On this week’s episode of the Full Stack Leader, we interview Lawrence Yuan, Director of Engineering at Meta.
With over 20+ years of industry software development and engineering management experience, Lawrence deeply understands the entire product lifecycle experience with large-scale distributed systems and high-performance applications. Driven to solve business problems by delivering testable software solutions in a rapid development environment, he uses hands-on experience in technical projects and engineering management, including managing offshore teams, as well as his leadership skills, to achieve success.
Top leadership tips from Lawrence Yuan
Below is a summary of the top-5 Leadership tips shared during this week’s interview. Listen to the episode to learn more about the thoughts behind these tips:
- Always be learning
- Learn to prioritize
- Develop a culture of innovation
- Communication is key
- It’s okay to make mistakes but admit them
We hope you enjoy the episode. You can find more Full Stack Leader episodes here.
Part 1: On the career and lessons learned
Ryan: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Full Stack Leader Podcast. This week I have a very special guest, a longtime colleague and friend, Lawrence Yuan, who’s the Director of Engineering at Meta. It’s great to have you here, Lawrence.
Lawrence: Thanks for having me, Ryan. Really appreciate being on this call.
Becoming an engineer
Ryan: Yeah, I’m excited to talk to you and go into depth about a very interesting career that you’ve had. So, let’s jump in and maybe talk a little bit about where you came from and how you got to where you are. I know you went to Berkeley for university. Is that where your interest in technology started?
Lawrence: My dad was an engineer, so I started really young. My dad bought an IBM PC a very, very long time ago. I had Apple IIe when growing up as a kid, so I’ve always kind of played with technology in the house. But formally, yes, I went to Berkeley and got excited. Actually, my dad wanted me to be a doctor, so I studied biology, but then I had an interest in computer science.
So I started taking some classes with a colleague of mine and just kept going with it. I enjoyed computer science and programming – just the creative aspect of it. And then, after I graduated, I wanted to be in the tech field, and been in it for more than 20 years now, and still enjoying it.
First job and working with startups
Ryan: That’s amazing. What was the first job that you had that pushed you into the tech field and got you introduced to the Internet and computers in those early days?
Lawrence: Well, my first job out of Berkeley was at a company called Fair Isaac. So I actually worked on financial modeling. Fair Isaac is very famous for their FICO risk score – when you buy a home, you get a rating. I worked on those financial forecasting applications. It was pretty interesting to just work with these finance and math experts and learn about how banking works and how credit risk works.
But after a year – this was during the dotcom boom session – I went to a number of startups working on the Internet. I was working mostly on the backend in enterprise appliance kind of things: I was at a web proxy company, I then went to a network storage company, and then eventually went to a security company called IronPort.
That was my first experience of really seeing the company scale, and we finally got to a good outcome – exit – and sold to one of our customers, Cisco, in 2007. So, that was just a great time for me to see what to do in a startup, what not to do, and how lucky you get. A lot of it is also timing and luck, and perseverance, but it was very fortunate for me to have that experience.
Ryan: Yeah. And also, any kind of exit like that is obviously a big transition that a company goes through, so it’s great, as a leader, to have experienced that early on in your career.
Lawrence: Yeah, and our CEO there. Scott Wise used to tell us that how he rates the success of startups is how many future startups start from that team. After IronPort’s exit, a lot of folks actually went on and built their own separate companies after that.
So it was really, really interesting just to meet and work with so many talented people, and learn from them, and grow with them, and see it get to a good outcome. So, yeah, I really treasure that time I was there.
Working at big corporations and how different it felt
Ryan: As you went from the startup into Cisco, which is obviously a much bigger company, did you feel like some of the skills that you would later use in your career grew at that point because you had to have two different sizes of the environment?
Lawrence: Yes, I wasn’t at Cisco very long. I decided to focus on a different field. So, prior to that, I shared with you I was mostly in enterprise-related applications, right? I wanted to work on something new, more on the consumer-facing side, something that I could explain to my girlfriend at the time, my mom, and say, “Hey, this is what I’m working on.”
So, at that time, I left and joined Yahoo – at the time, the biggest Internet company in the world. They had about 800-900 million users per day. That was really a great experience for me to see, as you mentioned, how larger a company scales, as very few companies at that time had that many users, had to build this type of infrastructure, support it, and had the software infrastructure and tooling to really have this type of site up 24/7. So, I really learned a lot when I joined Yahoo. Worked on several different teams there and really enjoyed the technology.
Like, we were playing around with Hadoop prior to them open-sourcing it. We were playing around with a technology similar to Docker that Yahoo had built internally for many years. A lot of the patterns that you see later on – even with A/B testing. We had our own internal platform, so they were doing A/B testing long before it was an industry standard.
So. super fun time for me to learn what they needed to do at that scale.
Ryan: Yeah, that sounds like an amazing opportunity at that particular moment in time with Yahoo, and I can imagine that, as you’re going through, you’re also growing as an engineering leader as well and learning more and more of what it takes to run bigger teams.
Lessons from working with distributed teams
Lawrence: Absolutely. I think Yahoo was one of the places where I had distributed teams based in different geos. So not just in California, Sunnyvale – we had teams in Canada, in Korea, in London. I had to work on “How is the culture different?”, “How do we manage time zone differences?”. “How do we manage one-on-ones?” you know, “How do we build rapport?”, “How often should we fly out to each site to visit them?”
It brought different challenges and experiences that I enjoyed going through and learning. This is what it means to have a more distributed and larger team to manage, help, and support.
Ryan: That must have been interesting at that time ’cause you were really pioneering some of that. And I know you were missing a lot of the tools we have now, like Zoom or any other great communication tools that are in place. I imagine that it was a little bit of a different ballgame trying to get people together across different time zones.
Lawrence: The tools back in the day weren’t as good as today, but you had to do with what you had. I think one of the things that are really important to build trust – in any relationship – is giving that person time, spending time with that person, and understanding their needs.
I would still have one-on-ones with them. We didn’t have Zoom, but we had other tools like WebEx, and things of that nature, so we could have video calls. We would try to give them ownership, right? Instead of trying to give them tasks, we’d say, “Here’s the outcome that we want to see” and “Here’s what we want to achieve.” “How do you create a plan to achieve it? Let’s talk about that.”
So, the way you give them ownership to drive the project, drive success, and drive the outcome, became very important because you’re not there 24/7, right? You’re not talking to them eight hours a day. They can’t just go to your office or go to your cubicle and say, “Hey, I have a good question for you.”
So you have to be a lot more deliberate in planning and really talking about “What happens in this case scenario?”, “How would you manage it?” We start talking more about that. I think that giving people more independence, giving them more decision-making capability, helps the process go faster because now they’re not trying to sync on it in every single decision – if that makes sense.
Asking the right questions
Ryan: Makes a lot of sense. And how did you build in success metrics to actually work with them to get that outcome?
Lawrence: I would say, for my juniors, we would sit down and talk about it and see what that would look like. That would not just be engineering – that’d be cross-functional teams with product, design, and product marketing.
But for my senior leaders, I would ask the question. Ryan, one of the things I realized is this: as a leader, asking good questions is how you can help your team or your team members grow and say, “Hey, what about this scenario? Have you thought about this? What would you do in this case?”, and for them to say, “Hey, what, how would you measure success? What do you think?”
And then they would actually come back and say, “Hey, this, this, and this.” I’ll be like, “You know, this is great, but what about…?” or “You forgot about scalability, or maintainability, or tech debt, or what have you.” It doesn’t always have to be product metrics, or it doesn’t have to always be company revenue metrics – it could be internal metrics as well.
So, how do you have a 360˚ view of what outcomes would we like to see for the project? I would actually push that on the leader and say, “Hey, let’s have a discussion about that.” This is aligned, and that generally was a good process for me.
The challenges of scaling
Ryan: That’s great. Were you able to take some of that as you went into your next position at LinkedIn?
Lawrence: Yes. I think that I definitely took a lot of experiences I had at Yahoo – and even before Yahoo – to LinkedIn. LinkedIn was very different, though. I joined the company pre-IPO. We just had a new CEO, Jeff Wiener, come from Yahoo to take over the CEO role from Reid. I think it was an amazing time, but I got a chance to see LinkedIn really scale.
It was like sub-1,000 people when I joined the company. When I left, I think it was like 10,000-12,000 folks, so we had grown very, very quickly in quite a short period of time. What I learned most about LinkedIn was, well, everything. When you multiply it by a magnitude factor, things have to change.
Your process of onboarding the engineers changes. Your system design needs to change. We went through a bunch of architectural changes at LinkedIn, even in our tooling and our CI/CD pipeline. It was definitely a new experience. I learned new things, Ryan, at LinkedIn, but I definitely tried to leverage what I had seen before to see that you’re not reinventing the wheel.
Ryan: That makes a lot of sense. I can imagine there’s a different kind of environment when you’re taking a company from a decent size up to a massive size and the amount of change that you have to deal with as you’re going through that.
Lawrence: I think it was a fun time. I would say it’s chaotic as well, right? ‘Cause things that used to work yesterday, assumptions that you made yesterday, no longer are true, right? You have to either redesign the process, have better tooling, or change the architecture. It definitely keeps you on your toes. But it’s fun to think, “Hey, how do we scale this system to the next level?”
You get a chance to really see a system evolve, as we talked about before. And that’s fun, I think, for an engineer or a technologist to see the systems evolve over time and how they support new use cases, or new load, or new scale usage.
Celebrating the wins
Ryan: How important is it, as a leader, to be able to work with new engineers coming in? Maybe they’re coming in through an acquisition of a team, or they’re coming in individually, but for you to give them the insight of the direction. How do you inspire them to get aligned with that direction quickly?
Lawrence: I think alignment, again, goes back to having clear objectives and outcomes of what team success looks like, what the product success looks like – and overcommunicating that, Ryan, so it’s everywhere. We used to have, like, post-it boards; we used to put it in our wiki, right? We would talk about it in our meetings. You would just really want to make sure that stuff is really transparent and people know what a good outcome looks like, and so everyone’s aligned.
The second one is spending time with them and giving them incentives. Like, “This was a good behavior, this was a good outcome. How do we do more of this?” right? How do you celebrate your success? And that’s something I think we, we did a lot of. Not only did we focus on wins, but we celebrated those wins. We celebrated success, so the team wanted to crave more. I feel like that was a good part of our company culture that I enjoyed. Frankly, I wanted to take it with me to other companies I joined later in my career.
Making a bigger impact in a smaller company
Ryan: That’s great. And the next spot you went to, did you take it with you? Was it immediately implemented?
Lawrence: Again, as you saw from my career, I like new challenges. I like learning new things, yes. So my next role was very different from LinkedIn. At that point, I wanted to focus on impact, Ryan, and I was like, “Hey, could I have a bigger impact at a smaller company?”
So, I was introduced to the president of this company called Auction.com, and they were trying to build this platform – essentially, the “eBay for real estate” platform, and it was very interesting to me. When I was growing up, my parents invested in property and real estate, so that was a hobby of mine always. We saw this opportunity of blending my hobby and my day job together and really building the next generation of PropTech technology. So, I joined the company as a startup – like you said, it’s very different. We had a smaller team and a smaller budget, and then we were going through a technical kind of transition.
We had an older technology stack, kind of a monolith. How do we modernize our stack, move to more modern technologies, microservices, proper API documentation, and better-automated testing – things that I think larger companies had to do to be successful, right? I saw that pattern at LinkedIn.
Here’s a company where they had not yet hit that scaling tipping point, and so this is where we were able to kinda look ahead, I would say, two chess moves and say, “Hey, here’s something that will start to hinder us, stop our business, or stop our potential to build new features, or stop our innovation.”
This is something that we were building internally to say, “Hey, how can we move faster?” – faster and with innovation. We needed to slowly go on that journey, right? That was not coming in one day and “This is what we built” – It was really like “Okay, where are we?”, “Where are we at?”. “Do we have the leaders and technical expertise in place?” “Who do we need to hire?” It really was a more comprehensive plan, Ryan, than just, “Hey, let’s just go build this out tomorrow.”
Developing trust and getting concrete wins
Ryan: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And – I know from my experiences working with you as well – over the course of time, I’ve seen this particular skillset that you have, which is really amazing, about how you see places within the infrastructure to really go after and places that you’re strategically thinking about keeping in place at different points.
As you were modernizing that stack there, did you feel like that was something that you just wholesale wanted to do, or was it just strategically implemented throughout that process?
Lawrence: I would say it was something that we had aspired to do. But we had to move very methodically, right through kind of concrete milestones. In 10x or Auction.com, the founder was not from technology, right? The person was a very brilliant businessman in real estate, Jeff Frieden. And so, yeah, he didn’t really understand what, what, what is tech debt? What does that mean? What does that prevent me from doing for my business?
And so we had to develop trust with, with our other functional leaders, cross-functional leaders and say, “Hey, this is the impact of when you have technical debt. Here’s what you can do”. From our innovation curve, when we used the right tools and the right infrastructure, and so it was, it was, I would say, an opportunity for us to help each other learn first, learn the business of real estate and then vice versa, help the business, domain experts learn about how does the technology work.
We started small and really wanted to have very concrete wins. And then, as time goes on, you build that trust, and then we do another win and another win. And so, eventually, we were able to modernize the stack, but it wasn’t a Big Bang approach. It wasn’t like, “Hey, tomorrow I wanna change everything out. and let’s go. We write the entire code base from day one,” – hat’s not going to work for the business. We still got to support the business and make sure that the business is successful. The hard part about technology is like, “How do you swap out the engine when it’s flying in the air?”
That’s what you have to do and say, okay, this is my end goal. I would like to be able to solve these problems, but I have a current business. I have to maintain it. And how do I bridge that gap, and then when do I switch over? How do I build confidence that I can switch over safely? No data loss, no data corruption, no site outages. You wanna do it safely so you don’t impact the business. And so for my approach, it’s much more like, I like to do a more iterative approach rather than a kind of a Big Bang approach.
Using the learning opportunities
Ryan: Yeah, that makes sense. I got a question for you. In your experience, have you seen or generally felt like business people are getting more and more with how technology works as a larger concept, and it’s making it easier to translate some of these technical needs or requests as they come up?
Lawrence: I think it goes back to communication and building that trust. So I think building trust on the business side is, “Do you understand my business, Lawrence? “Right? And I’m like, “Oh, well, let me learn, right?” Like, I didn’t know much about commercial real estate before joining X, right?
This was an opportunity for me to give all the brands and say, I’m gonna take the time to learn your business. I am an owner of your business, right? I am, I’m incentivized to make this business successful. And then vice versa, how can I educate or spend time explaining? How do you use technology as an accelerant or catalyst for your business? Here’s the benefit of using technology. Maybe you can automate or streamline a process, or maybe you can build a new tool, or maybe you can build a data insights product that you, you, you didn’t think you could in the past.
And so this is where I think it really, you build that innovation when the business folks understand the technology and what’s capable of, and when the technology folks understand the business goals and, and challenges and they work together. So that’s when I feel like you build the best solution.
The challenges of e-commerce business
Ryan: Yep. That makes a lot of sense. I know the next stop you made in your career path is where we ended up meeting at iHerb. How did some of that translate over into that experience?
Lawrence: iHerb was a very different experience. I’ve used e-commerce for quite some time, right? I buy stuff from Amazon or Target or Walmart, or things of this nature.
But I didn’t really understand that back office and the logistics and the shipping and the complexity of managing the e-commerce business, especially from a logistics perspective. So, it was a great opportunity for me to be focused on engineering and product and program management and try to understand the business of e-commerce, especially international.
One of the thing, the things that separated iHerb was it wasn’t just a domestic brand – it sold to over a hundred different countries. So it was a pretty complex, operational backend. I definitely learned a lot of things working at iHerb and but we also focused on really building for scale.
So one of the things that we worked on was really the mobile technology stack, right? The technology stack was a little bit dated. It was hard to find bugs, right? It was bloated, and we needed better instrumentation. And so you and I worked together to really build what the next-generation mobile stack needs to look like because we wanted to deliver the best experience to our customers. After quarters of hard work, we got there, right?
As you saw from the reports, we got to a 4.6 – 4.7-star rating on both iOS and Android after we put in that work. And so it was great to see those business outcomes and those customer CSAT reports when we’re actually giving them a better product and using better technology.
Aligning the international teams
Ryan: Yep. And I, I, I remember we were, or really you worked with, teams all over the world and, and had to communicate in a variety of different cultures. How was that for you as a leader? And, and did, was it challenging? Did you feel like you were able to get everybody aligned? I know we felt like we were really clear with you, but how did that work for you?
Lawrence: I think it’s hard. The fact of the matter is the alignment is hard. And then when you add time zone differences and you add cultural differences, right? And you add right more people, it just, there’s more combinations, to your formula. So it just becomes harder. So I think going back to what I learned at LinkedIn, it’s like, okay.
The Yahoo experience was like, “Okay, how do we scale?” It could be a better process, better tooling, and getting more people to help you support. It’s not a one-man team, and it’s not just myself – I relied on my peers, my cross-functional peers, as well as my immediate leaders on my team as well.
We tried our best: we had a team in China, we had a team in Russia. Obviously, we had a team in the States, which was distributed. We spent a lot of time spent with our team to say, “Hey, here are our goals. Here are our technical challenges. How can we overcome them And then how do we build a technology roadmap?” I remember they didn’t have a technology roadmap, and I was like, that’s why we’re not focusing on technology roadmap. Yeah. Because we’re trying to fit it. We’re trying to fit it when we have time, and we’re never gonna have time.
Right. And so really, putting a technology roadmap side by side with our product roadmap and having those hard conversations, it was like, “Hey, how do we prioritize this stuff?” Really made it beneficial for the team to say, “Okay, great. We have dedicated time to improve our databases or Improve this caching layer or improve our API structure or our automation.” or, in the case of mobile, we did a lot of refactoring, the code base. Again, as leaders, we have to support our team as one of our functions. That’s what I focused on trying to do, and my directs also try to focus on doing that for them, supporting them.
Giving and taking
Ryan: That’s great. And does that translate now where you’re at, at Meta? Has that also been an important piece as you’ve come into this role and into the new landscape heading into 2023?
Lawrence: I, I would say Meta is, is quite unique. It’s the largest company I’ve ever worked at.
You have a product, the Facebook app, which 2 billion people use per day, right? So, I mean, it is insane. So, for me, I came into Meta really keeping my eyes open to say, oh wow, how does this work? I wanted to learn, right?
So sitting down with my manager and my cross-functional peers and saying, “Hey, how does this work?” was really great for me. It was eye open to see what kind of technologies we had to really support the engineers. It was pretty, pretty amazing, so the piece “What I could bring to the table?” is more about “How do we act more agile and nimble as a startup?”, “How do we make decisions faster?” and stuff like that. For me, it was like everyone could bring a different thing to the table, right? Everyone has different experiences. This is why you want diversity on your team. And so I wanted to see what I could bring to the table. What experiences do I have that can really help the team? And so, yeah. It was a “give and take,” Ryan, and, and, and continues to be that.
Leadership lessons learned along the way
Ryan: Yeah. I can imagine. What are, what are some of the key leadership lessons that you feel like you’re applying on a day-to-day level?
Lawrence: The key leadership lessons I apply on a day-to-day level… I would say there are a couple of things. One is you are always, there are always challenges right in, in any job you go to. And so, as a manager or a leader, you always have lots of decisions to make. And the question is, where do you spend your time? Right. How do you prioritize? Yeah. At a startup, it was more like, which decision is fatal? Which, which one will actually, if I make a wrong decision, it’s gonna, it’s gonna kill us. Right. Or which ones are, like, “Okay, we can try a couple of different flavors out,” and it takes some time to get the right call. So, as a leader, where do you spend your time? Which decisions do you need to be focused on, and which decisions do you delegate?
I think the second thing is, “How do you make a decision and execute it well?” So once a decision is made, how do you get a heartbeat and an update on how that project’s going? “Are we green? Yellow? Red?” We have lots of projects. And again, they are international in different time zones. It’s hard to figure that out. Right. And so it’s like, how do you put checks and balances? And so you mentioned metrics before. It’s like, “How do we see the progress of the project?”
Asking the right questions to succeed
We’re looking at deliverables, metrics, product metrics, engineering time savings or performance savings, or maybe a security vulnerability issue you’re trying to solve. So again, it’s more about like, “How do you build a framework to keep in the loop that everyone’s aligned?” – here’s what success looks like.
And then, when you’re going off the rails, things start moving to the yellow zone. You’re like, “Okay, what can we do? What can we do to support? Did we just hit a roadblock that we didn’t think of?” Like, we didn’t know what we knew. We found out a new issue.
Can we reduce the scope? Do we add more resources? There’s multiple answers to help the team, but really it’s like, how do you keep a measure and monitor on how the team is doing? And then when can you, you should be able to jump in and support them and, and help them, and so those are the two things I think are. Pretty important. There are a lot of other things that we can talk about, obviously, with careers and mentorships and career settings and stuff like that. But those are the two, like, top of mind where day-to-day I think you’re making these decisions all the time.
Part 2: Top leadership tips
Ryan: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to this week’s episode of the Full Stack Leader Podcast. Lawrence, it’s great to have you here. We are ready to jump into your top five tips. So what’s your first tip?
Tip 1: Always be learning
Lawrence: Ryan, thanks for having me. As for my first tip, I thought about it, what kind of, it’s been with me for the last 20 years as I worked, and it’s something that actually I learned from my mom when I was younger, and it was really to always be learning.
- Optimize for learning and really trying to find ways to find value. And so it may be one tip or two as you, as you think about it, but one of the things over the last 20 years, especially in technology, you get the opportunity to work in a lot of different fields. I’ve worked in both consumer and enterprise.
- And I’ve always found it fun to learn new domains, new technologies. So that’s something I would leave for folks is like, Hey, optimize for learning. That will, that will always be something you can gain experience with.
Ryan: Does that ever become overwhelming for a leader who’s trying to oversee a team and is in such a fast-moving industry like tech where it feels like there’s a never-ending amount to learn? Do you find that hard?
Tip 2: Learn to prioritize
Lawrence: I do, actually. This is a good segue to going to my next tip: you’re inundated with a lot of things all the time. It’s like, learn to say no or learn to prioritize. So that’s, that’s tip number two. Learn to say no, or that’s tip number two. And so, as you mentioned, like learning, you can’t stay on top of everything.
So, your question is like, what do you focus on? Where should you be spending your time? And so what’s really popular right now is like everyone’s in the last six months been talking about chat GPT and other similar LLM technologies. And you know, it’s like this is something pretty pivotal.
This is pretty interesting. And so I myself started spending some time just researching and playing around with some of the open source tools around this area just because I think this is a pretty pivotal change. I remember mobile when it was introduced – it was a pretty big change I saw in industries. Or, when I studied or graduated from school, the Internet.
It was like everything was moving online, and that was a pretty pivotal change for businesses. So it’s like you wanna look for trends, and you wanna take some bets on where you invest your time. And so you’re right, you can’t be learning and be an expert in everything, but you got to prioritize and say, “Hey, where should I focus my time?” “Where’s your best ROI?”
Ryan: Priorities is a great, great tip. Alright, how about tip number three?
Tip 3: Build a culture of innovation
Lawrence: What do you have, as a leader, especially as an engineering or technology leader? I would say the core crux is innovation, and so the question is, “How do you build a culture of innovation?”
How do you have your teams feel comfortable? Building things, sometimes failing, but learning from it, experimenting, trying new technologies, right? And so I think pushing the boundaries and creating that safe space is something that is really important. It’s a long-term investment, but it allows your teams to have some flex and try new things and really surprise you or even themselves.
So I think. Building a culture of innovation, and rewarding people to step outside the box, is very critical – especially for our field of technology and product innovation.
Ryan: How do you create the base for that when a lot of times you’re just trying to keep a product together, or you’re feeling massive amounts of technical debt?
What approach do you have to that?
Lawrence: I think of it as like when my CPA, my financial advisor, talks about a portfolio, you wanna have a balanced portfolio. And so when you talk about technical debt or just keeping up with the Joneses and building your product, of course, there are things you have to keep up with the feature request list.
But if you’re just doing that all the time, You’re really not innovating. You gotta spend some time sticking a step back and looking at new strategy trends. Something’s changing, or something’s emerging. How can your product or technology be adopted? I think of it as a split. And so it may be different for different sizes of companies, right?
And if you have a lot more clients and you may have a lot more time spent on maintenance and or just like continual development, but you, you gotta have some strategic bets in the future. So, I would say, look at a roadmap, what makes sense for me. I like to spend at least 20% or 30% of my time focusing on “Hey, what’s new?”
How do we push the boundaries? We do some R&D experimentation there. You have your core business, probably like. You got 60% there, and you got some bug fixing, maybe 5%-10% there, hopefully. And so you’re trying to balance this portfolio of time and effort, and it can change, right?
As a startup, you probably have a lot more on the experimentation, research, and development phase. But you don’t have a lot of customers yet, so you’re not spending a lot of time there. So it’s unique for each business, but you shouldn’t. You should be focusing on different areas to make sure you have a balanced portfolio for your efforts.
Ryan: Yeah, that’s, that’s amazing. Thanks for that rundown. What about tip number four?
Tip 4: Communication is key
Lawrence: Tip number four, something I learned over time as an engineering leader: it’s really about communication. One of my old CEOs – this is at a startup from IronPort, his name was Scott – he’s like, “Communicate, over, communicate and do it some more.”
Because that’s where you get trust, that’s where you get alignment. That’s when people ask questions, and that’s how we know that we’re all fighting the same fight and there’s no misunderstanding. So I think communication is key. One thing that I’ve learned over the years is also how you communicate, how you say it matters – especially for harder conversations, so let’s say you’re giving some feedback on construction criticism.
It’s okay to do that, but how do you deliver it? How do you speak to the person so they hear it? So I think communication, as leaders, is a very important skill set. And something that a lot of technologists, um, may not focus a lot of time on. So I definitely wanna put that as one of my top five hits.
Ryan: How did you improve your communication skills as you moved from being a developer into management?
Lawrence: Oh, this is something I had to learn. This is not something I was born with. , I looked at my managers, and I saw how they communicated with me. I looked at our CEOs, and I said, “Wow, they inspire me.”
How are they able to get that passion and share their vision with me? And so this is something I developed over time, and it’s about practice getting feedback. My reports, my team would actually give me feedback and say, “Hey, you know, it’d be great if you said things this way.”
And so this is something you have to personalize and customize for each person may, you may, on each on your team. And so this is something I think I’m always trying to, I don’t think I’ve solved it. I’m still working on myself, Ryan, but this is something I’m putting effort into, and we’ll probably continue to do so for quite some time.
Ryan: Right. That’s great. How about tip number five?
Tip 5: It’s okay to make mistakes, but admit them
Lawrence: I think the last tip is, in startup life or in technology, there’s a lot of stuff going on. Things are complex, and you’re gonna make mistakes. And so, at the end of the day, this is something that one of my mentors said to me.
He’s like, “Hey, you’re human. It’s okay to make mistakes. Admit it, and find a way to help yourself. No one’s perfect at everything. And so, build a team around it. You can’t have a 360˚ view.” And so the first thing is to say, “Hey, I made a mistake.” Talk to your team or talk to your peer, or talk to your loved one, whatever this works for – not just work but also in your personal setting. And then figure out, “Hey, how can I get better?” “How can maybe I build a framework to help me, or how can I get support?” I think, in this business world, things are so fast-moving, you’re not gonna hit a hundred percent all the time.
And so, being okay with it, and then learning how to improve and move forward from it, I think, is really the key lesson.
Ryan: All right. That’s amazing. I really appreciate all of your feedback today. It’s been amazing to hear about your path, your journey, and also some of the skill sets you’ve developed working for some very amazing organizations.
So it’s great to have you here, Lawrence.
Lawrence: Well, thank you for the time, Ryan. I appreciate the call, and I look forward to the next opportunity.