Producing 10x Output with Wade Chambers

Wade Chambers CTO & SVP of Engineering at Included Health in conversation with Evan Reiser, Co-founder & CEO at Abnormal Security.

Wade Chambers discusses the myth of the 10x engineer, and what it takes to become one. While doing this, he also talks about takeaways any employee can have regarding how they can accelerate their professional development (engineer or non-engineer). He later goes into detail about growth and how employees can have more impactful discussions with managers about improvement. Wade closes by giving insights on what characteristics he’s seen in top 1% employees.

Nimit: [00:00:00] Leaders market defining technology innovations and business growth for companies of all sizes, including at Twitter, TellApart, Yahoo, and Opsware, uh, before Silicon valley, Wade served in the military and the white house situation room. Uh, we are thrilled to welcome Wade to the stage at abnormal business school.

Uh, I'm gonna pass the mic to our host, Evan to kick off the conversation with Wade. Um, and I will also. Uh, spotlight, uh, Evan, wait, I guess. Yeah. 

Evan: Awesome. Thanks. Thanks to Nimit um, well Wade, I guess, first of all, thank you so much for joining today. I know you've been a, um, a great mentor to me personally, and a bunch of other folks in the team.

So I really appreciate you making the time. 

Wade: Uh, it's also cool looking through all of the names here, which I've had the honor of working with in a few different companies. So that that's pretty cool. Well, 

Evan: Well Wade, I know we had a couple of topics. We, you know, we want to talk [00:01:00] about, um, you know, what, what's really the best way to organize our time.

Do you want, I know you kind of, I know you, you maybe thought about having some, you know, sharing some content, you know, how do you want to structure this? 

Wade: I'm happy with, with whichever way you want to go with this. I think there's plenty to cover and, uh, hopefully everyone finds it. Interesting.

Evan: Sounds good.

Well, um, yeah, I mean, like if you have something you want to share, we can kind of start with otherwise. I can just maybe kinda start ask them some questions. You can pull it up, you know, as, as it becomes relevant, 

Wade: why don't we start that way? Ask the questions and let's pull up stuff. 

Evan: Cool. So, I mean maybe just to kick it off.

Um, so as you guys heard from him minute, you know, Wade has been, um, in, you know, a dozen of kind of amazing companies, uh, wait, you've seen great engineers, great leaders, um, love for maybe you just maybe just to kind of start off, like, you know, what do you think are some of the. You know, qualities of properties of like, you know, great teams.

Right. And, um, you know, when, when you think about, you know, w what kind of makes a, a, um, you know, that there's kind of the, the, there's kind of, um, [00:02:00] you know, uh, myth of like how the, the 10 X engineer, right. Or the 10 X employee, you know, what are some of the things that you look for, both at the team level, but also the individual level, right.

For, you know, kind of true high-performing. 

Wade: Yeah, but why don't we start with the 10 X engineer and then we'll go to like, what makes great engineering students. And so, um, I absolutely believe in the 10 X engineer, uh, but it's not in the way that, um, We would probably think about it in that. I don't think that, um, it's, it's funny that Sanjay's name or picture pops up when I started talking about it, next engineer, that seems oddly appropriate, uh, on my screen Sanjay's straightened center.

So Sanjay gets to be the focal point as I, as I talk about 10 X engineers. Um, but I do believe in 10 X engineers, not because I believe that they necessarily produce 10 X, the volume of. But they produce 10 X the value associated with, with, with work. [00:03:00] And I think it's because they think more deeply about the problem and the solution.

And so they just don't go down bad paths as quickly. Right. If I can truly, I like the old, um, Albert Einstein quote, if I had an hour to solve a problem, I'd spend the first 55 minutes making sure I got the problem. Right. And then I would focus on the solution. 10 X engineers do that, right? They're like, no, no, no, no.

Help me understand, actually, what's the problem. Go five wise, go deeper, go deeper, go deeper. Test the thesis. I'm am I sure I, that I've got this right. Let, let me focus on it. And then ultimately the, the go with like, okay. I'm pretty confident that I've got the problem. And therefore I can think from first principles, solutions that map to that problem, as opposed to a, a theoretical problem that may, may have been convenient for me to latch onto, but like actually don't address the problem at all as a result.

Um, I think you get 10 X, the. Impact out of those engineers [00:04:00] because of, they don't have missed starts. They don't cut down bad paths. Um, and they get to, um, um, a much better outcome. Um, and if helpful, right? Like I can give them an example of one thing that kind of felt that way in my past experience. 

Evan: Yeah.

Sam, can you mute please? Your skin, some noise from you? 

Wade: Sorry. Uh, no worries. Uh, actually, uh, we we've got some colleagues from, from Proofpoint, um, on this call and there was a time back at Proofpoint where we were using, um, a vendor to be able to search logs in our. And it was getting slower and slower and slower to the point that it would time out.

And so, and we were getting larger and larger and larger customers actually using this, which meant much more data was going through the system. And, uh, therefore, right. Like it would just time out, meaning you couldn't find things. And so as everyone on this call probably is [00:05:00] aware, um, if the CEO doesn't get an email or something along those lines, Oh, that's horrible.

And so what would you do? You'd have somebody go in, you would actually search to see if there was an email that came through that was going to the CEO and did they get quarantined or something along those lines. Uh, and if you, if your searches were timing out, right, this, this damn product and you start cursing, uh, and so we had this, um, uh, problem of where we need you to actually speed up the performance of where one queries didn't time out, but you could actually find what you were looking for.

We had a team that was, uh, responsible for this. And I, you know, we passed on the, the feedback to that team and it's like, Hey, we need to improve perform. Uh, a month later come back team had improved performance by like 10%. And I'm like, this is nowhere near like going to get us to the point where we've actually solved the problem for our customers and for ourselves.

Okay. Okay. We got this, um, a month later, [00:06:00] right? Like we were. Maybe another 10% on that 10%. And I'm like at this rate, we are not going to solve the problem. Um, and it was that point. It was like, okay, the problem is not going to be solved at the level that created the problem. I need to get new thinking into this.

Uh, so I grabbed, uh, one of our engineers, um, and I was like, Hey, can I get you to look at this problem and explain it to. Uh, and, and he went off and over the weekend, like focused on the problem and came back the next, uh, Monday came back and he was like, okay, I've got some good news and I've got some bad news.

Um, the bad news is based on the way that we're searching indices. Uh, at maximum, if you got peak lay layout on a disc and we were using SAS, uh, 15 K drives at that time, and we could read everything in perfect. Uh, speeds. And it was all de fragmented. And the maximum improvement that you get would be 30.[00:07:00] 

Just based on a disc IO and our ability to, to, to, to read it all in. And I'm like, oh, that's, that's nowhere close to where we need. And he's like, okay. But time for the good news, if we thought about it differently and we went to a calmer, uh, format for actually searching. We could actually search then based on time and go and select just those, those records out that we need.

And if we memory map them, uh, we could actually find the records that we need in a very, very small subset of time. It could be actually sub-second response times in that regard. Um, and here's a prototype and here's it working and here's a, uh, A query that's been currently timing out and the dataset that's now working with it.

And lo and behold, it actually worked. Right. And so, like, he had to think about the problem deeply enough to understand, like, what was the, the, uh, limiting factor in that. And then based on that, is there a different way of looking at the problem that [00:08:00] allowed me to provide a solution, uh, that w w would actually solve the problem?

And so in a, I think it was like three or four weeks later, we actually rolled out the solution and to, to too much happiness and we got to then go work on other problems that were in the platform at that point in time as well. So did he write 10 X the code? Nope. Nope, no worries. But like, just the way that he thought about the problem when they was able to come at it from a different viewpoint, based on deeply understanding the problem and being able to think creatively around the solution.

Yeah. We got 10 X the impact, and I think that that's a common, um, pattern that you'll see with 10 X engineers. 

Evan: Yeah, it does. And I think like one of the challenges, I think that probably many of us on the call field today is that, um, human brains are kind of wired for like linear thinking. Right. And how do you kind of do the next thing a little bit better?

How do you make kind of incremental progress? The challenge we have right is we're in an exponential [00:09:00] business, right where our customer is growing exponentially. The team is running expenses. We're trying to everything, you know, better, faster, cheaper, and higher levels of quality. Right. And so I guess like, um, so, you know, even outside of, I guess, like how do you kind of generalize that, right.

You know, even outside of engineering, right. Is it really about kind of resetting about the problem statement or thinking about how you get increased leverage? Like it will be kind of the generalizable version of that you maybe even outside of engineering. 

Wade: Yeah. There's, there's, there's some real struggles with that.

Um, for example, uh, right. Like what don't, you know, right. If I just look across and ask everybody what don't, you know, that's actually a pretty impossible question to answer, right? If you knew what you didn't know, then you, you you'd probably address it. And so, like the, one of the, one of the major challenges is like, like how do you rethink and how do you reframe to, to like, understand where there's growth in front of you?

And I think that this leads us to. [00:10:00] If you kind of think about as humans, how we all progress. Um, we build patterns, uh, our, our brains form in certain ways and our snap, certain start to fire in certain ways. And then we find adjacencies to those strengths and continue to, to, um, To grow in that. And if you kind of think about this as you go through college, as, as an example, an engineer will get to a point where we think about, um, ah, this is a neat new technology.

I need to understand the problem. I need to, to sort of understand how to leverage it in a certain context. Um, and now I need to actually go solve a problem with it, right? Like that reinforces the learning and we continue to grow. And then, so like if you've done that with, um, you know, uh, Postgres, right.

Learning my SQL as an adjacency to that. And like you can sort of think about, oh, this has slightly different query engines and they have slightly different mechanics, but they solve the same basic problem. [00:11:00] And I can go through that. And so there's this strength that you build up of? How do I understand learn, apply and wash, rinse, repeat as necessary.

That kind of works for your like first 10 years of being an, a. I learned new technologies. I applied them. I learned sir, source control systems. I learned how to operate inside a different team structures and processes and those sort of things. And then there's some weird point in the future of where your career stops going at that same trajectory that it's been going up to that point.

And it's like, ah, like I'm working just as hard. I'm trying just as. What happened? Like what, why, why am I stopping? And if you, if you were to stop and be able to zoom outside of yourself, you'd see that the competencies and skills and the way that you currently think has sort of taken you on a trajectory that those skills and [00:12:00] beliefs and behaviors and competencies are not the ones that you need for the next leg of the.

Right. And so if you think about it, like most, most of us think about, we have cognitive skills, we have personal skills, self-awareness self modulation achievement drive, and then we have social skills, like social awareness. I can read the room, I understand what's going on versus social impact. I can change the nature of the room.

Early on. It's really about the cognitive skills. Like can I learn and apply and learn why and go through this as well as like some personal, oh, I've got to be motivated. I got to go, uh, not create a lot of collateral damages. I go through things and do those sorts of things. Uh, but then you, you get to a point of where you start to realize that I need to influence the team more than.

Right. Like part of my job is to help others see what I might see because like my, my, my span of control is increased or the way that I'm thinking has improved. And I need to [00:13:00] get more people to see what I see while all of a sudden it switched from cognitive skills to social skills. And if you haven't built a lot of skills about how do I communicate an idea effective.

How do I get somebody to feel validated in that process? How do I help them see a complex issue? Right? Your, the, the chances of you effectively influencing that people in getting them to buy into your idea is low. And so as a result, like, ah, it feels bad, right? Like I'm struggling. I can't, I can't affect things on a bigger stage because the skills that got me here are not the ones that are going to take me for.

And so you have to get to that point where you start looking for your blind spots, um, or where your ego is getting in your way to effectively figure out like, what's that next leg of my journey. And like, how do I grow around that? And that's where, um, mentors, coaches, [00:14:00] uh, people giving you feedback, make all the difference in that.

Right. Like if you have somebody who genuinely gives a shit about you and can help package feedback in a way that you don't feel judged, you feel seen, but you feel like this person cares about me and wanting to help me be successful in all of this. It changes. Right? Like I can, I can see the feedback and if they can give me examples of where I can realize that like, oh crap, right?

Like that's something that I suck. You can choose whether that's an area that you want to grow, um, around. And if so, like it's fairly straightforward, not easy. And so then you can start to focus on, okay, how do I go acquire the declarative knowledge, start to practice in an area that forces me to go through it with a mentor or a coach that can actually give me feedback.

Um, as I go. So part of this is like getting to that point of where you're consciously looking [00:15:00] for blind spots. You're looking for where your ego is getting in the way. And that's a pretty hard thing for most of us. 

Evan: That's right. And, uh, for those guys that don't know, you know, I work with Wade for about seven years and when we were working together really early on, I was probably kind of at this point where I was like, wait, like I I'm, I'm, I'm doing everything I've been doing around training harder, working faster.

Right. Why am I not having a bigger impact? Right. I think, you know, I was really fortunate to have a mentor like you to kind of help me see some of those blind spots and think about what are the new set of things I need to learn in order to kind of be effective. Right. Um, obviously not everyone has like, you know, Oh, wait, chambers kind of looking over their shoulder.

Right. So I guess like, uh, me and my question for you is for people, you know, at the company today that, um, you know, everyone company say was hired because they're an expert, what they do today and the opportunity we have, right? As a fast growing company, right. That really needs more leaders and everyone to step on a bigger impact when some way everyone, there's probably an opportunity for them to kind of step and think about what's the next way for me to [00:16:00] develop and advance my career to me to have a bigger impact.

So I guess my question for you is. If you don't have a way chambers kind of looking over your shoulder, right. What are maybe some of the ways that people can be, you know, more conscious about, you know, their, their kind of own development to their own growth? 

Wade: Yeah. So a couple of things. One is I, I, and I don't know who it's attributed to, but, um, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, or the books that you write.

Right. Like, there is a thing of, if I'm constantly, you know, the problem can't be solved at the level it was created. So if you're constantly thinking about how do I improve my world? Right. Like that helps in and of itself, um, invest, right? Like it's one of those things that's not going to happen just through osmosis.

Like you're actually going to have to be conscious about learning, uh, reading books, like liminal thinking or things like that, that sort of help you understand how the human brain works a little bit and therefore where you're likely to get. [00:17:00] Um, I think will help you, like understand in context that I'm going to have blind spots or my ego might get in the way in different areas.

The second thing that I think is, um, really an interesting process to go through is that, um, can you identify that future version of you? Right. Can you think about like, um, like what's really important to you? Uh, I want to be the CEO. Do I want to be the CTO. Do I want to be an engineering manager? Do I want to be a senior staff engineer?

Do I want to be, um, capable of being a technical lead and driving it forward? I driving like major projects for if you can do that, who's the best person that does that role. Like, who's that person that has competitive advantage. It's not like, yeah, they've got the title and they're kind of going through the motion, but it's like, [00:18:00] holy crap.

You know, like if I'm ever half that good, I would be exciting. Excited. The more that you can identify that person that's out there, then ask yourself the question. Why are they causally good in that? Like w what are the beliefs that they have? What are the behaviors that you consistently see demonstrated?

What are the competency clusters that they have that make them good? Um, in that role that like truly put them at the top 5%, um, at that specific. But dig in, like talk to them, talk to multiple people about them, like try and debug them. So to speak, uh, to the point that you can accurately identify, like what you think is causal in creating that type of success in that role, once you can get there, what's the gap, like based on where you're at and your ability to do, um, act.[00:19:00] 

Self analysis and maybe getting feedback from peers, from your manager, from a coach that you might have, like, where are you at? Where is this future, hopefully version of you at? And like, what's the gap between those two, the more credible that you can make, that the more that you can decompose a lot of the beliefs, behaviors, and competencies that are necessary, and you can find the ones that are the most levered.

And then you can actually start working on building those skill sets up or those belief systems or those behaviors, right? Like everything is learnable and it requires you going through probably a pretty conscious, uh, process for doing that. Can I articulate, do I have declarative knowledge of like what success looks like from this?

If you want to be a great presenter, like. Declarative knowledge. What does a great presenter do? How do they do it? [00:20:00] Okay. Now that's like temporary. Of of how you grow 70% is probably the practice, right? I need to do it multiple times, which means I need an opportunity to practice. I need to find an activity that will allow me to take and work on those skills.

And the first couple of times it's gonna feel horrible because it's not going to be natural and it's not going to feel fluid, but you got to do it to get to that fourth or fifth time to get to that ninth or 10th time. Um, and so you need to practice. Um, you know, research shows that with 20 hours of practice, you can actually become good at something.

It might take 10,000 hours to master something truly, but with 20 hours, 20 hours, right? Like you can actually probably get to be okay or good at something, what dramatically changes, uh, whether you get good at something in that 20 hours is who's the mentor and coach. Is [00:21:00] there somebody who understands how to do that very, very well and cares about you as a human, that can actually give you some of that feedback, find the best person, right.

It may not be the perfect person, but find the best person that can actually give you some feedback. And it cares about your development. And ask them to give you feedback as you actually try and apply yourself to, to going through that. And that's 20% of the value of like, who is that person that's giving you feedback.

If it's a really complex thing, it may go up to 30 to 40% of the overall value of learning something or suggesting how quickly and effectively you would learn something. So. I just monologue for a whole long time. Sorry. But like, if you can get to the point of where you're either raising your level of knowledge, because you're investing with other people or you're reading or doing all these things, and if you can actually go through and identify somebody who's further along and be able to figure out that gap, you can actually see.

Uh, a development plan and [00:22:00] self for yourself in place for yourself. Here are the foundational things. I'm going to learn those practices well, and you can just systematically go through these things. And pretty straightforward, um, order it's when you don't do that, they, it feels like it meanders all over the place and you actually don't feel that level of, of progress that you're capable of making 

Evan: and wait.

So, I mean, I think like the natural default, right? I think for everyone, right. Certainly myself included. Is like, almost like this unconscious career development. Right. Hey, let me just, I'll kind of keep doing what I'm doing. I'll kind of like, you know, find ways to step up my game and all the things I do and we'll kind of see what happens.

Right. I'll probably make some progress. And then when we were talking about is different, right. It's not the unconscious kind of like, see what happens, but it's more the intentional kind of architected, you know, career development is that kind of, 

Wade: it is right. And, and actually, um, and I'm, I'm not meaning to belittle the pattern.

Um, but oftentimes you'll see what I call two by fours, uh, where they are individuals [00:23:00] that have two years of experience repeated four times. Right. And so they've got, um, you know, eight years of experience or do that. Do they really have two years of experience and six years of kind of semi experience.

It's like further reinforced, but it's not like it's quadrupled their abilities in the market. It's like, got them incrementally better at the things that they already know how to do just in an adjacent. And so like, yeah, it's not really two years of experience. It's slightly more than that. Uh, but it's, it's not definitely eight years of experience getting on the, on the other side of it 

Evan: and the way, or you kind of like suggesting that, you know, people go into a role, they kind of like really started mastering that role in two years and then like, you know, they kind of.

Hit a wall and they kind of just like go back or like, you know, Y Y [00:24:00] Y what's 

Wade: the pattern. What makes you feel good? Like when you're on top of your game and you feel like I'm competent in, like, I am Hoke, strong Hulk smash, right? Like there's a, a certain dopamine hit that you get from. Who wants to be in the struggle of like, I feel like I'm struggling and right.

Like, I don't feel like I'm good at what I'm doing. If we're talking about growth, we're talking about that struggle. Like, are you willing? And, um, to, to embrace that, I'm not going to feel good a lot because I'm going to be in the process of learning and I'm going to be consistently in that incompetent phase of.

I'm trying to learn and I'm trying to flex and I'm trying to grow and I'm trying to do new things and I'm not very good at it yet, humans by their very nature, like to feel good. Like we don't like that feeling of, um, people are judging me or I might not be as good as, or, [00:25:00] um, I'm somehow not as great as in this specific.

And so we tend to shield ourselves from, from a lot of that, which leads us to find jobs that take advantage of our expertise and our competence here. And now, as opposed to things that will enable me to Rowan a net new way so that at the end of this job, I'm going to be significantly further along, but it means that I'm going to like stumble and struggle in a lot of different ways as I go through.

Right. Like, which pattern are you choosing? Is it the incremental? And I feel good because this is already a place where I can flex or is this no, like, I am purposely finding the really hard thing to do because it's going to teach me so much more that at the other end of it, right. Like, I will be much further ahead, but like, I will just be identifying yet.

The next thing that I need to go learn about. [00:26:00] Path, if you don't do it consciously, you are probably going to retreat to competence and repeat what you've done before 

Evan: ever. Some advice you gave me maybe a decade ago, it was like, uh, I can't remember the full quote. Right. But it's along the lines of like, Hey, Evan.

Like, it's really uncomfortable to run up hill. It's not fun. Right. But if you want to, um, you want to really get better, right. And you want to like, you know, improve, right. You gotta get, you gotta, you got to kind of embrace it uncomfort, and be careful you don't retreat back to your areas of competence and comfort.

Right. And you can feel good in that, that world. Right. And like, you're, you know, you can be successful there, but that's unlikely the thing that's really going to get you to like the next, the next. 

Wade: Yeah, I think it's so true. Right? Nobody likes the taste of medicine. You kind of got it. 

Evan: Yeah. Um, so I guess maybe you got turning it back to, you know, abnormal, maybe the team, right?

Like I think we're, we have a unique opportunity where the company is growing, you [00:27:00] know, there's, you know, infinite opportunity, right. For leadership and, um, you know, growth, right. You person, you know, personally, right. For everyone at the time. What would be your kind of your advice to maybe the, you know, the average abnormal employee, right?

How do you kind of really take advantage of that opportunity to, you know, make that investment right. And take on the uncomfort to become more conscious in your own career 

Wade: development? Yeah, that's, that's a hard question to answer for everyone. Of course. Um, the, the, the one thing that I, I think I'll call attention to, because I don't think it's.

Um, how most people think about the problem is that, um, most of the time humans are in the stage of like, how do I find something that kind of stretches me, but like fits inside of my comfort zone. And so they think about themselves as the center of that [00:28:00] abstraction and how other things need to map in.

Right. W which will get you to incremental growth. And like, you, you can do that. But if you want to think about like, uh, the, the, the people who have the most significant impact at companies, they're the ones that create the fulcrum for the company, right? The company becomes the center of the. And it's like, what needs to be true for us to be the best version of the company that we're going to be?

What helps us get to our mission and how can I contribute to making that version of the company? It requires you to have business judgment. It requires you to understand like how the business works and what's necessary to create competitive advantage and what things matter more than everything else.

But then the job is like, how do I take and grow myself in a way that like causally creates that version of the company. And it may be that like, the thing that's most [00:29:00] necessary for the company is the thing that you might be the weakest app, or you need a lot of growth, but the more that you can align with what the company needs and you can personally grow, like, there's this really valuable.

Center of the Venn diagram that happens, uh, when that's the case. And if you can get good at constantly mapping into what the company needs and how do I help do that? It helps you move from company to company over the longterm and say, It's not my job is being the problem solver for the company I need to, to get so into what does the company need and where are the at and what are the few things that really create competitive advantage for the company and how can I align with that and get others to see the same thing and move with me towards.

That creates tremendous, uh, career growth for you because you have the ability to flex that repeatedly throughout your career, as opposed to you needing to find the exact fit of where your [00:30:00] very specific set of skills might map to the company's needs. I think a lot of growth comes from it when you can actually align with what the company needs and figure out how to help it.

And then. 

Evan: That totally makes sense of nothing else. It kind of just, recenters your kind of universe and it starts thinking, thinking about more things outside of that comfort zone, right. If nothing else that's absolutely. Right. So, you know, when we first started talking a way to relate today, um, you talked about, you know, some of the, you know, kind of properties of, you know, kind of like, you know, um, kind of 10 X, 10 X engineers, right?

I guess like when you, when you think you've had the privilege of working with, you know, I don't know, a thousand plus engineers, right. I think in here career, right. Maybe more. And we think about kind of like the top 1% of people you work with are the people that really kind of go on this kind of accelerated career trajectory.

Right. Um, you know, what are some of the, you know, I guess like, what do they do differently? Right. You know, what are some of, not the kind of innate talents they have, right. Or some of the [00:31:00] behaviors that they were, the mindset they have that you think enables some of that. 

Wade: Yeah. Um, there's a few things that I think have, um, been consistent as I've went through that one.

Just let's talk about the properties of the individual. Um, almost every single, amazing 10 X engineer that I've ever worked with had zero ego, which is kind of a weird thing, right? Like they are the top 1%. They consistently, you know, just crushed things. And if we're using sports ball, right, like they constantly just knock the ball over the fence.

Right. It's like, I don't care how you throw it to them. It's just gone. And yet they take zero praise, um, because they don't take actually a lot of personal enjoyment from the personal actual. They love the process. They love the actually doing [00:32:00] heavy lifting and heavy thinking necessary to get there. And they're constantly thinking about the thing that they need to improve upon as opposed to getting glory for the thing that they're already great at.

And so it's just an interesting thing. That's there. I would also say like, there's other, this other weird, um, feature of most of the 10 X engineers that I know they validate other people. Right. Like they have the ability to, and that, that doesn't mean that they agree with everyone. It means that they're able to understand somebody else's point of view, empathize with it, expand on it, acknowledge it, and then disagree with it on the other end of it.

But that's a very weird thing. It's like, they are very comfortable, like getting outside of their own. And getting into somebody else's space to like, truly understand where they're at and be able to like join them in, in that conversation. And that's so really, really hard to do. And it's such a high [00:33:00] E Q thing to be able to do as well that I find it fascinating that I see that consistently through a lot of, uh, of really great to next engineers that are out there beyond.

Um, I see a lot of 10 X engineers focus on getting the business. Right, right. It's like, you would think that they would focus on what's the right way of doing this. How do I get to scale? How do I make sure that we've got the right abstractions, the right separation of concerns and responsibilities, and it feels like all of those things sort of there.

But you have to understand, like at what level they're important, they are far more concerned about, do we have the business, right. Uh, four steps to an epiphany. Are we, to that point where we should scale, do we understand the, uh, product market fit? Do we understand like what actually creates competitive advantage for us?

Um, because all of the other things like are our secondary to like making sure that you've got that right. [00:34:00] Secondarily, like they think about, have we got the people. Do we have, do we understand like what success looks like from a product and services perspective? And then can we work backwards from that to say, like, what would we need to ship and how would we need to ship it?

Because then we'd worked backwards from that. What are the teams that we would need to produce that kind of solution? What would the culture in that team be? What kind of leader would we need inside of that team? What are the things that we would obsess about inside of that team? Like what would feel, um, cancerous to this team?

Right? Like if, uh, if it has. How do I make sure that I find the right leader inside of this, that would embody a lot of that because as we do that, they will hire the right people into that team that like creates that team in that culture that's necessary producing those results that are necessary for the company.

And so they're constantly thinking about. [00:35:00] Uh, the people. Um, and do we make sure, have we made sure that we've got the people right inside of that, you'll think about, um, designing associated with that, right? Like you shipped your, your organization. So do we have a product architecture and a organizational architecture that maps to that, that own goals?

We have strong leaders in each one of these areas. Um, is there a healthy tension inside of the. Healthy meaning that like, everybody is demanding high performance, but it feels like it's doing it for purpose of where it's not attacking. It's more of, we want to do the right thing for our customers. And like, we want to hold these things true.

Like, Hey, are like, I'm not getting that from you. Right. Like how can we work through that? But not in a way that triggers, not in the way that is like, You stupid shit, right? Like that, that you just get into that fear of fight flight freeze a thing, but it's more of no, no, no, no. Like I'm here to help [00:36:00] you.

How, how can I, um, these things need to be true. And so if you get the people aspects of it, right, then you have a chance to like, make sure that you've got the technology. Like, and I find that a lot of these 10 X leaders that are on the engineering side that are getting there, um, they focus on very few things that are actually truly innovative, but it's the things that matter, right?

It's like, these are the few things that we are going to do that are a competitive differentiation for us, everything else. Right? Like we can pull things off the shelf. We can. The best proven technology to solve a lot of these things. We still have to do it right. And like the pipes have to come together and we have to build a lot of right scaffolding and we have to build the right products and services, but like these three things or these five things, everything we win or die based on like nailing these things.

And they truly focus on making sure that those things thrive in a way that creates [00:37:00] longterm competitive advantage for the company. And then I would say, Then they focus on getting scale. Right? Right. Like we might've had to do a few, a few, a bunch of things early on that was bubble gum and bailing wire.

And now that we've proven that we've got the product market fit, right. We actually have to go refactor a bunch of those things, make sure. Product architecture, organizational architecture reflects what we want to consistently ship, and let's go make sure that the processes and the people and everything fits together in a way that actually ultimately scales for the company moving through.

And so, right. Like if you think about the four things I just said is like, get the business, right. Um, get the people right. Get the technology, right. The scale. Right. Those are not novel ideas, but the way in which they go through it actually do turn out to be. 

Evan: No, I want to fall from one, one kind of question from our Q and a site.

And for those you guys wrote, we'll probably spend the next like 15 minutes. So I was going through some of the Q and a, so just please submit it in there. And I'll, um, I understand you don't have to share [00:38:00] it yet, but maybe people can start, um, putting, putting stuff in there and I'll kind of like, you know, we've been at the conversation.

So one kind of question we had Wade was, um, You know, I think there's, there's probably some, you know, junior engineers, right. Maybe there's kind of a year or two out of school. Right. And they're like, wait, what are you talking about? Like, I'm not responsible for organizational architecture or business strategy.

Like if you think about maybe, you know, more junior folks on the team, like, what are some of the qualities and traits that you would really kind of, you know, recommend people kind of focus on, right. Or like, you know, how do you, how do you have an impact or not like a director of 

Wade: engineering? Yeah. So early on, I mean, uh, like if you're a sweet one, it really is.

Earning your keep and, and like figuring out how to fit into the organization. And like, I, uh, create momentum for the organization. So like, can I own something inside of this? And can I be effective in doing that? Um, as you start to move up, it is really like, how can I think about my level of output, [00:39:00] my level of responsibility and my level of businesses.

Right. Like ultimately everything kind of flows through one of those three things. And so if I'm thinking about like my output, well, what do I need to do to, to be able to produce more? Is it the mastering of the tools? Is it the mastering of the problem or the solution space? Is it figuring out how to work more effectively with others that allow me to like create causally more output?

Um, let's talk about like level of responsible. Well, if I wanted to take on a feature, like how do I do that? If I want to take on an area of responsibility, that's maybe even a module or a service or something. Like what's required for you to truly be effective in enlarging, your scope. What do you have to push down?

What do you have to say no to like, who do you have to interact with? How do you make sure that like those, um, those boundaries are crisp and my interaction style with other [00:40:00] teams is understood as well as like I'm collaborating with them. Is it X as a service? Is it that I'm an embedded engineer over this, to be able to like move these things?

You'll start to understand, like how can I continuously increase and be effective at doing it? The area of responsibility that I have. And then it's constantly that third dimension, which is business impact. How do I more tightly aligned with what creates a difference for the company? And be able to crush that consistently.

Not in a way that I just, I, I shipped something, but like it was the right something. It was the something that mattered consistently. And the more that you can build that sixth sense of what matters and how do I go to. You'll find yourself in each one of those dimensions constantly. Like, where's my limiting factor.

What's the thing that I need to know. How do I expose? And then as you see this, right, like, you'll start to see as you move to a senior, to a [00:41:00] staff, to senior staff, all of it is, is like, how do I increase my own output and the output of the team surrounding me? How can I take on increasing responsibility for more complex?

Um, more impactful, uh, types of things. And then how do I make sure that I'm identifying the thing that matters most for the company's success and, uh, push through that as you go through each one of those, um, areas as you go up through the ladder, uh, you'll find natural boundaries that are associated with that, talking to others that are at the next level and talking to your, to your mentor, coach managers.

All are, are all good ways of getting the feedback. They help you identify that thing that matters most for you. 

Evan: That way, that reminds me of framework. You share with me in the past where you said something along the lines of like, you know, good people focus on winning great people, focus on with it, and they figure out how to increase the team's capacity to win.

Right. Um, [00:42:00] enabling the rest of the team, be more successful by, through your work, right. As the team gets larger, right? The leverage in that gets bigger and bigger, bigger, right? You might be the world's best salesperson. Right. That's great. But if there's opportunities for you to kind of take what you're learning and help everyone be 2% better.

Well, some level of scale that becomes increasingly even more impactful than your individual contributions. 

Wade: Th that that's right. And I mean, there there's needs for both Oracles and profits in an organization. Each one creates different value, uh, for it, um, like pick the thing that, uh, you're you find most valuable and focus on it.

Uh, we, we often talk about engineering managers, uh, along those lines of like, when increase your capacity to win. Uh, Ben Horowitz put out a book called what you do is who you are. And inside of that book, um, he has this, um, these concepts of shocking rules, uh, that you can put out that. Uh, it shocks people into like, [00:43:00] thinking about the culture that you're trying to create.

And once you can explain it and go through it, then they're like, oh wow. That's, that's interesting. Um, one of the things I've thought about is like, if you're an engineering manager, right? Like you should be able to double the output level of responsibility and level of business impacting your team in 12 months.

We're actually. That's pretty aggressive, right? Like, would you actually fire somebody if they didn't double in all those dimensions? Uh, probably not, but like, it helps to get you to think about it, right? Like I've got a year I can think about like, um, what are the architectural changes? What are the process changes?

Like how can I invest in my people? How can I improve the culture inside of the team? Um, how can I remove obstacles from. Right. Like, how can I make sure that the product and organizational architecture align, there's a lot of things that you could do to both win and increase your capacity to win that a year from now, your team could be without any changes to [00:44:00] it, able to do significantly more without working more hours and actually enjoying it more.

But that requires you to think about your job differently than I'm just a engineer with some additional responsibilities. 

Evan: That's right. And I think that probably everyone has the opportunity to do that as well. Right. Everyone can think about, you know, how do we can increase the team's capacity to win, right.

Addition to the individual work we're doing. Well, wait, I got like maybe two more questions. You guys have other stuff, you know, please throw in the chat on pulling these from out of our slide out. So, um, you talked about, um, we were talking a little bit about kind of, you know, um, you know, working with kind of managers and coaches to really, you know, help be more, more thoughtful and intentional about your own career development, I guess, you know, both from the manager side and then I guess the managers side, right?

Like how do you kind of architect those conversations? Right. If there's gonna be a dozen people come out of conversations, Dan Wade's right. Like I should talk to my, you know, my boss about, Hey, what can I do to kind of step up, take a bigger [00:45:00] responsibility, right? Like how do you kind of structure those conversations?

Right. And like, you know, what's, what's the effective way for everyone to, you know, individuals get more context and guidance and then, you know, any advice for managers about how to really, you know, kind of help, um, you know, focus people in ways that are gonna, you know, just make them more intentional about their own development and growth.

Wade: Yeah. I. There is no substitute for trust. So let me start there, right? Like, uh, if you have someone who. Um, is on your team and they don't feel like they trust your competence and their, and your character, your integrity. It's going to be very hard to actually have an open discussion around growth. Right?

Cause it might feel like, oh, you're trying to get me to change so that you get some benefit from it, as opposed to, if you truly have a connection with another human. And it's been tried a little bit and it's like, I care about you and, [00:46:00] and when, where you're going to, uh, how you're going to grow and helping you achieve your goals and becoming the best version of you, that's possible, like that's meaningful.

So if you don't have that relationship, build it right. Like, and it, and I would say a synonym for trust is confidence. You can build confidence, right? Like you focus on working through things where people can see that, what you say and what you do are the same confidence will grow. If you don't then like you will see confidence way.

Work on building confidence. Second is like, you kind of need some common ground that you can actually structure the conversation from. And so if you have a career ladder, right, like it gets easy to sort of start to, Hey, I'd love for you to color code each and every area of the career ladder and say where you think you're at and I'm going to do the same thing.

And the idea is for us to come back together and find out where the. Violent [00:47:00] agreement, violent disagreement, so that we can actually engage in that and like try and figure out what's true. And then I can go out and do three sixties that helped me get feedback from others to try and, uh, get to truth as opposed to me versus it's like us.

And like, let's try and get to an accurate assessment of where. And then like actually use that as the vehicle for trying to get to what are some of those foundational things. Can you give examples? Can you give details and you as the person who's trying to go, can you look for truth in what's being said, as opposed to trying to violently defend.

Uh, where you're at, the more that you can look for truth and run towards getting to a shared sense of truth. Everybody wins on each side and I think that's truly what will help enable growth. So can you find a common rubric? Can you agree on where you're at inside of that? Do you have the trust and the relationship necessary to be [00:48:00] able to have those conversations?

Um, by the way, let me say the opposite, right? Absence of those conversations will not build trust. Um, if you take the weak way out and like, uh, that, that feels controversial or, um, I'm not sure how they're going to react to it. You feel it right? It's like why isn't my manager having a conversation with me along these lines.

It's like, it feels like they're avoiding something, right? Like what what's behind that you have to work through it.

We only, we only 

Evan: got, um, maybe a couple of minutes left. Can I do a quick light to lightning round questions? 

Wade: I'm not sure if I'm capable of answering lightning round, but let's try it. 

Evan: Maybe a, so one was, um, you know, like given kind of like the shift to, you know, increasing amounts of remote work, any kind of like best practices or things that, you know, you'd recommend, um, you know, w people be thinking about, or, or, or [00:49:00] experimenting with to help them, you know, help, you know, kind of help best kind of thrive in this.

Wade: Yeah, try and be very clear about what, uh, there's a great, um, there's a great article out there. Um, And I was trying to think of like, who, who wrote it? Uh, I can't find it quickly enough. Um, but it's the five levels of remote work. And, um, at level four they talk about async work. Like what's the work that you need to do where nobody has to be in the same meeting at the same time.

And yet you can get the same outputs and measuring people on that. One is like approximating what happens in the office versus, um, you know, maybe being able to do those same things remotely, uh, versus like Nirvana, I think, which is, you know, everything gets done as a result of everybody living their best life and coming together to do all those things.

I think being [00:50:00] conscious in like, you know, what we're aspiring for and what are the processes and mechanisms that will create that will help a lot because otherwise you've got everyone thinking about like, well, remote me, Work from home for me versus no, everything needs to be documented because we're going to do everything asynchronously.

And I need a way to have a clear path of execution with the right processes that support it, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. 

Evan: And maybe final question Wade, like what's, this is a tough one. Right. But, uh, you know, maybe what, what book has had the biggest impact on your, your leadership? I know you read a lot of books. This may be hard. Uh, 

Wade: The one book, um, I would say that as a manager high output management by Andy Grove. 

Evan: Good answer. 

Wade: My favorite. It's a classic, but it's so good. Um, I can send you my [00:51:00] reading list or, you know, if that's helpful, cause there's a whole bunch of them in there that I love. But if I had to pick one Andy's book is pretty on point.

Evan: I, I agree. Okay. A bunch of people saying yes, please. We want you some of that list and I'll share with a team and, you know, thank you much saying thank you so much for joining today. I think everyone enjoyed hearing from you. I know that. You know, I personally have learned a lot from you, just not just today, but over the years and excited for us to stay close to the company and help.

We'll see you again soon.

Wade: I enjoyed it and always loved spending time with you and the team. So thank you for letting me do it. 

Evan: Thanks Wade. Take care. 

Wade: Thanks.

Key takeaways

  1. Becoming a 10x engineer requires problem solving, humility, and social skills.
  2. Career development needs to be uncomfortable and intentional.
  3. Understand the problem holistically before trying to solve it.
  4. Find mentors who you trust to help find blind spots in your current skill set

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