Interview Review

Aesop’s Fables in an enterprise setting

Ranjith Reddy Varakantam, Principal Agile Coach, wrote what we thought was a pretty epic review of I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge on and

He called it “a lean book” that “conveys new learnings with every chapter.” Ultimately describing it as “Aesop’s Fables in an enterprise setting.”

His words piqued our interest so we reached out to Ranjith to learn more about what he’s up to and how the book helped him. Here’s what he had to say.

As a Principle Agile Coach, one of my responsibilities is to ensure that the Developer Group, which consists of around 28 teams, is continuously working on small improvements.

One high priority project that we are working on right now is to create a 100% automated workflow that will allow Operator based Containers to be released with zero manual intervention. This will only succeed if we can get multiple groups to work together to deliver the tooling and functionality.

This is quite challenging as it is a complex project that needs people to solve not just hard technical issues but also cultural ones. The interdependencies between multiple teams and the competing priorities raises the table stakes.

Working with this many people and priorities can at times make me feel that some people are “difficult” and don’t seem to be contributing how I’d like them to be. I was feeling this frustration when I picked up the book. Skimming through the first chapter, to my surprise found the main character was in exactly the same position!

“I’ve done my best,” she says. “Maybe this isn’t the job for me. Maybe I should be in a different company. I just wish everyone around me would do more, be better somehow.” These were exactly the same thoughts going through my head. I became riveted to the book. I wanted to find out more.

By the end of the first chapter, the main character realized her folly by talking things through with her wise colleague. The colleague shows her that instead of ‘venting’, she would make more progress if she spent her time ‘inquiring’. 

That changed my state of mind and I started to think about what I could do to ensure that gaps were filled and make things crystal clear for people to improve their efficiency. 

As I continued to read chapter after chapter, I realized that the challenges that I face or the thoughts that go through my head are common in organizations. The people are not so different from each other and mostly it’s the same kind of situations that we all find ourselves in. 

By the end of the story, I realized that I needed to be more attentive and mindful. To be willing to view the situation from a different perspective. With a little bit of work on ourselves, we are actually capable of making a big difference.

After reading this book, I’m now more interested in looking at the problem from various angles without prejudging people. Instead, I try to see what we can do to solve the problem or challenge at hand.

I’ve also found this book to be a handy reference that I can revisit again and again as there are many things that can be picked up. The best part is that each chapter has a clear set of guidelines and additional reading that I can catch up on.

This book has motivated me to look within myself for answers and realized that most often by working a bit on ourselves, we give birth to new powers and greater degrees of effectiveness.

Thanks, Ranjith for sharing your story on how the book helped you.
From time to time Ranjith publishes articles on Linkedin and If you’d like to reach out to Ranjith, the best way is via his Linkedin profile.

Interview Review

What a review!

Emilien Macchi is a Senior Principal Software Engineer at Red Hat. He’s been a contributor to OpenStack since almost its inception as an open-source project.

I had the pleasure of having Emilien on Le Podcast to discuss how learning and sharing were essential ways of growing his career in Software Engineering.

We covered many topics including; peer reviews, pair programming, remote work, and I also asked what he thinks are the most important things to develop as a coder—spoiler alert, it is not just technical skills.

As Emilien is also one of the first people who left a review of our book on Goodreads, I asked him what he thought about the book and how it has helped him. Here’s what he had to say.

Right before reading the book, I was, and still am, working on a refreshed Vision and Mission statement for my team. It has been a long time since we last reflected on this and we wanted to understand who we are now, who we want to be, and what we want to achieve in the future. This is a strategic team effort; which requires patience and team interactions.

At the same time, on the technical side, I’ve been working on the simplification roadmap for our product, OpenStack TripleO, where there is a long-term goal to make management of OpenStack clouds simpler and more consistent across the Red Hat portfolio. It involves a cross-team effort, and very often the biggest challenge isn’t technical but a human one.

So I was looking for a book which would “refresh” things I’ve learned before but in a new way. I was eager to read I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge to learn some new concepts, update my knowledge, and find some inspiration for these challenges.

I’ve known Alexis for a while and I read his first book, Changing Your Team From the Inside, which I really liked and shared with people around me. So for me, it was a natural step to read this new book as I was sure this book would give me the inspiration I was looking for.

I read the book two times.

The first time was just a quick read through as I found that the first part, the story, very intriguing and difficult to put down.

On the second read I tried all the experiments. It was difficult not to rush through this part, as it required more work from me, but when I remembered to be patient I was delighted to realize that the second part was in fact what I was waiting for from the book.

Doing the work for myself gave me access to insights that answered a lot of my questions and gave me new ideas to implement in the work I was currently doing.

It wasn’t all easy going. Some experiments that I tried are still difficult for me in the real world. For example retrospectives. I have a hard time to stimulate the other team members so we can have productive retrospectives. The book gives concrete steps on how to do it with a list of actions but the “do it” is in my opinion the real challenge. The provided links are useful so I just need to spend more time rethinking how we can make people more involved in that exercise.

When I finished the book, I felt that I got another great tool in my library; which I’ll certainly share and re-use for my personal career. The fact that the book is easily written and not that long made me think I could re-read some chapters while experimenting on some exercises again with my team.

I’m very happy to have the book on my desk as something I can reopen from time to time to remind myself about something I learnt before when I need another “refresh”.

The next step is to share this book with my peers. Having this knowledge has helped me, but we could have an even bigger impact if they can also learn some of the described techniques and we start using them within the team when we work together.

Thanks so much Emilien for sharing your story with the book and how it has helped you.

You can learn more about Emilien on his blog:
And you can follow him on Twitter at: @EmilienMacchi


Why this book?

Michael and I will release I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge in May 2020.

It’s a book to help Software Engineers increase their impact and satisfaction at work. You can learn more about the book and sign up to be the first to know when it launches in May here:

In the meantime, we asked each other three questions about why we wrote this book and what we hope it achieves for you, the reader.

Interview summary:

Michael interviews Alexis

1. Alexis, I remember you showing me a mockup cover for I am in Charge, what gave you the idea for this book?

The idea came at the end of the review process of Changing Your Team From The Inside. The work we were doing, and the regular meetings we had with John Poelstra and you were so exciting and so profound that I wanted to find a reason to continue that relationship.

The fact that we were spread over the world, John in Portland, Oregon, you in Brisbane, Australia, and me in Boston, Massachusetts, and still able to collaborate as if we were in the same room was for me the sign that we were a great team.

Once you have a great team, you know you can do great things with the team. I wanted to take the opportunity to make our conversations available to people so they could benefit from them.

2. You mentioned your other book, Changing Your Team from the Inside, how do these two books complement each other?

I learned a lot from Changing Your Team From The Inside. I learned from writing it. I learned from the feedback I received from people reading it. I learned from the review process with John and you.

One thing I realized is that I wanted to make the message of Changing Your Team From The Inside universal. I did not want to choose an audience for the book. My thinking was, it can apply to anyone in any sector whatever their role. I still think this is true. But, it is a mistake, without a defined audience, people are never sure they can recommend it to someone. Some people think it is for software engineers, some for coaches or change agents, some for managers. I want to say yes to all of those, but it is not the way it works.

With I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge, we made the choice, thanks to you, to focus on a specific audience in a specific sector. Narrowing the audience forced us to make the recommendations more specific and more actionable.

In the end, I still think people could apply the recommendations even if they don’t have that specific role and even if they are not in that specific sector. This is a little bit like the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. The first sentence is: “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.” If you replace software development in that sentence with singing, cooking, teaching… it could work, and I believe that the values and principles would be interesting for you to look at to introspect on your practices.

3. What is your greatest hope for someone who reads I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge?

The subtitle of the book is: “The book that helps increase your impact and satisfaction at work”. My greatest hope is that readers will do exactly that: increase their impact and increase their satisfaction. I hope that they will be empowered to do that and to spread the message around them. I hope that by doing so they will contribute to making a better world.

Software will play a big role in the future or humanity. I hope that Software Engineers will realize the power they have in shaping that future.

Alexis interviews Michael

1. Michael, what came to mind first when I showed you the mock-up of the cover of a book with your name on it?

Wow. I need to read this book!

Unfortunately before I could read it, we had to write it.

I know the saying is “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” but I felt an immediate, positive reaction when I saw it. I knew, without any hesitation, that I wanted to work with you to write this book.

2. I know you invested a lot of energy in defining how your personal contribution will have the biggest impact on the world. How do you see the book supporting your goals?

The book was a combination of a few things happening for me at the time.

Having an ongoing reason to work with you Alexis was one thing, improving my writing skill was another, but beyond that, I liked the idea of creating an artifact that would persist beyond me. Something that would help those who read it gain insight about how they see their current situation and what they can do about it when they shift their thinking.

3. What is your greatest hope for someone who reads I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge?

Two things.

One. To realise that in any situation you can, at the very least, control your thoughts and your actions—which will ultimately change your result.

Two. To recognise that doing the first thing is an ongoing process that only improves with practice over time.

Be the first to know when the book launches

* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from I am in Charge:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp’s privacy practices here.