One of my greatest joys in leading the engineering team at Seller Labs is sharing hilarious and impactful moments with this incredible team.
And part of leadership – whether you’re a senior engineer, tech lead, a manager, a director, or someone else – is shaping the culture around you through the stories you choose to tell. The stories you emphasize and pass along become the lore that form core values.
I came to Seller Labs from a much larger company, and had my first taste of leadership there. I was nominally a Tech Lead and primarily attended tense stakeholder meetings each week to negotiate my team’s direction and roadmap, get sign-offs for release plans, and constantly remind about eight different project managers that we were a small three-person team. (Really two-and-a-half, since I was spending time debating them.)
My first week at Seller Labs, lo these many years ago, I was making a change to our new login page and looking through tons of CSS to determine the right shade of green for something. I was sending our designer a ton of questions about hex codes and fonts to be sure I had everything correct. She seemed surprised and said, “Honestly most of the developers don’t ask these questions and use their own styles… this is great.“ Obviously we’ve come a long way since then (a definitive style guide! a whole magical repo of Shared Components!), but the ethos of trusting people, expecting them to make good decisions without having to get eight stakeholders’ approval, and giving them agency and autonomy to do their best work remains as one of my favorite things here.
One of Seller Labs’ star engineers led the team where I started. He’s an incredible troubleshooter, a prolific programmer, and had been at the company a lot longer than me. I did and still do look to him for direction on any number of engineering and company conundrums I face. We worked together with others on the team in a major release that would change the login flow across all of our apps, and completely revamp how we handled billing and subscription data. He had done the majority of the architectural design and probably the bulk of the lines of code, and I had done a lot of the wrangling of cats to ensure all the teams had the right requirements for OAuth and all the i’s were dotted and t’s crossed on each feature going out. We had a final go/no-go meeting a day or two before release night and our boss asked, “Is someone in charge of this thing? Who’s our quarterback?” The fact that Jason immediately said, “Oh, Marilyn, she’s our quarterback,” is one of the biggest delights of my career.
This one’s just some jokes. They were created in the only late night hustle for a deadline I’ve known in my time here. We all learned so much that May of 2018. One is that bonds created while deliriously generating memes in the office at midnight may never be torn asunder.
Once, after I had been a part of two separate workshops with people newer to the company who had impressed me tremendously, I had a 1:1 with Hank. We were talking about some of the bigger challenges in the upcoming months, and how we’d tackle them, including continued hiring for my team. Hank said, “I just try to hire people smarter than me.” My outburst response, “You’ve been doing a great job at that lately!” was intended as a compliment to the great new additions to our team. Only when he burst into laughter did I realize what I had said.
We love Star Wars. I know that’s not shockingly uncommon for a tech company… but we do. Like, a lot. Our meeting rooms are Hoth, Cloud City (orange chairs), Tatooine, Dagobah, and Endor (the green room). We’ve rented out theaters for so many releases now; and had so many Friday lunches in the office the next day rehashing which movies and scenes are the best and how surprised we were when <spoiler alert>. Alli had a trip to visit Athens in her first month or so with us and when I let her know we’d be going to see The Last Jedi while she was here, and she said, “Yes! I was feeling bummed I might miss opening night! :yoda:”
And I first got to meet Max, our VP of Engineering, under the best of circumstances possible, due to his, mine, and Brandon’s love of Star Wars.
Best work trip ever: