestly, that's really what itcomes down to.
We all talk about one on ones,and I have actually on day one
as well, I talk about this inmy, in my course as well, you
One of the biggest mistakes thatI see people make with one on
ones is that they treat it asproject updates, and there's so
much more to one on ones thatyou can be talking about, and
it's one of the best times foryou to be building trust and

building that relationship withyour direct reports and it's
same as an IC, you know, you'retalking to these engineers
Go ahead and put 30 minutes onthe calendar.
Just like talk about whateverthat does have anything to do
with your work and you know,what you're actually coding or
whatever it happens to be.
Meeting regularly, of course, isone part of it.
Being authentic is the otherpart of it.

You know, people can always tellwhen you're going through the
motions of pretending you care.
You're like, quote unquote,saying the right things, but the
actions don't follow the words.
And if you're not bringing thatlevel of authenticity to it,
people are going to see rightthrough that.
It is very slow to build trustwith somebody, and it's very
fast to break that trust withsomebody.

Conor Bronsdon (12:37):
I know in one of the first episodes we did
together, we talked a lot aboutone on ones, and I think we
should revisit that topic indepth sometime.
Because it's I think reallyshifted, uh, over the last
couple of years, people havestarted to think more in depth
about them, uh, particularlywith some of the challenges
we're seeing within our techwhere layoffs are happening.
People are feeling all thestress and this pressure.

I'd love to revisit that withyou sometime in depth.
Cause I, I think to your point,it's, it's a really crucial
piece of, of how we approachteams, uh, in the modern tech

Kelly Vaughn (13:08):
Yeah, and it's also why I strongly encourage
people not to cancel one on onesunless they absolutely have to,
like, one of you is out ofoffice or you're taking vacation
for the week, but it's such acrucial time for your team to
have that time one on one withyou.

Conor Bronsdon (13:21):
Do you think that also applies to peer one on
So, you know, for example, Ikeep a certain like every two
week one on ones with some ofmy, you know, peers at my level.
Um, how do you think aboutcanceling those or shifting
those since they're kind of lessessential to your cohort team,
but very crucial to your, Imean, frankly, influence within

the company and kind of peerinteractions.

Kelly Vaughn (13:43):
I still strongly encourage you to not cancel one
on ones unless you, unless youreally need to, like, I will
shift one on ones around all thetime if I need to, um, you know,
I have regular weekly one onones with the other engineering
managers at our company.
I have regular one on ones withall the product managers, even
if they're not like quoteunquote, my product manager for
my team, um, because.
The work we're doing is crossfunctional.

The work we're doing is alwaysgoing to be touching somebody
else's work.
And it's important to be able tostay in sync.
And this also goes for, for somepeople who I'm not actually
actively working with on the dayto day, but like the hardware
team, for example, I still meetregularly, you know, every other
week with, with somebody on thatteam as well, because I just
think it's important to know oneof the best things as you're
building influence and you'rebuilding trust within an

organization is knowing what'sgoing on.
And the best way you can do thatis just talk to people.

Conor Bronsdon (14:31):
Yeah, and I think there's, like, we really
rely on this construction of howour kind of social strata within
an organization works, thissocial circuitry, as Gene Kim
would call it.
And we have this instinct oflike, oh, well, you know, I
communicate my message on Slack.
I show these updates here.
It's in the product managementpiece.
Like, I'm very transparent.
But, you know, people aren'tprobably JIRA tickets.

They may be busy.
Yeah, they may not want to be inJIRA.
And this kind of second layer ofthe intentional conversations
particularly one on one is socrucial and I think a lot of
developers have started to Imean not even started have
created this view of like allmeetings are bad because I want

to be hands on keyboard I wantto be coding and what they're
thinking about is the six personmeetings, the 20 person meetings
the 15 person meetings are like,why am I here?
What is the point of this?
And there's a lot of studiesthat show, like, once you have
six people in a meeting, it'skind of your max to actually get
value out of it.
Unless it's very much statusreport, and you shouldn't be
doing that many of those.
It should be like an occasionalcompany all hands thing.

And this is where I love thatyou're focusing on one on one.
Saying, hey, how do I directlybuild connections?
How do I build direct trust withthem and give each other time to
give context to that we won'tget in that Slack update?
I may not know that, you know,you ran a half marathon this
weekend and you're all excitedabout that and you're training
for a full marathon end of thisyear.

That's really exciting.
It's great to know that.
I wouldn't necessarily get thatif I don't talk to you about it
one on one.

Kelly Vaughn (16:01):
Yeah, also it's one of those things that I
probably just wouldn't be sayingagain and again on Slack, but
it's something that's veryimportant to me.
And this is something that I've,I had multiple conversations
about my, my half with the oneon ones that I had this week.

Conor Bronsdon (16:14):
Totally, and that's something where it's like
you are, you're being authenticand transparent and you're,
you're talking to people andit's just an example, but it's,
it's a really crucial part ofthis build trust situation.
And, another crucial skill hereis feedback.
You know, both asking for anddelivering constructive,
actionable feedback.
I know it's something you'vealso highlighted before.

How do you think about feedbackin the context of this trust
building and influence building?

Kelly Vaughn (16:41):
Yeah, I mean, think about those three pillars,
trust, communication, andempowerment.
In order to receive feedback,you tend to have to have some
sort of level of trust with themfor them to actually take in the
feedback and do something withit.
And communication is obviouslykey to delivering that feedback
and, and being able to speak ina confident manner with them.

And on the empowerment side ofthings, have you ever gotten
feedback that was just like,you're doing a great job?
Or, or on the flip side, it'slike, yeah, you know, I, I think
that meeting could have gonebetter.
What do I do with that?
And what's the action?
Like it has to be actionable.
And if it's not actionable,you're disempowering the person

on the receiving end from beingable to do anything with that.
And, you know, we often talkabout the, and I bring this up
in my, in my course as well, um,this is something that, Kim
Scott talks about RadicalCandor, where you give feedback
that is positive, and thennegative, and then positive.
And, you know, the feedbacksandwich, whatever you want to
call it.
And when you do that, it's,you're once again disempowering

the individual on the receivingend, because they don't, they're
walking away being like, so didI do a good job, or did I not do
a good job?
And it's very confusing.
And so feedback is such a, sucha strong way to also build trust
with somebody, because it showsthem you care.
About their career.
You care, you want them to do abetter job.

Conor Bronsdon (18:04):
Yeah, I'll say I made that mistake early in my
career as a manager where I, inone of the first teams I
managed, I, I tried to be toonice about it.
I was like, Oh, you're acompliment.
And then like the thing I reallyneed and then compliment again,
like this.
Classic training here.
And I think we have to acceptthat like often people don't
necessarily hear the part youneed adjusted.

I mean, to your point aboutbuilding trust, a line of people
enough that they can accept whenyou have feedback and you, yes,
you need to work on how youdeliver it.
That's, you know, an importantthing to do, but if you're
working with other adults, you,you need to be able to convey.
constructive, actionable,somewhat negative feedback at
And you can also make positivefeedback constructive and

actionable too.
Like, Hey, you do a great jobabout, you know, showcasing your
work to others.
Please keep doing that.
That's, that's actionablefeedback.
It's saying do more.
It's saying keep doing.
And I think we underestimatethat sometimes.

Kelly Vaughn (19:00):
And, and we, we, there's a,there's always this
misconception that feedback hasto be negative.
It has to be critical in someway, you know, like if I get
feedback to somebody saying,Hey, the PR description you
wrote for this most recent PRwas so in depth and so thorough
as far as the testing plan goes,that what you're doing by
writing all of this and spendingtime dedicated towards writing a

very thorough PR description isone, we have a track record,
like a receipt of what weactually tested and two, we're
really reducing the chance of aregression, through the manual
testing that's required for thisparticular change.
And so you're making things somuch easier for the rest of the
team to understand how to reviewyour code and what actually
needs to be tested in this PR.
So this is a perfect example ofsomething I want you to be able

to, you know, use as an examplewith, you know, with the team to
say, Hey, I made this PR.
This is a really good structure.
You should do the same.

Conor Bronsdon (19:51):
Yeah, that's a great example of this because I
think to your point, we toooften default to, oh, let me
make this negative feedbackactionable.
Let me give feedback.
It has to be constructive andmaybe not positive.
And part of building trust isalso acknowledging and
recognizing others for thethings they do well.
And it's a really crucial partof building the right culture
and getting people to continueto do things you want them to

What are other key skills thatyou'd be thinking about as you
kind of drill into this buildinginfluence topic?
So we've got, uh, empowerment,we've got communication, we've
got trust building.
Uh, what are the ways you wouldstart to actually action on each
of those?

Kelly Vaughn (20:28):
Take my course.

Conor Bronsdon (20:30):
Great answer.

Kelly Vaughn (20:31):
No, so the way I structured my course is around
three modules.
Developing your engineeringteam.
Conflict resolution across yourorganization and giving and
receiving constructive feedback.
All of these three things asyou're building influence in an
organization, all three of theseare going to be playing out on
the day to day.
Uh, you know, I really like theconflict resolution one in
particular, because I feel likethis is a skill that everybody

can work on, and the way thatthis is structured in the course
is actually not just how toresolve a conflict between, you
know, two of your engineers asif it, as if it's like you're a
manager, but this is how toresolve a conflict with the
peer, how to negotiate with yourengineering manager
counterparts, how to negotiatewith your product manager
counterpart, and mostimportantly, how to manage up.

And this is something thatliterally every single person
can benefit from.
And so I think the mostimportant thing is you're
building influence in anorganization and you're giving
feedback and you're identifyingwho everybody is and you're
helping to resolve theseconflicts.
Is that latter part of receivingfeedback.
You have to ask for feedback.
You have to ask and check in andhow things, how are things

How are others perceiving yourimpact on the organization?
And you can kind of do a gutcheck of, you know, one of the
things I talk about in moduleone is around a quarterly
development plan that you shoulddo with each of your direct
If you have direct reports, ifnot, you should use this
practice for yourself tobasically check in on like, what
did I do in the last threemonths?

What did I set out to do in thelast three months, and what, you
know, what didn't line up?
Like, where did I fall shortperhaps, or where am I really,
really proud of, like, that Iactually built in the next three
months, or last three months?
And what do I want to do in thenext three months?
And I'd say, like, this, thisQTP, this Quarterly Development
Plan, is a perfect opportunityfor you to update your resume,
by the way.
Because you've just done, you'vejust done a review of everything

that's your most importantaccomplishments that don't want
to have to reflect back, youknow, let's say, you get laid
off or you decide it's time tolook for a new job.
Nobody wants to go back and belike, what did I do over the
past two, three, four years?
I don't know.
You already have it every singlequarter you're updating it.

Conor Bronsdon (22:36):
I think that's a super smart recommendation.
And one of the interestingthings we see is that as people
start out in their careers in R&D and engineering.
You're very close to theproduct.
And that's what you get promotedoff of is, hey, I'm excellent at
turning this product intosomething that's valuable.
But to your point, as we kind ofmove on in our careers, we start

to think about communicationmore.
We start to think about thestructures of the team more.
How do we enable others?
And that's very valuable and ithelps us scale the organization,
scale ourselves.
But there is a risk that as youmove up the org chart, you get
farther and farther away fromthe customer.
You get farther and farther awayfrom actually fixing and
building the product.
What I would love to dive intois how execs and leaders should

think about staying close to theproduct.
And a great example of this is,a couple of weeks ago, Meta CEO
Mark Zuckerberg posted a videowhere he talks about trying the
Apple Vision Pro and compares itin depth to his viewpoint on
Meta's own Quest headset.
And obviously it's, you know, acompetitor thing.
He's, he's Just throwing alittle bit of shade,
highlighting how great they are.
But I think many execs,particularly at large

corporations like Meta, verymuch struggle to hold on to that
level of detailed productexpertise.
It requires a lot of coaching, alot of, you know, setup for
They have to be very scripted onhow they approach any of these
product conversations.
How do you think execs should bestaying close to the product
detail versus balancing otherbusiness priorities?

Kelly Vaughn (24:00):
Yeah, I've been honestly staying close to the
product detail is a slipperyslope as well.
It's a delicate line that youneed to balance because you want
to know what's going on withoutaccidentally, putting your
position of power in, theforefront where you're going to
be now impacting the roadmap andchanging everything over just

because you made one smallcomment that was like, Oh, it'd
be really cool if it did thisand somebody somewhere in an
organization we know thishappened.
It's going to hear that.
I'm like, well, the CEO saidthat.
So the VP of engineering saysthis.
So we need to drop everythingand do this.
It is a very, very easy thing todo.
I think it's important toregularly check in with your,
your engineering team.

You know, in a largerorganization, obviously, more
and more layers get set there.
And the higher you go in anorganization, the higher your
50, 000 foot view is going tocome, but If you're staying
close, if you're having skiplevel conversations, if you're
having conversations around yourproduct and how it's actually
playing out, you're listening tosales pitch the product, you're,

you know, I'm assuming you'reprobably using some sort of
system to record the salesmeetings so you can go back and
watch them and you can see howthe, how the product is being
represented as well on the dayto day.
It gives you an opportunity to,you know, really identify,
here's where we're doing great,and here's where we might be
falling short, like this, thisis an area of concern to me, but

you can bring it to the correctpeople within the organization,
and let that float down, and thereason why I say let that float
down is because, again, you havean imbalance of power.
If the CEO were to go directlyto one of my engineers and say,
hey, I'm concerned about this,depending on the engineer they
speak with, some of them mightbring it to me and be like, hey,
our CEO mentioned this, what doyou think?

And some of them will be like,I'm just going to fix it because
I don't want to, you know, Idon't want this to be a thing.
Like, I don't want to dosomething wrong, whatever it
happens to be.
I think that's something that'sjust like really important to
Now on the understanding what'shappening in the competition
side of things, I think that issomething that you should never
get away from.
I think it's really important toknow what the competitive
landscape looks like.

I think that's one of the mostimportant key skills for, uh,
you know, the difference betweensomebody being an engineering
leader and being a businessleader.
In order to understand whereyour company can go, you need to
understand also what thatcompetitive landscape is looking
You need to understand what yourcustomers are actually looking
for and actually asking for andhow they're interacting with

your product.
But no one product is alwaysgoing to be stand, these stand
out as everything else is,absolutely awful.
This is a one product.
That's never, that's never goingto be the case.
Innovation is what drives, youknow, new products into the
market and drives you tocontinue to push your own, your
own product and improve your ownproduct.
And so it's important to knowwhat's going on.

And I think that is kind of thebalance of making sure an exec
can stay close to the productwithout overstepping, into too
much of the day to day.

Conor Bronsdon (26:59):
What about specifically retaining technical
Because I think that's somethingthat I found as I don't do hands
on coding really these days, ismy very bad dev skills are
How should I be thinking aboutkeeping and maintaining those,
since they're obviously avaluable piece of understanding
and approaching how we buildproducts today.

Kelly Vaughn (27:20):
I think there's a level of accepting that as you
move up in an organization,especially in leadership, you're
going to get further and furtheraway from the actual code
And to me, that's, that ishonestly an acceptable thing to
do, depending on your role.
Depending on, you know, what isactually most important for your
I recently wrote an article onhow to stay technically fresh,

uh, when it's no longer a job tocode as it's no longer my job to
And I highlighted someparticular things that I, I do
to stay technically fresh and,you know, for me, that is, for
one, take a course.
Um, not to call out my own,obviously, but I've been, taking
a course on, uh, Vault.

Because we use Vault internally,and I'm like, how exactly does
this work?
Because this is not in my, ithasn't been in my wheelhouse to
this point.
So, like, let me, let me just dothis short, like, One hour, two
hour course just to get ageneral high level understanding
of what's happening here.
And at least like, we'll pull upVS code and write some things
into like the command line.

And that's the extent of mycoding there.
So it's not super, it's notsuper deep.
Um, I've got a number of sideprojects I'm working on.
I'm building an app for a friendof mine.
I have some clients through myconsulting gig.
Still focusing on the Shopifyside of things on e commerce
that I continue to work with.
So I'm still writing code, um,but not for my day to day job.
If you have time to do this,obviously, that is important.

If you don't have time to do it,it's harder to kind of build
that out.
Within the organization, likewithin the day to day, I will
review pull requests for sure,and I will look at the code, and
I will say, and I think what'smost important is like, the
further up you go, if you don'thave that much time to review
the code, pick a pull request,look at it, and if you don't
understand what's going on, askthe engineer, like, hey, explain

this to me.
I think that's perfectly fine todo as well, because as you move
up, you're not going to bespending so much of your time
focusing on, what came out inthe newest release of React that
we're now using, or, you know,you're not going to know the
deep intricacies nevernecessarily, if it's no longer
your job to know that, but itcould be beneficial for you to
understand what's happeningunder the hood.

Should your manager come andsay, what did this change
actually bring?
Like, what are we spending ourtime working on here?

Conor Bronsdon (29:31):
Love it.
And since we started thisconversation with, you know,
referencing, uh, Meta and theVision Proverse.
MetaQuest, uh, debate here as anexample.
Uh, I'd love to just get like afun take from you.
Do you think the Vision Pro willsucceed?
What, what do you think is goingto happen with AR VR?

Kelly Vaughn (29:47):
I think we've been trying to figure out AR VR for
quite some time and we're goingto continue to try to figure out
AR VR for quite some time, soyou reflect back on like the
Google glasses, like they're alot smaller than the Vision Pro,
and to me, the Vision Pro is toobig.
Also, I have a tiny head, sothat also contributes to it, and
I don't really like the idea ofsomething massive just being in

front of my face.
Um, I also have a control thingthat we don't have to unpack,
that's for therapy.
I think we're still figuringthings out.
I think the Vision Pro is animportant step forward, but it
is by no means endgame forWhat's your take?

Conor Bronsdon (30:29):
Think it's a, it's a good strategic direction
for Apple, to kind of hone inthere and start fighting meta
more, uh, in that space.
The, it's interesting to now seethem finally cutting off their
electric car effort, uh, aswell.
I was

Kelly Vaughn (30:42):
just gonna say that.
Yeah, this is a perfect exampleof focusing your efforts on
what's actually going to movethe needle for the business
because building your own car isnot.

Conor Bronsdon (30:50):
I think the other one that we're kind of all
waiting to see is Apple's made aton of acquisitions in the AI
What's their play going to be onAI?
And it feels like they'resaying, okay, like, you know,
we're, we're deep in hardware.
We're going to add AR, VRbecause of that.
And we're going to probably dosomething on AI here soon.
What's that going to be?
Those will need to be combinedto be very powerful in the

And I also agree with you, like,I'm not going to get one until I
can have a slim down, somethingwearable.
Um, like it, like the one usecase where I really see like,
Hey, like I would buy it todaywould be gaming where, Hey, I
want this really immersivegaming experience.
It looks really cool, but it'sjust not where I want it to be
And it feels like somethingwhere I'm going to wait a couple
generations before I try it out.

Kelly Vaughn (31:32):
Yeah, I mean, Apple, like, the, the Vision Pro
is very much like an earlyadopters product, product.
For the diffusion of innovationtheory, it is very much on the
left side of the spectrum wherewe're not going to see even an
early majority adopting it, inmy opinion, until we see future
And most definitely, I'm notgoing to see a laggard buying a

Vision Pro any time soon.

Conor Bronsdon (31:54):
Yeah, because I'll probably be an early
majority one on this one, and Ifeel like I'm at least a couple
years away still here where I'mlike, Ah, I don't, I don't feel
I don't, I don't need this rightnow.

Kelly Vaughn (32:03):
think in comparison to, let's say, when
the iPhone came out.
There were, there was a muchstronger appetite for that at
the outset than, uh, the VisionPro, and I think part of it is
just because the technology isfundamentally different, you
know, we were already used tousing a phone, whereas we're not
really used to these AR VRheadsets that is a new So, yeah.

Technology that we're all kindof wrapping our heads around, no
pun intended.

Conor Bronsdon (32:31):
Well, that, that pun is a great way to close
things out.
Kelly, I really appreciate thetime today.
Thanks so much.
Yeah, thank you.
And listeners, remember ifthere's a topic you want to hear
Kelly and I discuss or Kelly andDan discuss, let us know on
social media or via our DevInterrupted sub stack comments.
We intend to do a lot more ofthese types of episodes where we
dive into key things thatengineering leaders, whether
they're starting out and tryingto grow or at that exact level,

trying to stay close to theproduct can, can leverage to
actually, uh, improve theircareers and deliver more impact.
So we'll see you all next week.
And until then, you can findmore of our content on LinkedIn
and via substack com.
And if this topic is interestingto you and you want to build
more influence as an engineeringleader, or as a NIC looking to
grow your career, check outKelly's course as well.

We'll link it in the episodedescription.
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