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March 26, 2024 33 mins

In this episode, host Conor Bronsdon talks with Melissa DePuydt, Sr. Director of Engineering at Upstatement. Melissa discusses how her background in journalism has uniquely positioned her to excel in engineering leadership roles. She highlights how thinking like a journalist has enhanced her ability to lead engineering teams effectively, particularly in planning, risk management, and decision-making.

The conversation covers the importance of preparing for disruptions, conducting pre-mortems to anticipate challenges, and incorporating broad perspectives for effective problem solving. Melissa also shares insights on continuously learning and adapting by embracing one's unique background and experiences.

Episode Highlights:
00:20 Why do engineering leaders need to think like journalists?
04:46 Preparing for disruptions as an engineering leader
08:44 How pre-mortems work in practice: an example from the Atlantic
12:47 How to get buy in from other leaders when changing processes
17:59 Eliciting buy-in from team members on pre-mortems
22:15 How do we train engineers to think in a team sport mentality?
26:51 Why is career switching a superpower?

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Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Melissa DePudyt (00:00):
When I became a product engineer at The Post, I

(00:02):
felt like I really had to hidekind of my background.
There's definitely impostersyndrome and kind of shame of
like not having a technicalbackground.
But, the longer I'm inengineering leadership roles,
the more I'm really grateful formy background as a reporter.
Because it allows me to makedecisions really quickly and
gather information and lookacross context, in ways that I

(00:26):
think a lot of engineeringleaders often don't.

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Conor Bronsdon (01:08):
Hey everyone.
Welcome back to Dev Interrupted.
I'm your host Connor Bronston,and I'm delighted to be joined
today by Melissa DePudyt.
Melissa is the Senior Directorof Engineering at Up Statement.
Melissa, great to have you onDev Interrupted.

Melissa DePudyt (01:19):
Thanks for having me.
I'm so excited.

Conor Bronsdon (01:21):
Uh, it's a pleasure having you here.
I'm, I'm very excited to talkabout what you are diving into
as well.
Yeah, because you have abackground as a reporter and
editor, and you've also been aleader of engineering teams at
both the Atlantic and theWashington Post, which is a
really unique background, Ithink.
Most folks don't work in media,and, it's led you to have this

(01:42):
perspective on, like, Howengineering leaders need to
learn how to think likejournalists.
Can you unpack that a bit?

Melissa DePudyt (01:49):
I'm a career switcher.
I started out as a journalistand reporter.
As long as I can remember, I'vebeen writing.
I, when I became an engineer, Ifound out that like a lot of the
things that I enjoyed aboutreporting, and journalism.
You still do them as softwareengineers.
And, um, you know, so writingcode is a lot like writing a

(02:10):
news story.
Editing and reviewing PRs is alot like, editing and reviewing
story drafts.
Um, so it was very natural forme.
With the exception that, youdon't have to talk to strangers.
And, like, chase down an angrycongressman for a quote as a
software engineer.
So I was like, sign me up.
And the longer I have been inproduct engineering, the more I

(02:32):
have become really proud of mybackground as a journalist.
Because at first, when I becamea product engineer at The Post,
I felt like I really had to hidekind of my background.
There's definitely impostersyndrome and kind of shame of
like not having a technicalbackground.
But, the longer I'm inengineering leadership roles,
the more I'm really grateful formy background as a reporter.

(02:53):
Because it allows me to makedecisions really quickly and
gather information and lookacross context, in ways that I
think a lot of engineeringleaders often don't.
So for me, I think that mybackground as a reporter helps
me, think about situationsdifferently, um, and try to

(03:13):
discern the essential contextfor something versus just trying
to wait for more informationwhen I make a decision.

Conor Bronsdon (03:21):
This is really interesting for me in part also
because I share a similarbackground, so I didn't actually
tell you this before we came onthe podcast to start chatting,
but um, my background's inpolitical organizing and
communications, so kind of theother end of the journalism
spectrum.
So it's interesting for you tobring this up because I agree
with this.
I couldn't see my careerunfolding differently because of

(03:43):
the unique skills and challengesthat were brought to me.
And it definitely has informedmy perspective on software
engineering and softwareengineering leadership.
So I'd love to go a bit deeperinto the areas where you
particularly see these needs forchanges.
What would you say are the keysto bring over from your
background that you are nowleveraging in the software

(04:03):
engineering space?
Yeah,

Melissa DePudyt (04:04):
I think the first kind of mistake that I see
a lot of engineering leadersmake is not preparing for the
risks and disruptions thatyou're just going to encounter.
It's all gonna be great.
This is finally gonna be thequarter where like our roadmap

(04:24):
doesn't shift.

Conor Bronsdon (04:25):
Oh man.
I have a surprise for you ifthat's what you

Melissa DePudyt (04:30):
think.
Exactly.
And the truth is that no matterhow well we plan, no matter how
well we roadmap, there arealways be disruptions.
Um, and I think accepting thatis kind of a journalistic, the
first step in adopting ajournalistic mindset, uh,
because a news reporter knowsthat news is going to happen and
they expect breaking news tohappen at like the most

(04:53):
inconvenient times.
And a journalist doesn't get achoice in delaying how, how
they're going to respond.
They just have to respond well.
And so I think that's whereengineering leaders can, can
learn a little bit and, youknow, just, you know, Start to
plan and prepare for what we'regoing to encounter in the course
of our daily work.

Conor Bronsdon (05:15):
So that high degree of comfort with change
and the ability to adapt to it.

Melissa DePudyt (05:19):
Yeah.
And knowing that you know, it'snot, a journalist's job to
prevent the news from occurringYeah.
Um, it's their job to respondwell, and I think the same is
true for engineering leaders,although obviously we want to be
mitigating risks where we can,right.
Our job is to respond well andto hopefully create clarity for
our teams.

(05:39):
And so there are several thingsthat I think that engineering
leaders can do specifically toboth prepare to respond well and
then to respond well in themoment.

Conor Bronsdon (05:49):
I think that preparation piece is really
crucial, right?

Melissa DePudyt (05:51):
Yeah, it's, to me, it's, it's like an iceberg.
What you see is C is someone whois really good under pressure
and good at making decisions,and what's underneath the
surface is just this wealth ofpreparation and mindset
management, and yeah, justputting yourself in the position
to anticipate curveballs, andwhen you are better prepared for

(06:13):
like any one type of curveball,you're actually priming your
brain to be able to handle alltypes of curveballs.

Conor Bronsdon (06:20):
Yeah, a mentor of mine, kind of referred to it
as looking around corners anddeveloping that skill.
Yep.
And I think that's somethingthat is, is really important.
Um, you know, regardless of thetype of leadership, uh,
challenge you're taking on.
But it's also true forindividual devs, I would even
say, where it's like, you are,really, what you're doing is
you're being an excellentproblem solver with unique
skillset.
Yeah.
And so like that ability to seewhat's the potential problem

(06:42):
coming down the line, how willthis impact other things we need
to do is really important.

Melissa DePudyt (06:47):
Yeah, so a lot of newsrooms will have, multiple
kind of, like, processes formanaging different types of
news, because most journalistsdon't just roll up to the office
on Tuesday And they're like,well, we'll see what happens
today.
Hope I have something to writeabout.
A lot of news organizations arekind of extensively planning for

(07:07):
news coverage and trying toreally remove the number of
things or reduce it.
The number of things that are,um, truly breaking news moments,
um, and when those things dooccur, they have plans that they
activate and processesspecifically for breaking news.
And I think that's, um, where.

(07:27):
Engineering leaders can start tothink like journalists by saying
what are the disruptions thatare likely to occur?
How can I start to monitor forthose things now?
And how can I prepare for how Iwill respond when those things
happen?

Conor Bronsdon (07:45):
Can you maybe share an example and talk
through how, that would beimplemented if you were an
engineering leader?

Melissa DePudyt (07:51):
Yeah, I personally am very anxious.
I've never had a problem, um,asking myself what could go
wrong and coming up with Uh,with answers.
To put it into practice, Ireally like running pre mortems
with my team.
Um, and so a pre mortem, um, issimilar to a retro, but the
opposite.
In that you are asking your teamto kind of, reflect on a period

(08:12):
of time and kind of say whatwent wrong, what could have gone
better.
But with a pre mortem you'redoing it before you, before
anything catastrophic happens.

Conor Bronsdon (08:21):
So, can you dive a bit more into that?
How would I actually go aboutthat?

Melissa DePudyt (08:25):
You assemble your team and you ask them, put
yourself in the perspective ofwe're in the future and we're
looking back and assume ourproject has catastrophically
failed.
What went wrong?
And you essentially ask the teamto generate plausible reasons
for failure, and then cometogether as a team and start to

(08:47):
identify, all right, what arethe things that are likely to
occur and how can we mitigatethem?
And so when you do this, you areusing what research calls
prospective hindsight, which islike deeply an oxymoron.
Prospective hindsight, um, theresearch shows it actually makes
you 30 percent more likely, tocorrectly identify the causes of

(09:09):
failure, before they occur.
And so in starting to thinkabout those things before they
happen, you can put together theplans and monitor and say, what
are the signs that we're goingto, that we're going to look at
that will signal, thatproduction is down or will
signal that we need to shift,um, our, our roadmap.

(09:30):
And so you can start to, putplans in place that you can
activate when you notice thoserisks occurring and respond
faster.

Conor Bronsdon (09:37):
So, for example, would you look at this of, okay,
we have a major feature rolloutwe're doing, and, you know, it's
coming out from under featureflag if you're using it, and we
still have concerns.
Let's do a pre mortem toevaluate where there might be
challenges and maybe we makeadditional fixes before we're
rolling it out, or how would youdo that?

Melissa DePudyt (09:55):
Yeah, so, um, when I was at the Atlantic,
during the kind of first fewmonths of the pandemic, we were
embarking on a front endredesign and re architecture
project.

Conor Bronsdon (10:04):
Major project?

Melissa DePudyt (10:05):
Major project.
Huge modernization effort.
It was a huge win that we, uh,got to do this project, during,
um, an election year as well.
Cause it was back in 2020.
And so before we began on thislike massive project, I got
together with my team and said,all right, our deadline for

(10:25):
launching this is like rightafter the election in November.
It's a really tight timeline.
This was maybe in April or Mayof 2020.
So we had six months.
Let's assume that we do not,that we haven't hit our goal.
Like we get to November andthings have gone wrong.
What caused us to slip ourdeadline?
And so what the team came upwith was like a number of things

(10:48):
that were, production like goesdown and we have to like change
our focus or, A new mandate fromthe leadership came and we have
to

Conor Bronsdon (10:59):
That's never happened.

Melissa DePudyt (11:00):
That's never happened, no.
You want to identify thosethings in advance.
Because really, I think theengineering manager's job is not
to, like, prevent everythingfrom happening.
But to be able to respond wellwhen those things do happen.
And so a lot of those things didhappen, um, in the course of
that project.

(11:21):
But because I was in theposition to be able to say, no,
I was anticipating productiongoing down.
I was able to build in a coupleof weeks for like extra time.
Like if that happened, I addedthat as kind of buffer in our
timeline when I was planning.
What we could like feasiblyimplement.

(11:42):
Um, so another example of thethings that we identified was
like, yeah, QA.
We're, what if we're just likebehind and we're not, um, you
know, we're not as far as wewant to be when we're like
testing things.
Um, and so I worked with our QAteam to say like, what are the
ways that we can incorporate theQA team much earlier in the
process so that it's not justkind of relegated to this final

(12:05):
two weeks right before launch.
Um, and so in identifying thosethings, I was able to more
effectively manage them.
And we got to launch, um, it wasone of the best launches I've
ever had the pleasure of likedoing, just because we were so
prepared, for the unexpected tohappen.

Conor Bronsdon (12:27):
Is there a correlation with increased
planning accuracy on what you'reactually delivering?

Melissa DePudyt (12:31):
Totally, because what a premortem lets
you do is say like, what are allof the possible reasons?
And so there are those very bigkind of like catastrophic
things, like again, productiongoes down, that kind of thing.
But it also led us to say, like,what if we overcommit to, uh, to
what we think we can deliver?

(12:52):
And that caused us to, uh, kindof step back, in a separate
planning session and say, allright, we know that we are
worried and we have a tendencyto overcommit.
How do we need to scale backwhat we're telling our product
leaders we will be able todeliver.
Um, and so that led us to havethis strategy of like, let's

(13:13):
under promise, and obviouslythis is always the goal, under
promise and over deliver.
Um, but we were really carefulabout what we committed to, and
only committing to the thingsthat we could really confidently
deliver.

Conor Bronsdon (13:27):
And that's so great.
becomes a situation where youcan start to have more
predictable, project delivery.
And realistically, that's whatall businesses want.

Melissa DePudyt (13:36):
Exactly.
And that, yeah, that's exactlyyour role as the engineering
manager, is to create theconditions for your team to
reliably deliver.

Conor Bronsdon (13:44):
So you're a senior director now, but it
sounds like you've been doingthis since you were an
engineering manager, a seniorengineering manager.
How do you make sure that youget buy in from other leaders on
how you're changing yourprocesses and leveraging these
postmortems, or premortems, Ishould say?
Yeah.

Melissa DePudyt (13:58):
I think that it's so unusual to, to have this
kind of like intense, Planningfor things to go wrong that, um,
honestly, it's really easy toget buy in because business
leaders, I think, are much moreaccustomed to like, things are
going to go wrong.
Engineering leaders, we thinkit's our job a lot of the time
to, um, mitigate and preventthings from going wrong.

(14:21):
Um, and so it's reallyuncomfortable when we're in
those situations.
Um, So when it comes to likebeing more proactive and being
better prepared, I found thatother leaders in the business
are like, we want to do that aswell.
Yeah.
Yeah.

Conor Bronsdon (14:37):
I think this is a great example of leveraging
the skill sets and approachestaken from other industries to
improve how you are functioningas a mentoring leader and how
your teams are functioning.
But it sounds like there areother insights that you've
brought over from your time atjournalism as well.
What are the other insights thatyou would leverage for other
engineering leaders?
Yeah,

Melissa DePudyt (14:56):
So, I think that a lot of what I've
mentioned so far, like thepremortems, preparing, accepting
the reality of unexpecteddisruptions, um, those are all
things you do in advance ofsomething happening.
And so when journalists areactually in a breaking news
situation, it's It's theirresponsibility to not just

(15:17):
gather all of the informationabout the event, that's
happening, but to really filterthrough it and in covering the
news to, tell readers what theessential context is.
So in a lot of news stories, um,they leverage what's called the
inverted pyramid.
And the inverted pyramid is avery common and classic story

(15:40):
form in news that focuses onputting the broadest, like, most
essential information up top inlike the first paragraph and
then gradually layering in moreimportant details.
And what happens is that, youknow, as a reader reads the
story, they get the extracontext and so it's not just,

(16:01):
um, to use, you know, I guesswhat's been in the news cycle
lately, it's not just that thereare attacks, it's that there are
attacks in a certain place, andthat place has context, and at a
certain time, and that hascontext.
And so when we're trying to makedecisions as engineering
leaders, I think what we can dois, start to layer in additional

(16:23):
context that help us make ourdecision.
And so what that looks like is,asking yourself not just like
what's happening, what are allof my possible options, but
going a level deeper and sayinglike, what team resources do I
have available?
What, what are their skill sets?
Layering in organizationalcontext and saying what are the,
the broader business goals?

(16:44):
What are the stories that ourcompany tells ourselves about?
Who we are and what matters.
And then finally, like the, thepersonal context of like, what
is a decision that you can livewith and what matters to you in
how you're responding.
And so, leveraging this kind ofthinking helps us narrow down
options, and find a narrativefor ourselves.

(17:07):
And that way we can make fasterdecisions because we've narrowed
down, based on kind of likethese other contexts.
Um, what are like feasibleoptions are, and we end up with
a short list of approaches thatare all good because they're all
informed by context, and when wetake this other context into
account about the team and thebusiness, we also, um, are

(17:30):
identifying kind of the factorsthat can allow us to change our
minds, um, because it's okay tobe wrong in making a fast
decision.
If the context changes, uh, wecan also change our approach and
start to, again, like, leveragekind of that journalistic
thinking of, if I am presentedwith new information, what do I
need to update about my thinkingabout the context of this story?

Conor Bronsdon (17:55):
The thread that I'm hearing throughout what
you're saying is limiting ofcognitive load under crisis.

Melissa DePudyt (18:01):
Absolutely, yes.

Conor Bronsdon (18:03):
Yeah, and I think that, I mean we pointed to
how that can improve yourplanning accuracy and
predictability of deliveryearlier, but it's also going to
likely improve the quality ofyour decision making in the
moment, and your ability to, toyour point, rectify some of
these challenges you may haveotherwise.

Melissa DePudyt (18:19):
Yeah, I think, you know, a lot of us, I'm
totally guilty of this, we getfocused on looking at the event
that's happening.
When we're in a moment ofcrisis, we're like, what is
happening?
Production is down.
And we're like, but we don'tknow why.
And so our tendency is to waitfor more information, and that

(18:39):
can actually delay our team'sability to get production back
up.
So I might not know whyproduction is down, but I might
have, like, additional teamcontext that is, that it's in
the middle of the night for theteam, and so there's not a lot
of resources.
Like, that narrows down mypossible, potential paths of
action to be something that ismuch more manageable.

Conor Bronsdon (19:02):
What's your experience been like when you
leverage these techniques,whether it's the pre mortems or
other ones you're talking about,to try, like, what's been the
feeling from the team membersthemselves about, you know,
these additional meetings, theseadditional things they're having
to do?

Melissa DePudyt (19:17):
I think that, you know, every engineer wants
to, like, write good code andhave a stable environment where
things are not on fire.
And I think that they arewilling to participate in those
meetings because they aredirectly in service of more
focus time, more flow, flowtime.

(19:38):
And so there's less of, um, kindof like pushback I've
experienced because these arereally targeted conversations.

Conor Bronsdon (19:47):
So, how are you getting your team to buy in on
this, I mean, additional workthat's being done in advance?

Melissa DePudyt (19:54):
I think that I get buy in by, um, starting to
persuade the team that, if weare more prepared, we will be,
um, less stressed.
Disrupted in the future when weare under pressure and so
wanting in having thoseproactive conversations, really
a lot of the work coming out ofit is for the manager to be able

(20:17):
to monitor, But it also puts theengineers in the mindset of
being prepared for disruptionsand knowing that our goal
ultimately is not to, to shipexactly what's on our roadmap.
It's to build and maintain areally great product experience
for our users.
And so the most important thingis not necessarily executing

(20:39):
exactly the roadmap, butresponding well.
And it's really stressful forengineers too, when those fire
drills happen.
And.
And so I get buy in by saying,like, you know how stressful,
those crisis situations are.
If we meet now for 60 minutes,we can possibly prevent a two
week, disaster recoverysituation.

Conor Bronsdon (21:03):
That makes total sense, and It's interesting to
hear you talk about this and howyou're kind of adjusting your
team's perspectives or at leasthaving them expand their
perspectives in some ways.
Yeah.
'cause you know, we talked aboutthis earlier, but I think we
both think that this ability tolook forward and and consider
potential challenges is a keytrait to develop as a leader.
And I would pause it that thismay also be helping develop your

(21:27):
team members as leaders andhaving them be more of them as
mindset of like, how is myindividual work affecting.
Customers affecting the company.
Are you finding that to be thecase?

Melissa DePudyt (21:37):
Yeah, absolutely.
I think that a lot of engineersthink that their job is just to
write code, but when we want tothink about growing people and
stretching and putting ourselvesinto uncomfortable positions so
that we can grow, involvesbringing in kind of bigger
business context that a lot ofengineers don't, like, naturally

(22:02):
gravitate toward.
And so, again, it's like, it'sbeing proactive about saying,
like, how will you respond in,in a moment of crisis?
And I think helping people shiftfrom, like, oh, we just have to
react to something, to whateverhappens, to a more thoughtful
approach of like, No, we canactually be deliberate.

(22:24):
We can have processes to handleunexpected things.
That actually makes people feela lot more confident knowing
that that we have plans in placeand it's not just going to be a
mad scramble.

Conor Bronsdon (22:39):
Do you think that part of this need to bring
in these concepts is a problemwith how we train engineers to
be kind of individualisticthinkers?
Whereas once you actually getout into I'll call it
engineering world, usually it'sa team sport.

Melissa DePudyt (22:54):
Totally, yeah.
And newsrooms are a team sporttoo.
Like, you get a lot ofjournalists who are like, I'm
just a reporter, I just want togo out and cover my thing.
But, in reality, it's crossfunctional work.
You know, there are not justreporters, but also
photographers, videographers,social producers, editors.
And so it's a very similar kindof mentality.

Conor Bronsdon (23:18):
How should we adjust training for engineers to
enable this forward thinkingabout, hey, this is a team
sport, we should be kind ofthinking around corners.

Melissa DePudyt (23:27):
I mean, I think that a lot of the skills that
we, kind of naturally gain aswe, you know, move through our
careers as engineering, asengineers, as ICs, are the exact
scrappy kind of skills.
That we have to still leverageas managers.
And so I think it's less abouttraining ICs and more about, um,

(23:51):
helping ICs understand as youprogress, the types of
situations you're going to bein.
Most of the time you're going tobe trying to like, Be in this
like scale mode of having animpact at scale, but when
unexpected situations occur, wecan shift into this other mode
that, um, we're actually morefamiliar with because that's

(24:14):
like a lot of engineering.

Conor Bronsdon (24:16):
Yeah, this is a really interesting look at
preparation, and the approachyou're taking here.
Are there any other insightsaround, preparation or, or, uh,
mindset that you're bringingfrom journalism that you want to
highlight.

Melissa DePudyt (24:28):
I think what I just mentioned about kind of
having a scrappy mode and ascale mode is something that a
lot of journalists, cultivate.
The journalists are people too.
They don't always enjoy being ondeadline.
And so a lot of reporters willkind of have, this one set of
skills that's much more kind oflike investigative and, It's
really kind of when you need totell a story that is deeper and

(24:52):
you're digging deep, you're kindof asking questions to get more
context.
That is in stark contrast to abreaking news situation.
When you're on deadline, youhave to act swiftly.
You have to, focus on just thekey details and not like
everything about, uh, like thepast situations.
Um, and so I think that'sanother thing that engineering

(25:14):
leaders can adopt as well andgive ourselves permission
honestly, to switch modes andmake decisions differently when
we're in a moment of uncertaintyor a moment of crisis.
Because at least I've certainlybeen told that like as a
manager, I always have to befocused on growing people
scaling and like process.

(25:34):
And it's really important whenmoments of crisis occur.
To be able to break from thatand to shift into this like
scrappy breaking news kind ofmindset.
And so the way that I use thisis, when I'm in the normal
course of work, I'm in scalemode.
I like to make decisions bybuilding consensus on my team

(25:55):
and getting everyone's input,making sure that everyone is
aligned.
And when I'm in a moment oflike, I give myself permission
to kind of abandon that.
Everyone doesn't need to beinvolved in giving like their
opinion.
I need to commit to an approach.
And so I give myself permissionto shift into that other mode
where, it's not where I spendthe most of my time, uh, but it

(26:19):
allows me to act faster and thatthen creates more clarity for
the team.
And that's what they need inthose moments.

Conor Bronsdon (26:27):
This is really interesting too in a cultural
context because, um, this isIt's egalitarian leadership
style that you described versuskind of the more authoritative
under pressure is something thatis, very, it's often seen in a
lot of Western countries.
So, um, the U.
S., Denmark, the Netherlands,for example, very egalitarian
approaches.

(26:48):
Uh, whereas if you look even atlike Spain and Italy, they're,
they're more on theauthoritative side, or
hierarchical might be a betterphrase here, let alone like
Japan and Korea, where you getthis kind of more hierarchical
approach to leadership.
And so it's interesting to seehow.
that is to flex at times,depending on the circumstances.

Melissa DePudyt (27:05):
Yeah, exactly.
It's a sliding scale.
And what I do is like, I applythis in any given situation by
saying like, What mode do I needto be in?
Because often when you're makingdecisions as a leader, Um, it is
decisions, plural.
It's not just one decision, it'soften a series of decisions in
quick succession.

(27:26):
And, and so I will put myself ina mindset and just take a beat
and say, What mode do I need tobe in?
Is this a situation where I needto focus on, um, creating
opportunities for my direct?
and empowering them?
Or is this a situation where Ineed to be super scrappy and do
it myself?

(27:46):
Or I need to be super scrappyand make a decision on behalf of
the team and guide what they'redoing?

Conor Bronsdon (27:54):
Do you have any thoughts that you would share
for other career switchers whoare So, I'm thinking about how
to leverage the knowledge thatthey have, uh, or how to adjust
to the kind of new track they'reon in engineering.

Melissa DePudyt (28:06):
I think that being a career switcher is
actually kind of a superpower.
Especially as we move intoleadership roles where, our
deliverables are not necessarilyprimarily code.
Um, they are ofteninterpersonal.
They are often written.
I do a lot of writing as anengineering leader, just like
writing documentation, writingbriefs and memos, um, and so I

(28:29):
think that for other people whohave come into engineering from
a non technical background,whether it's a boot camp or
you're self taught, um, reallythink critically about what the
other skills you have are andhow you can leverage them in the
context of your current team.
And I think that you'll findthat those things actually,

(28:51):
yeah, end up being advantagesbecause they're skills that,
that you don't learn as, asengineers necessarily.
And so a lot of that is workingin teams or, like I said,
writing.
Um, and so I would reallyencourage all career switchers
to be proud of theirbackgrounds.
And to really try and bringthose skills to the forefront

(29:12):
have a conversation with yourmanager about what other skills
you have and how you canleverage them.
And in, in the spirit ofplanning and being proactive,
you know, to Spend some timereflecting, um, sit down with
yourself and say like, Who do Iwant to be, um, as an engineer?
And how do I leverage mybackground, um, in a really

(29:33):
positive way?

Conor Bronsdon (29:34):
I've really enjoyed this conversation,
Melissa.
Where else can our audiencelisten to you or kind of learn
more about your work?

Melissa DePudyt (29:41):
Well, so I work for a company called Up
Statement.
We are a, we call ourselves adigital product studio with an
editorial mindset, which is avery fancy way of saying that we
are an agency, that tries toleverage a lot of journalistic
and editorial techniques, in thecourse of our project work.
Um, so we take on, um, clientsthat need big transformative

(30:04):
strategies and visions, both interms of the product and the,
the technical, like, needs ofthe team.
So that's where a lot of my workis currently.
I am working on getting set upwith, a blog for kind of like
talking more about a lot ofthese things.
Things because I, I have startedto realize that my perspective
is really different.

(30:24):
Um, because I'm a careerswitcher and I have that
background.

Conor Bronsdon (30:28):
And I'll say as someone who also loves to write,
I think there's a lot of valuefor me, and I think many other
writers.
It, when you start to put pen topaper, so to speak or type,
let's be real uh, and kind ofsay, okay, here is how my
mindset works here.
'cause it, I'll say it helps mecodify and clarify my thoughts.
Yeah.
And can hopefully help make, usboth better leaders by taking on

(30:48):
action.

Melissa DePudyt (30:49):
Yeah, exactly.
I think, I get caught in my heada lot, and I'm like, oh, I have
this idea, and I need to, I needto like, really think about it,
until

Conor Bronsdon (30:57):
Write it down.

Melissa DePudyt (30:57):
Yeah.
Yeah, and, and so just like,yeah, putting the, the virtual
pen to paper, and like, gettingit out, you're like, oh, no,
that's actually like a real Areal thought that, that is
valuable to other people, um, soI've definitely gotten in my
head lately about being like,no, people don't need my
perspective.

Conor Bronsdon (31:15):
I, I wrote about this recently on my personal sub
stack, which is like the problemwith perfectionism.
I think a lot of folks, myselfincluded, um, get wrapped up in
this idea that, we need to beperfect on our first draft.
We don't need perfect before weput it out in the world.
And yes, that's true in somecases, like.
Okay.
Like if I'm a reporter, I needto check my sources.

(31:36):
I need to make sure what I'msaying is real.
Yeah.
But for many of us, if I'm, youknow, writing my little substack
to my several hundred people whomight read it like, it's okay
for me to like, think through mythoughts Yeah.
And talk through it.
And it's actually reallyvaluable part of that process to
say, you know, let's put pen topaper or virtual paper.
Yeah.
And maybe publish it, getfeedback, keep going, like write
a new thing.
And there's so much value inthat, whether it's, you know,

(31:58):
starting a project and puttingcode out in the world, writing.
Creating videos.
Whatever it is you want to dothat, like, building in public
and the act of just creation cancreate such a virtuous feedback
loop and help prepare you to, tothink through, uh, situations
and prepare under crisis.

Melissa DePudyt (32:12):
Yeah, totally.
And I think that, like, it'svery easy, obviously, in today's
society.
culture to become isolated andto be like, um, either, no, this
idea isn't good or this idea isthe best and I'm the best for
having it.
And working in the open andpublishing that, and putting
your work out there to me hasreally reduced my, my fear of

(32:34):
making mistakes.
I am also a chronicperfectionist and overachiever
and want to be as perfect aspossible.
And I think that mindset for mecame a lot from journalism.
You have to be fast and you haveto be right.
And I think that's where we canactually give ourselves a little
slack in decision making.
The stakes are much lower forus.

(32:56):
And if we're working in public,then we get feedback can learn
constantly.
You can learn.
Yeah.
And you can learn and you canadjust.
And it's like you reduce, reducethe impact.
Continuous learning, continuous

Conor Bronsdon (33:04):
iteration.
I'm seeing software conceptshere, so it's, oh yeah.
It's interesting to close onthis note about, we've talked a
lot about things that we canlearn from how journalists
approach their work and bringinto software engineering.
And here's, I think, theopposite perspective, where it's
like, hey, here's, here's how wecan, you know, learn from
concepts that are already insoftware engineering and make
sure that we're not overdoing onthe mindset.
So Melissa, I have to say I'vereally enjoyed this

(33:25):
conversation.
Uh, if you ever decide to, we'dlove to have you write an
article for our, our substack.

Melissa DePudyt (33:30):
Oh, absolutely.

Conor Bronsdon (33:30):
Yeah, I think that'd be great.
And, uh, thanks for coming onthe show.
It's been wonderful.

Melissa DePudyt (33:33):
Cool.
Thanks for having me.

Conor Bronsdon (33:34):
Uh, our pleasure.
If you're listening to this, uh,make sure, check it out on
YouTube as well.
We're sitting here in the middleof, uh, a big plastic dome.
Uh, it looks really fun.
And, uh, yeah, check out on.
Dev Interrupted, where that'swho we are across all socials.
And, uh, Melissa, thanks again.
It's been a fantastic time.

Melissa DePudyt (33:51):
Thanks for having me.
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