Scott Carleton

Andela VP Technology,
@Artsicle Co-Founder

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StartupCTO: Optimize your Learning Velocity

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

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.

 Why?

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
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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
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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

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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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My first trip to Africa

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Andela Kenya’s Dojo

Last month I had the amazing opportunity to visit Kenya and meet some incredibly talented - one might even say ‘world-class’ - engineers that are part of Andela’s Nairobi Campus.

I had never been to Africa before and in preparation for the trip, I did what I always do – research the history of a country. On my recent trip to Thailand and Cambodia, I loved learning about the Khmer Empire and it’s impact on the South East Asian peninsula. In my prep for Kenya, I was disappointed to find so little summed up on Kenya’s Wikipedia page - although I highly recommend listening to RadioLab’s episode on the Mau Mau. The Wikipedia page gives you the impression that there was pre-history and then bam! - Imperialists arrive. I knew there was more to the story, so I got on a plane to learn more first hand.

I was woefully unprepared for what met me on my arrival in Africa. The...

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Return of the writer

Hello my dear abandoned readers. As you can tell from this site, it once had high ambitions but has been somewhat abandoned as of late. This is because, well, I was really really burned out. My lofty desire of being an active writer was consistently thwarted and replaced with work, work, work. However, I’d like to renew this site as a place of solace for me and give it a breathe of fresh air - the ol’ college try.

Something I’ve taken to heart lately is the maxim ‘write what you know’ and I intend to do just that. Mainly musings on what I think is ‘right’ regarding managing software engineering teams and how this affects the larger product creation process. The goal I’m setting for myself is to write at least once a week, to put myself out there, to avoid trying to be something I’m not. These words won’t be perfect nor adequately defensible. I’m writing my reflections, not my canon. I...

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I’m Joining TpT

Over the past 4 years I’ve been building Artsicle.com. It has evolved through many versions into an amazing community of artists - a place to showcase their work, connect with others and better allow the world at large to discover them. As part of that evolution, we have started the process of turning Artsicle into a non-profit organization. I’ll be sharing more about this decision and what it means for us soon, but today I want to share another big announcement.

I am joining Teachers Pay Teachers - or TpT as we like to call it - as Engineering Lead. If you haven’t heard of TpT, think Etsy for lesson plans, curriculums, and educational resources. Teachers can find the materials they need to better serve their students or, better yet, share and sell their own resources with peers. TpT is putting valuable time back into the hands of teachers who can use every spare minute - while putting...

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