I can help you with these problems†:
- Scaling engineering
- Helping leaders navigate unfamiliar terrain.
- Improving product delivery and quality.
- Getting organizations to coordinate more effectively.
† I can help with a lot of other problems too. But people need to pattern-match you to a few things. See below for a longer list.
My name is Jade Rubick. I 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 and have a newsletter course for beginning managers. Most of my blog posts are a part of Engineering Leadership Weekly: sign up, and you’ll receive one a week, for a little over a year.
How I help
I help companies in a couple of ways:
- Executive advisor or coach.
- Fractional doer.
- Interim VP of Engineering.
- Group leadership coach
As executive advisor, I meet weekly or biweekly with one or more leaders in your organization. We conduct working sessions where we problem-solve your current challenges. You bring context, I bring expertise, and together we come up with better solutions than either of us could individually.
As a fractional doer, you point me at a problem in your organization, and I take care of it. You get the benefit of hiring someone with deep expertise who can produce amazing results in a short period of time. Fractional work also encompasses evaluation of an organization — I can take a look at what is working and what isn’t, and give you a list of recommendations. A benefit of fractional work is that you can hire a level of talent that would otherwise be unaffordable or inaccessible.
As an Interim VP of Engineering, I take leadership for a limited period of time (usually 3-9 months). I improve the organization and hire my replacement.
As a group leadership coach, I run group sessions for frontline managers, directors, and heads of engineering. Learn more here.
Is your company a fit?
I work with companies that deliver software, across most industries. I avoid crypto engagements.
My approach is to focus on both effectiveness and sustainability. Companies that treat employees like resources or cogs aren’t going to be a good fit.
I focus on 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.
Some typical fractional projects:
I need to hire a lot of people quickly and need someone to improve our hiring practices.
We need to uplevel our engineering management team. How can I improve things as quickly as possible?
Engineering delivery and quality has been degrading over time. What do we do?
We’re getting to the size we need to break up into multiple teams.
I need to implement engineering levels and salary bands.
Areas of expertise
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. I even have some experimental approaches that may avoid most of the pain of servicification altogether.
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).