Lesson #24: My favorite engineering management tools
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My favorite engineering management tools
Happy holidays! I’m keeping things light this week given that it’s a holiday week (how you can get lighter than a 5-minute newsletter who knows, but we’re making it happen) with a list of my favorite tools and services I use as an engineering leader. If there’s something not on this list that you love, I’d love to hear about it!
I’m going to shy away from most technical tools because I’m not here to tell you how to technically run your team; I’m here to help from a process perspective. No affiliate links, just good stuff.
Cron (Free): I live and die by Cron. I have not just my work and personal calendars added to the app but also every direct report and cross-functional partner with whom I collaborate often. Cron makes it so easy for me to see availability across multiple people at once, and I can continue to schedule events on my personal calendar and have them automatically block off on my work calendar (or vice versa).
Things (Paid): I pay for things on MacOS, iPadOS, and iOS, and it’s worth every penny. I love the easy UI and I like that I can track to-dos across both work and personal items. I don’t necessarily use it correctly (I tend to dump fleeting thoughts into “Inbox” and sort them later), but I still get a lot of use out of the app, especially for recurring tasks.
Superhuman (Paid): Okay. I’ve been using Superhuman for a few years now, and I know $30/mo is a lot for an email client, but I honestly haven’t found another email client that I like. I use Superhuman for 3 email accounts (personal, consultancy, and work), and I’m a keyboard shortcut queen so I do pretty much everything in Superhuman using keyboard shortcuts. The “Hey idiot, you said the word ‘attached’ but didn’t attach a file” notice has saved me several times, as has the undo send. (These are not necessarily unique features at this point, but I do like them.)
DataGrip (Paid): This is the only super technical tool I’ll include on this list. I haven’t found another Database Explorer and SQL console tool that I like more than DataGrip. It’s so easy to use and is the only tool I feel safe enough using to make changes to our production database.
Apple Notes (Free): Yes, really. I’m an Apple Notes fiend. I’ll often take notes in Apple Notes for one-off meetings before moving them into Obsidian or Things. I’ll create ad hoc lists or just notes on-the-go. Every newsletter from the past 6 weeks started in Apple Notes.
Obsidian (Free/Paid): Speaking of Obsidian… This is one of my favorite note-taking tools. I love that I can take notes using Markdown and the themes and formatting for Obsidian are also so pretty. (Pretty matters, duh.) I use Obsidian for both personal and work, and I pay for Obsidian to sync my vaults across devices.
Lattice (Paid): This is technically a tool my company pays for, and I swear HR did not pay me to include this on my list, but I love using Lattice for 1:1s. It has everything I recommend in a 1:1 format: a section for topics to discuss, action items with assignments, shared notes, and private notes. Receipts are important for 1:1s, and I will forever recommend following this format. Lattice just makes it easy for me because my entire team uses it. (If you want to know more about this format, check out my paid newsletter on conducting 1:1s.)
Excalidraw (Free): Whenever I need to quickly sketch something out, I use Excalidraw. Whether it’s something I’m sharing with someone else or I just need to better visualize the spaghetti that is in my mind, Excalidraw is super easy to use. Highly recommend for a quick doodle.
Graphite (Free/Paid): This is a tool my team introduced me to, and I’ve quickly personalized it to do what I need as an engineering leader vs. as an IC. I like being able to see a quick highlight of which PRs are still open and without a review, as well as the PRs that were recently merged in should any regression get introduced. You’ll need to pay for this at scale.
1Password (Paid): I’m ending with 1Password because I believe everyone should use a password manager. Please stop memorizing and reusing all of your passwords. I don’t need to explain to you at this point why this is important. Even the paid plan is only $3/mo.
What I’m reading
I just finished my 100th book this year! I’m currently reading Wiring the Winning Organization by Gene Kim and Steven J. Spear and enjoying it so far.
Check out the full book list for recommendations and an ever-growing reading list.
Note: Links to books in this section are affiliate links to help support the purchase of the rest of my books :)
What I’m working on
Absolutely nothing. It’s glorious.
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