Agile + DevOps East 2020 Concurrent Session : Being VP of Engineering is Harder than Being CEO

Conference archive


Thursday, November 12, 2020 - 3:45pm to 4:45pm

Being VP of Engineering is Harder than Being CEO

Being CEO is notoriously challenging. But there’s another job that’s even harder… VP of Engineering. I would know. I’ve been both. As VPs of Engineering, we spend all day translating between two different worlds. We spent time in both worlds but don’t fully belong to either. Other executives see us as technical. Our teams see us as business. It’s lonely. It’s also the reason we’re in a unique position to help our company succeed. The best engineering leaders are great translators. We bring context about the business to developers and educate non-technical stakeholders on how software gets made. In this session I share how to translate engineering to execs, why you should give non-technical leaders more technical detail than you’re giving them now and what metrics to share with your business every week. You’ll leave with actionable tips for achieving alignment with your business, negotiating for more headcount and non-functional investment and having more constructive conversations with your CEO. Plus every attendee will get a copy of the engineering metrics scorecard I share every week with our exec team.

Brought to you in partnership with:



My first experience programming was in Basic. In 1987 I was in 5th grade. My parents bought me a Sinclair Spectrum ZX with 48k RAM. I vividly remember the day I got that machine. A few months later I saw that my friend’s older brother had the same computer. He was typing in commands using a language called Basic. He built these funny little programs that did arbitrary things like guess the number or play basic music using the ‘beep’ command. To me this might as well have been magic. My friend's brother was a powerful sorcerer. At that moment, a fire lit inside of me. And it never went away. I got my first developer job in 2000 and eventually became VP of Engineering. Then, two years ago, I started LinearB with my friend Dan Lines. As CEO I don’t get to write as much code as I used to. But I do love helping other dev leaders translate engineering activity to business success through data and metrics.