This is the second and final part of our series of posts sharing key takeaways from a live panel discussion with Engineering Leaders from BCG Digital Ventures, Trustpilot, Prestige World Wide, and Improbable!

In this blog post, we will be sharing insights about microservices and employee engagement. All the questions asked during the panel discussion came directly from our Slack channel of more than 250 engineering managers - making sure that the topics raised are relevant. Enjoy!

Missed the first part? Here you go! 😁

Panelists
Sarah Vang Nøhr, Engineering Manager, #Trustpilot
Oswaldo Andres Hernandez Perez, Engineering Manager, #Improbable
Thomas Dittmer, Group Technology Director, #PrestigeWorldWide
Matthew Sinclair, Partner and VP Engineering, #BCG Digital Ventures
Moderator, Gaurang Torvekar, CEO of #Indorse

Topic 3 - Microservices

Question

Microservices are all the rage nowadays! It seems that everyone is trying to have one too many services. What could be the downsides to this? How do you explain concepts like "micromess" or "microliths"?

Key takeaways

Panelists' personal feedback

For Mathew, it is important to ask the right questions before considering microservices.

“Yes, microservices are all the rage and perhaps for very good reasons. But is this the first thing you should be thinking when you build a new product? [...] Engineers are great at solving the problem right, well many if not all; but far fewer are good at solving the right problem.”

While discussing, Matthew also noted that:

“Kubernetes and some of the other distribution technologies from microservices can be a massive overkill for the vast majority of engineering problems!”

In the same vein, Oswaldo reminded us that

“ We need to look at what microservices are - they're distributed systems right - we've been doing distributed systems forever - I remember even Corba!”. Adding to Mathew’s initial opinion on the basic question one has to ask before using microservices, Oswaldo paraphrased Martin Fowler’s first law of distribution: “If you don't need to do it, don't do it!”

Regarding micromess and microliths, Thomas Dittmer, CTO at Group Technology Director, shared his experience and suggested a rule of thumb:

“‘can that service live on its own, can you deploy it?’ - if it’s coupled to something else, it's not a microservice.”

Further reading

Building Microservices: Designing Fine-Grained Systems by Sam Newman

Topic 4 - Employee feedback & the pandemic


Question

Do you have any advice for keeping one-on-one engaging in a remote environment? And how do you motivate your team during the pandemic?

Key takeaways

Panelists' personal feedback

During the shift to remote (pandemic) working, Sarah noticed some differences in terms of gathering daily feedback and how colleagues share these. This is where some basics from the AID model can come in hand:

“If I heard something, or if I said something, I tend to either use meetings right after; to really emphasize what people are doing good using the AID model. So what they did, what impact it has, what they should continue doing. And then I spend some time every day to really consider ‘is there something that they should know, is there something they could benefit from’ [...]”

For Oswaldo, the pandemic-work, a contemporary and imposed remote-work, can be tough for engagement. He shared some small tips on how to temper some negative sides of pandemic-working:

“I can't go with people to a coffee shop now, unfortunately [...] so I try to let them into my own situation, I show them my house, my garden gym, and how I'm dealing with the pandemic. I invite them into my home, that's helping a little bit to build rapport.”

Coming back to how a manager should manage feedback, unanimously all managers agreed on the importance of fast feedback. Sarah also added that when it comes to constructive feedback, you always need to structure your feedback:

“Remember, you're not commenting on who people are, you're commenting on what they do and what the impact is. Never, never, ever try to guess what people were trying to do, or assume what people are trying to do, because it's much better to hear from them what their intention actually was. Someone might have said something inappropriate but they might not realize it, they might not have meant it like that; so it's better to say ‘I noticed you said this, what did you mean to do with that, what was your intention?’”

Building on that, Mathew noticed that asking your software engineers/colleagues if they are ready to receive some feedback, is actually more helpful and smoother:

“[...] what you can do is actually preface the feedback with a question where you are essentially saying ‘are you receptive to feedback at the moment’ and if they are fantastic, they're in the right mode and you can give the feedback. But if they're not, what you do then is you plan forward to have a moment at some point in the future where they will be ready for the feedback, and it avoids putting people on the spot and getting them defensive and uncomfortable. It's actually such a simple idea, but it's a very very effective technique”

To Slack or not to Slack, that actually depends on the issue! The panel moderator, our very own CEO, Gaurang, added that: “getting on a quick call with them is really more effective than actually typing on Slack!

All panelists agreed that never give constructive and/or negative via Slack!

“Praise In Public, Criticize In Private” Anonymous

Further resources

Check out: https://www.radicalcandor.com

Every three months, we invite Engineering Leaders from around the world to join an online panel discussion for all things related to their software engineering teams, engineering workflows, and even about metaphysical questions that might affect our daily lives!

In these online discussions, you will have the opportunity to ask questions across any of the topics listed during the event. In this blog post, we've written about some of the topics discussed last October 2020. Our next panel discussion will be held next year, in January 2021. Till then, see you in our weekly roundtable!