Scott Carleton

Andela VP Technology,
@Artsicle Co-Founder

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Principles: Great Work ∞ Great Learning Part 3

This is the third post of a multipart series about the relationship of work and learning, and how it goes together for individuals and for companies. I recommend starting at the beginning.

Act 2: The Lab aka “Alright. I’ll just do it myself”

I left BigCo because I wasn’t learning as fast as I wanted to. I was impatient and believed there had to be a better way. Starting my own company wasn’t my first choice. I explored less risky options. MBA program, early startup employee, VC associate. But I ran into a common blocker. These options were all underestimating my value. I (thought) I could do better on my own.

I’m grateful for my arrogance because it turns out that starting your own company is the equivalent of an educational firehose. My rate of learning was completely within my control. How fast can you learn? Well, how many endeavors can you juggle at one time? Every step...

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Principles: Great Work ∞ Great Learning Part 2

This is the second post of a multipart series about the relationship of work and learning and how it goes together for individuals and for companies. I recommend starting at the beginning.

Act 1: Big Co

Entering the working world with a mental model based on maximizing my own learning, I was enamored by my initial experience in a large engineering company. There was so much to learn and absorb! However, this faded as I got up to speed and quickly, I became frustrated. I loved the initial steep learning curve. Once it leveled off, the work didn’t continue to evolve at a high rate. I wanted to keep sprinting up the hill but found that it had plateaued.

Why was this daily rate of growth so slow? Companies need to innovate and evolve to be competitive. To my dismay, I found my company’s ability to innovate was not based on the desire or ability of it’s most earnest employees to...

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Principles: Great Work ∞ Great Learning

This is the first post of a multipart series about the relationship of work and learning and how it goes together for individuals and for companies.


The concept was initially seeded in my mind over a decade ago by a guest lecturer in my university entrepreneurship class. “My first job out of college was with the Ford motor company” he said. “I had great pay, a solid job for life - if I stayed around for the next 40 years I could have had a pension and a nice gold watch. However, after 4 years I left.”

“You go and work for someone, what’s the exchange? You exchange your time and sweat and they pay you money. Is that a fair trade? No. Here’s what’s missing. Your time can never be recovered. However, money can always be created. You’re giving your most precious asset in return for something ephemeral. What makes it all worth it?“

Nobody responded.

“You get to learn...

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StartupCTO: Optimize your Learning Velocity

Here’s a podcast interview I did with the great guys over at

Here are some of their favorite quotes:

  • You hear a lot that “it’s all about the people,” but you don’t really get it until it kicks you in the shins.
  • I think a lot about communication through a company in the context of dynamic systems and controls. You can have an input of information where someone’s unaligned or there’s some dissonance, and you’re not going to feel the full impact of that until it works it’s way through the organization.
  • In the early days, I felt like I needed the “best” engineers. That came out as needing Stanford Grads. But what I realized very quickly was that they had very different expectations and needs. I couldn’t provide for them the right kinds of challenges because we were still hunting for product market fit.
  • I’ve found that in hiring I should look for “potential” and not...

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My Mission

Lately I’ve been reconnecting with the NYC tech community. The most common question is, ‘what have you been up to the last few months?’ Although a lot of my time has gone to home improvement (just moved into a new place) and side projects, the bulk of my time has been spent on ‘knowing myself.’ This started due to a strong need for me to better evaluate my past in order to better prepare and handle my future.


I have a belief that in working with and understanding the world, it comes down to two key variables. The environment and you. These can be difficult to disentangle because we don’t have perfect information about either nor lines to separate the two. However, to better evaluate past and future environments, it helps a lot to know yourself well in order to effectively remove it from the equation. This reminds me of a Sun Tzu quote:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you...

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Developing People in a Distributed Environment

Originally posted on LinkedIn on May 1st, 2017
Engineers want to believe that distributed relationships can work perfectly; that you can just do your work and not be bothered with the people aspect. That’s false. In a distributed environment, it’s even more critical to form human relationships and prioritize “noise” so that we can all better calibrate the signal.

Embrace the Noise

As many have said, one-on-ones are essential. Currently, I have weekly one-on-ones with my direct reports, and bi-weekly ones with all of their direct reports. That face time is so valuable, for pairing, for collaborating and especially for getting to know each other. These one-on-ones are time spent fostering ‘noise’ which is the key for building trust and calibrating the signals in your relationships.

Just like mastering anything, the more you improve the more you’re aware how far you have to go. In my...

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An Engineering Manager’s Guide to the Future of Work

Originally posted on LinkedIn on April 18th, 2017

Andela <> Zapier team meeting or Brady Bunch intro?

Last month, Stack Overflow released its annual Developer Survey, which polled over 64,000 developers across the globe about their favorite technologies, coding habits and work preferences. One of the key highlights was a strong preference for distributed work. A majority of developers (64%) reported working remotely at least one day a month, and 11% reported working remote full-time. Even more telling is that developers ranked “remote options” as a top priority — the ultimate office perk — second only to number of vacation days when assessing new job opportunities.

If you believe that developers are writing the script for the future, these results would indicate that the next act is going to be remote-first. Factor in the severe shortage of U.S. technical talent and recent...

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Premature optimization is the root of all evil

Relevant XKCD

This past week a valuable conversation came up with our DevOps team at Andela that I’d like to share here. For context, they were building out a method to automate our development environment using Ansible which is a fantastic tool and markets itself as entirely appropriate for this situation - so of course, they were a bit surprised when I kept questioning it’s purpose.

The ansible build scripts are a great MVP for this problem. It’s clear that you thought through a lot of the issues and chose tools that would be able to grow over time, handle a wide variety of use cases and allow for code reuse.

The reason I’m pushing on the decisions and asking lots of questions is because I know you all aspire to be great, truly world-class developers and I’d like to help you get there. Here are some things I would expect from a great developer on this project

Get something...

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Creating simplicity is the hardest problem of all

In a former life, I was a ‘nuke’ - a nuclear engineer. No “ifs, ands or buts about it”, nuclear engineering is complicated and I was attracted to the field because of this complexity. While I was there, family and new acquaintances were always awed when I said what I did. In fact, when I was fundraising for Artsicle, saying “former nuclear engineer” was often enough to convince VCs I was “smart.” It felt really good

The problems in nuclear engineering are complex. On my team, we created mathematical solutions to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that a particular piece of piping wouldn’t crack over 80 years. This required months of hard work, spanning disciplines from fracture mechanics to applied mathematics, and using fun tools like FORTRAN and super computing clusters. This level of complexity made everything harder and slower. New employees required months of onboarding to...

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Hackathon Trials & Tribulations


The team traveled a total of 25,000 miles for this. Two engineers flew from Nigeria, two other team members came from across the US. And me. The new guy, flying from NYC on his 4th day on the job. All to try and get a hack done in the next 24 hours at TechCrunch Disrupt. What am I doing here? I thought I was too old for this.

It all started with a cool idea - as it should. Wouldn’t it be awesome to pull someone into a meeting at a moment’s notice? “Hey Alexa, is Tolu available?” –> “Yes she is, setting up a Google Hangout now.” Or “She’s busy in a meeting”. Or “It’s after work hours in Lagos”. Sounds great, right? But as engineers, we have to figure out the nuts and bolts of actually getting this done, in less than one day.

For software engineers, there’s something incredible about a hackathon. The pressure, the cycle of asking the questions, of finding the hurdles and overcoming...

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