Your System is not a Sports Team

It’s the responsibility of an engineering team to do what’s right for the company, not to advocate for the system they own. Engineering teams need to be oriented around a mission not a system to avoid narrow-minded decision-making.

Do you have a team at your company called the Kafka Team, or the HBase Team, or the Docker Team? Hmm, you may have screwed up. Don’t worry, there’s time to fix this.

Years ago at Dropbox we started the Magic Pocket team to design and build the block storage system of the same name.

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Embracing papercuts

Team growth requires giving people room to make mistakes. Figuring out which mistakes are just “papercuts” and which are critical is one of the most difficult challenges in engineering leadership.

We’ve all seen “helicopter parents,” hovering over their kids to catch them at the slightest inclination they might fall. We swear we’d never do that, that we’d give our kids room to grow and learn from mistakes. Then we become tech leads and turn into the worst kind of “helicopter leaders.”

I was certainly guilty of micromanagement. It started with code reviews, commenting on every minor issue I could find. 

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On working with designers

Editor’s note: On January, 18, 2019 the Dropbox Design blog featured a post from Product Designer, Jenny Wen, on working with engineers. This post covers the topic from an engineer’s perspective.

One of my favorite things as an engineer building Paper is how closely I get to work with designers. It’s an important partnership. When we share the same goals, work closely together, and understand what is important to each other we can create things that we would never be able to accomplish on our own. The opposite is also true. When we don’t align early,

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Don’t lead by example

This is the first in a series of posts that Dropbox Principal Engineer James Cowling has published on his personal Medium blog about technical leadership. Being a strong tech lead is very different from being a strong engineer and we thought the readers of our tech blog would find his experiences relevant and interesting.

Back when I was a first-time tech lead at Dropbox I had the misfortune of juggling two intimidating responsibilities at the same time:

  1. Build a multi-exabyte distributed storage system and migrate our data off Amazon S3,

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What we learned at our first JS Guild Summit

 

At Dropbox, we work to keep teams flowing—so earlier this month, we convened a group of our frontend engineers to do just that. At the beginning of October, we held the first JS (JavaScript) Guild Summit at our San Francisco headquarters to bring together frontend engineers from our four engineering offices for two days of teaching, learning, and collaboration.

What is the JS Guild?

The JS Guild is a grassroots initiative at Dropbox to improve our frontend engineering by fostering community, culture, and code quality. The group strives to teach frontend best practices to generalists and to help strong frontend engineers leverage and grow their domain knowledge.

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Security culture, the Dropbox way

The Dropbox Security Team is responsible for securing around 1 exabyte of data, belonging to over half a billion registered users across the world. The responsibility for securing data at this scale extends far beyond the Dropbox Security Team—it takes a commitment from everyone at Dropbox to safeguard our users’ data every day. In other words, it takes a strong security culture.

The first core company value at Dropbox is “Be Worthy of Trust.” From a security perspective, this means keeping our users’ stuff safe. Our culture of security is built on this foundation of trust and is a fundamental part of our identity.

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