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VP Engineers Pod

We are a group of VP Engineers who deeply care about how to build the organization that builds the product.

Who is it for

This is a group for people who lead engineers or multiple engineering teams, aimed for people who serve as the VP Engineering in their company. We do our best to create some diversity within the group, while keeping the type of struggles (e.g. size of team) and companies similar enough so people could relate to the pains and help each other.

We do believe that one of the most common pains is working well with others, so if you don't have any authority leading a team this group won't be a good fit.

Lastly, this is a group of technical people but the idea is to focus on the people / organization challenges, rather than concrete technological issues (this does happen, however, offline or on the slack channel). We want to keep it focused around building a team and helping the company scale.

Benefits
Each group (aka "pod") is limited to 12 people, this enables:

  • A therapy-like session, but with a practical advantage of learning from others who might have dealt with similar situations before.
  • Build a strong network: get to know good and talented people with similar challenges and motivation. We already saw the impact of such network solving offline specific pain-points, may it be technological or people skills related.
  • Intimate enough to allow everyone in the group to be heard and hear everyone else.
  • Higly valuable (cross pods) Slack channels - CV Hub, Compensation Benchmarks and more
Typical conversation topics:
  • "I had to fire someone last month, and I'm afraid I might lose more people because of it. This was a mess [...]. How can I deal with it now?"
  • "I feel that aligning with our CEO is difficult as I'm unsure of where the company is going, and I don't know how to protect the team during that time. How much should I tell them?"
  • "We're starting to scale the engineering team and I'm unsure if I should promote from within or hire someone with more experience. We have a few people that want to lead, but I'm concerned that they're not ready yet."

Meetings format

How often:

A 2 hours session every month.

How many times:

12 sessions, a full year. For more details about what happens after the 12 months end, read our Quick FAQ.

When:

09:00-11:00AM. Leaving you enough time to work that day, without sacrificing family time.

Location:

Depends on the people in the group, often different individuals would like to host in their company's office.

Bi-annual Retrospectives:

Twice a year we will have a prolonged session (3 hours instead of 2), taking advantage of the last hour in the meeting to discuss what's working well so far, and what we'd like to improve etc.

The organizer will take notes, summarize feedback and email it to group with the relevant action items from it.

Session format:
Pre-session:
  • Every session someone from the group will take some time to prepare a topic of their own choice to share with the group, consult with them and get their opinions. This is voluntary.
  • The organizers will work together with that person to help make the most of the time allocated. If the topic is too abstract, we will look for a different topic or ask someone else to take that.
  • The organizers will send a reminder email to remind you to: think of what you'd like to gain from the gathering, which topics you'd like to bring to the "Personal Round-Table" etc.

The first 50 minutes: Individual-Driven Dilemma (IDD)
  • The presenter will get 10 minutes to share context around the pain and answer questions from the group, before we dive in to some practical ideas.
  • We will let the conversation flow naturally, getting people to share their experience and thoughts.
  • The group organizer will make sure all people are heard, if they're interested.
  • The group organizer (or another member of the group) will take notes raised during the session, summarize it and send it later to the group. This will make sure people will get an actionable ideas to practice and hopefully share later on with the group on their usage of it (via "personal round-table").
  • Examples for IDD documents shared before: How to measure productivity/efficiency and working hours & Crisis management and Sense of urgency

The next 65 minutes: Personal Round-Table
  • This will be a quick round-table, each individual will share "What keeps you awake at night lately?" -- just a sentence or two, not more than 2 minutes. This might foster offline discussion for relevant people, and make sure people are heard.
  • The group organizer will then ask if people would like to take a few minutes (raise hands if so) and share a pain from the last month or so. The group organizer will make sure we will have enough time by splitting the time.
  • Each individual who chose to will share their current challenges and ask for advice. The group organizer will make sure people finish on time, to avoid wasting others' time.

The last 5 minutes: next session
  • The group organizer will make sure there is a volunteer to take the next session "Individual-Driven Dilemma".
  • The group organizer will make sure there is a volunteer to host the next session.

Post-session
  • The group organizer will send the meeting's notes raised during the "Individual-Driven Dilemma" and the "Personal Round-Table", e.g. this example.
  • The group organizer will send a Doodle to set time for the next session.
  • The group organizer will send a calendar invite once a date is set.
  • The group organizer will set time with the individual who wants to take the "Individual-Driven Dilemma" as stated above.

Yearly timeline

The following timeline covers all the 12 sessions (13 including the recap session) during the year:

Year timeline Click on the photo above for high-resolution view. Source: https://time.graphics/line/26937

Quick FAQ

- Can I share conversations or information that brought up during the sessions?

No, unless you got an explicit consent from the relevant team members. Building trust takes time, and a single incident will break it. Be discreet and respectful.

- Who’s responsible for guiding the group?

The group organizer will be the one responsible to make sure the group is getting the most out of this setting. The group organizer will be the one leading the Pod Committee and making sure that if needed someone else can take the lead for a given gathering. To see which kind of tasks are included you can read more at the Pod Committee’s section.

- How many “pods” are running concurrently?

A few. Each pod will be targeted for specific type of challenges, e.g. VP Engineering pod for companies with 20-60 engineers will be a different pod than VP Engineering pod for companies with 50-300 engineers.

- What happens after the year ends (12 sessions)?

A lot can change in a year. We would like to let people see if a different pod would serve them better, for example, it might be possible for people to switch group to hear from new people (even if setting is the same) or join a group that better fits their current state, e.g. the company grew from 40 engineers to 70 in that year and looking to scale further.

Some pods would prefer to stick together and continue for another year, some will prefer to switch pods. We’d like to allow both and let the group decide.

- I see “External industry expert” on one of the sessions, what is that all about?

The idea is to bring in a VP Engineering who dealt with similar pains that the group is going through these days. Based on the first few sessions, this expert will be chosen. We will have 90 minutes to cover some of their lessons learned and have enough room for “Ask Me Anything” type of questions. The organizers will introduce the expert in advance and remind the forum to come prepared with questions for the AMA part.

- Is it possible that I’ll be in a group with people who work for a competitor?

No. We will take care of that. The idea is to create enough intimacy to allow deep conversation, and the setup must allow that.

- If I need to leave the group, can I bring someone else from my company to replace me?

No. As building a safe environment takes time, keeping the same people showing up is key.

- If I need to leave the group, will my company get the money back?

No, unless it was in the first two sessions (see money back guarantee). Priority #1 for us is to keep the group with the same people who started it.

- If someone leaves the group, will someone else from another company will replace them?

No. As building a safe environment takes time, keeping the same people showing up is key. We might end up with a group of 10 or 11 instead of 12 at the end of the year, but it would be the same people you started with.

- Does it cost money?

Yes. For more details please read the Costs section.

The Pod Committee

Each group will have a designated "Pod Committee" (2-3 people from the team) to own the administrative tasks of the pod to optimize the value for the group members.

Relevant tasks would be:

  • Working with the individual-driven dilemma presenter
  • Notes taking during bi-annual retrospectives
  • Setting up Doodle and following-up with group members (if needed)
  • Adding people / Letting go of people
  • Keeping tab of group members show-up

Communication

Each pod has a Slack channel where additional conversation can take place. In addition, a google group is created to make sure it's easy to send an invite (calendar) to all of the pod members for each session.

In case you weren't able to login or didn't get an access, please reach out to the organizer of the pod.

We pick the best time for everyone by a short poll via Doodle. We expect you to complete voting within 2 days after it is sent to the pod's members. The group organizer will remind individuals as needed.

Adding people / letting go of people

Adding people to the pod (recommending someone you know)

As we have very limited space for people, and we do want to make sure there is a strong fit, every individual you’d like to recommend adding to the pod will have to be approved by the Pod Committee. This is the easiest way to currently protect the time and the effectively of the pod.

Letting people go (rules)

We all know that it can be very a difficult situation (awkward and not pleasant for both sides). Most often, the timing is bad and we get it. We just want to get the most of this format.

In order to do that, we wanted to set clear expectations to avoid such feelings, or at least reduce them, in-case we need to reach that point:

  • Missing out 2 consecutive meetings without good reason (communicated in-advanced to the organizer). Having important meetings, flying to meet customers or giving a talk in some conference is not a good reason, we all have those. It can happen here and there, but we expect you to show up. A good reason may be: having a newborn baby (maternity leave).
  • Missing out 3 meetings in 8 months. While you might avoid the “2 consecutive meetings” penalty, it still shows that you are not really interested in committing yourself.
  • Not respecting others’ time by showing up late consistently. Time is precious for everyone. Be respectful, show up 10-15 minutes before the session starts to prepare coffee, say hey or use the bathroom.
  • Breaching our Code of Conduct.

Costs

Joining as a member costs $2,499 for a year. The payment will be done in advance, showing a high commitment to get the most out of this setting.

Some of the money might go on bringing in an external expert (i.e. VP Eng. that dealt with similar pains the group is dealing with), hosting purpose or anything else that would help the group to level up.

How will it benefit you?
  • An immediate extended network with high-trust to consult with: We will do the work of getting together a group of highly capable people from great companies to meet regularly. You just need to show up and particiapte to get the value. Think about it, who's helping your VP Enginering today to reduce stress, to feel less lonely in this journey?
  • Keeping people accountable (i.e. letting go of people when needed): We will make sure people respect others' time and show up. When they don't, it's on us to follow up on that.
  • 2 hours of intense learning: We will make sure Individual Driven Dilemmas are well prepared in advance, and guide you if you're the one who's leading it. We will moderate each session and make sure the environment is safe for everyone to participate.
  • Solid takeaways from learning: We will send a summary after each session, so you'll always have it with you, e.g. this example.
  • Always iterating on the format: We will make sure not only that the meetings are effective, but also to keep an eye to see how to transition from year to year (e.g. get people to switch pods if their company grows).
Is there any money back guarantee?

During the first two sessions, there will be 100% money back guarantee if you don't benefit from the format. If you decide to continue and participate as part of the group, there will be no money back guarantee (not even partial). This is to make sure commitment is high and to allow the group to work closely together.

Commitment!

In order to foster deep and meaningful conversations, people have to gain trust with this format. It comes from agreeing on the format, the rules but also that the same people will show up every time. It’s up to us to be consistent about it.

Please read and make sure you can commit to it (Pod Committee will verify):
  • You should feel comfortable committing to showing up consistently every month for at least 12 months ahead. We know that life might throw curve balls on us sometimes, but this shows it matters to you.
  • You will follow our Code of Conduct.
  • You will follow our “Adding people / letting go of people” rules.
  • You will keep conversations and content shared within the group only. Building trust takes time, and a single incident will break it. Be discreet, do not talk or write about it elsewhere.