Reflecting on a Year as Datavalet's Engineering Manager: Lessons and Learnings
In my first year as the Senior Director of Software Development at Datavalet, I didn’t just discover new leadership principles — I revisited and reaffirmed the beliefs that have shaped my journey so far. It’s been a year of introspection, growth, and confirmation. In this post, I share the beliefs that I’ve revisited and how they’ve influenced my leadership journey.
Literary Inspirations and the Power of Reading
Both books and the broader realm of reading have been instrumental in shaping my journey. This year, these titles have been particularly influential:
- “Atomic Habits” by James Clear : A profound exploration of the power of small habits and their cascading impact on our lives.
- “Les Visionnaires” by Melissa Schilling : An inspiring dive into the minds of innovators that has fueled my perspective on tech leadership.
- “The Manager’s Path” by Camille Fournier : This book has been my compass, guiding me through the nuances of leadership, growth, and change. I’d recommend it to any leader in the tech space.
- “Le Code Québec” by Jean-Marc Léger : As I transitioned from France to Quebec, this book was invaluable, providing insights that aided my understanding and integration into Quebec’s unique culture.
While each book has its unique take, they collectively enriched my understanding, reaffirming beliefs and introducing new strategies that have become central to my role as a tech leader.
Transition to Digital
Before joining Datavalet, I’ve been an advocate of LogSeq for note-taking. However, moving from meeting to meeting, I often resorted to paper. This year marked my complete transition to digital, embracing my iPad as my primary tool for capturing thoughts during discussions.
My Top Reaffirmed Beliefs
As I look back, here are the tenets that have shaped my leadership style:
1. Flexible Leadership
Leading a team requires adaptability. I’ve come to realize that each team member thrives under different coaching styles. This year, I’ve honed my ability to be flexible, tailoring my approach to resonate with each individual’s unique needs.
2. Seeking Guidance: Allies in Uncertainty
Navigating the complexities of leadership often means confronting tough decisions and unpredictable scenarios. In moments of doubt and uncertainty, I found unwavering allies in key figures such as my CEO, HR department, and my direct reports. Their collective insights, feedback, and support were invaluable in guiding me through challenging times. Each of them, in their unique way, provided different perspectives that helped me make more informed decisions.
It’s a testament to the fact that seeking guidance isn’t indicative of weakness; rather, it showcases a commitment to thoughtful, well-informed leadership. Remember, we’re never too accomplished or too smart to seek advice.
3. The Power of Authenticity and Global Perspectives
In my leadership journey, one principle I’ve always held close is the value of authenticity. My experiences, from traveling the world to living across three diverse continents - Africa, Europe, and now America - have shaped my perspective and enriched my understanding of people and cultures. This global backdrop has only reinforced my belief in being genuine, not just in leadership but in every interaction.
At Datavalet, I’ve had the privilege of working with one of the most diverse teams in my career. Such diversity has further emphasized the importance of transparency and being true to oneself. Leaders often face the challenge of conveying difficult news or updates. In such moments, it’s not about donning a facade but about being honest and straightforward.
Embracing my authentic self and sharing openly, even when the message is tough, has been instrumental in fostering trust and building a resilient team culture.
4. You’re Never Alone: Navigating the Triad of Teams
In my role this year, I’ve come to an illuminating realization: I’m a part of not just one, but three distinct teams.
Firstly, there are my peers - other senior directors. Our shared roles mean that we frequently find ourselves in the trenches together, navigating similar challenges and celebrating collective victories.
Next is my direct team, the software development department. Our day-to-day interactions, shared goals, and collaborative efforts drive the vision and execution of our projects.
Lastly, there’s my superior, our CEO. His guidance offers me a bird’s-eye view of our operations, ensuring that while I’m deep in the details, I never lose sight of the broader strategic direction.
Striking a balance with these three crucial entities has been both enlightening and challenging. While I bear the responsibility of making pivotal decisions, I do so with the collective wisdom and support of these teams. In leadership, one thing has become abundantly clear: you’re never truly alone.
5. The Power of Planning
When I first joined Datavalet, I was fortunate to have a 90-day plan already in place. But as the year unfolded, I discovered that such a plan wasn’t exclusively for onboarding. In fact, I found myself revisiting and crafting new 90-day plans every quarter.
This iterative planning, in alignment with our OKR methodology, has been invaluable. It not only ensured that I remained aligned with our strategic direction but also empowered me to make informed decisions.
The process also underscored the importance of reflection and adjustment, allowing me to learn from any missteps and recalibrate as needed.
6. The Credibility in Staying Hands-On: The Maker-Manager Balance
In the tech world, credibility often stems from a tangible understanding of the craft. While some tech leaders may distance themselves from the nitty-gritty, I’ve always believed in the power of staying hands-on. My passion for software development makes this an easy choice, but more than that, it reaffirms a belief: in the software industry, staying hands-on is not just beneficial—it’s transformative.
At Datavalet, where we’re harnessing Google Cloud to craft innovative SaaS solutions, I lead a diverse array of teams—from DataOps to DevOps, QA to stream-aligned developers. Amid this whirlwind of technology, my engagement remains deep. Whether it’s diving into code reviews, brainstorming sessions, or proofs of concept (POCs), I’m right there, ensuring I remain connected, inspired, and attuned to the latest trends.
Being a leader doesn’t mean forsaking the ‘maker’ in you. Outside my daily duties at Datavalet, I’m part of the Google Developer Expert program, specifically in the Dart and Flutter categories. This engagement not only keeps me active in the coding community but also ensures that my IDE is always primed, ready for whenever I feel the urge to experiment, try out new concepts, or even review team merge requests.
My commitment to stay updated with the latest tools and technologies is fueled by passion. A sneak peek into our tech stack at Datavalet includes:
- Microservices built with Go, deployed in GKE.
- Data processes powered by BigQuery and Cloud Functions.
- ML/AI capabilities amplified using Vertex AI.
- Tools like Kafka, Elastic, GitLab, and more, cementing our foundation.
- Languages like Go, Python, Java, and Scala driving our software narratives.
This year reaffirmed my belief: In leadership, especially in tech, there’s immense value in rolling up your sleeves and staying involved.
7. Measurement is Mastery:
In my first year at Datavalet, I felt overwhelmed by the numerous areas I wanted to improve. A simple saying guided me: “You cannot improve what you cannot measure.” This statement made things clearer for me.
I began relying more on data and numbers to pinpoint areas for improvement. By understanding tech debt and using specific metrics to monitor our systems, I gained clarity. It showed me where my attention was needed most and how well I was doing in addressing those areas.
In essence, clear data showed me the way, highlighting what needed my focus and helping me track my progress.
In the end, my most valuable lesson has been this: without clear measurements, we are navigating blindly. But with the right metrics, every step towards improvement is both deliberate and traceable.
8. Celebrate the Small Wins
In our tech-driven, rapid-paced environment, the minor achievements can often go unnoticed. However, this year, I’ve observed that it’s these seemingly tiny victories that have kept my team engaged and motivated. As I’ve gleaned from “Atomic Habits”, these small wins embody the essence of human progress. Taking a moment to recognize and celebrate them not only boosts morale but also serves as a testament to our inherent drive to persevere and excel.
9. Flexibility and Adaptability:
With the relentless pace of technological advancements and the buzzing AI revolution, the tech landscape is ever-shifting. This year has emphasized to me the importance of staying updated and embracing change. It’s not just about personal adaptability but fostering a team culture that understands and values the significance of flexibility. In an industry that never stands still, our ability to adapt ensures we don’t just keep up, but we lead from the front.
10. Work-Life Balance:
This year has further illuminated the importance of a harmonious work-life balance. Taking time out to enjoy moments with family, biking with my kids, and exploring the beauty of Montreal are activities that truly refuel me. These cherished moments, coupled with the city’s snowy charm, have taught me to make the most of every day outside of work. This balance not only enhances my productivity but also ensures a sound mental and emotional well-being.