My name is Jade Rubick. I advise startup founders and engineering leaders on how to build thriving engineering organizations. My specialty is humane, results-focused organizations.
I also like to share what I’ve learned. So I write blog posts on this site, and write newsletter based courses on engineering leadership.
How I help as an advisor
Most startups and medium sized engineering organizations run into challenges as they scale up their engineering teams. The most common symptoms are delivery slowing or quality problems.
Very smart people run into these problems, because the solutions are the opposite of what you would expect. I’ve been through these scaling bottlenecks many times before. We can often work together to quickly improve your organization.
I help companies primarily as an expert advisor (and occasionally as an Interim VP of Engineering). Typically this means I meet weekly or biweekly with a few leaders in your organization, and guide them through the problems the organization is facing.
What size of organization do I help with? Usually I work with companies with 10-100 engineers. (I have experience outside of both ends of that, however, so feel free to contact me if you want to explore a fit).
Areas I can help
Execution issues. Engineering departments exist to create value for the company and for customers. But the most common failure mode of an engineering organization is for delivery to stall. I can help diagnose and address what is getting in the way of the team being effective.
Leveling up another engineering leader. If you have an engineering leader who is effective but inexperienced, I can help. Many challenges they face will be “anti-intuitive”. The solutions evade smart people, and unless you have the right mental models, you can fail. I’ve worked with many promising but less experienced leaders, and helped them have the impact the company requires of them.
Hiring (strategy, process). Why should anyone want to work for your company? I can help you work out your strategy for getting the best talent you can in the door. Some companies distinguish themselves by their work culture. Other companies attract candidates by the problem space they are in. Others may offer their employees freedoms, such as working on open source, or short work weeks. To hire in this competitive environment, you need a good hiring strategy. And you need a good retention strategy. Your hiring process also needs to be competitive. The time you take to move candidates through your hiring pipeline can decide whether that candidate becomes an employee. I can help you improve your candidate experience and hiring funnel. You can see examples of some of the things I recommend here.
Quality and tech debt. Many teams get mired in technical debt or are unable to release quality software. I can help with improvements that will help them be proud of their work. And help them make progress on intractable technical debt.
Reliability practices. If your engineers struggle with poor reliability, I can help. Generally, this means setting up process for incidents, communication, and follow-up work.
Distributed work. I have nine years of experience in distributed organizations. And I have decades of experience in colocated organizations. I can help you navigate how to manage remote work.
Organizational structure. I can help you design your engineering organization for growth. Engineering teams bias towards patterns that don’t scale. I understand the math and the art of designing organization structure. You can see my writing on coordination models, silos, and organizational design.
Early stage scaling. Companies that are beginning to grow are often tempted to hire an engineering leader early. I can help you navigate your organizations’ needs so you can hire the skills you need at the right time.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion. I will be the first to recommend not bringing in a white male to help with DE&I. I can be useful here, though. My experience is both with hiring and retention. At New Relic, we achieved an employee NPS score that was equal across demographic groups. At Gremlin, I increased underrepresented representation in engineering from 7% to 38% in a little over a year. What helps is engineering levels, fair compensation, a good promotion process, and a humane hiring process. Underrepresented minorities are the best test of company culture. Improvements you make for them usually make the company better for everyone: improving retention and hiring.
Incremental delivery. Incremental delivery is a powerful source of competitive advantage. It results in higher feedback, so your projects more often hit the mark. Perceived velocity increases, because customers see more improvements. Yet, companies often struggle to make progress on this.
Project visibility. Sometimes it can seem like engineering isn’t doing anything. This is often the result of poor project reporting and communication. What is useful here is something lightweight that improves accountability and oversight.
Servicification. I was a leader in New Relic’s servicification effort. Moving to services can stall an engineering organization for years. I can make these efforts much less problematic.
Employee retention. Engineers are in demand, and it can be hard to build a work culture that keeps them engaged and happy. I can help advise on what it takes to build a work environment that allows people to do their best work, and makes them want to stay at your company. And I can help arrest retention challenges.
Engineering levels and compensation. I’ve developed engineering levels three times now. And I’ve developed compensation for engineering several times in the past. Usually there is a historical challenge and a going-forward challenge. I have a great interest in solutions that are effective and fair.
I write because I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned. Writing can be thankless unless you hear feedback, so I appreciate it when people contact me to share their reactions.
My most popular posts have been:
- Great engineering teams focus on milestones instead of projects
- How to build siloes and decrease collaboration
- Coordination models — tools for getting teams to work well together (especially the the independent executor model and self-service model posts)
- How to implement pay equity
This blog’s code is open sourced on GitHub thanks to Atte Juvonen and others before him. Feel free to submit corrections or use the code to create your own blog (but do not host my content elsewhere).