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


The First Review

Julien Danjou is a Staff Engineer at Datadog, where he’s in charge of building a production profiler for Python. Their goal is to provide performance analysis of their customers’ applications by understanding how their production systems behave and then optimize them.

His other hat is Mergify, building a workflow automation system for GitHub. You define rules, e.g., “merge this pull request when the CI passes and the code has been reviewed” and their bot does the merge for you. Simple.

Julien was sketching out his next Python article for his personal site when he received my email request to be an early reviewer of I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge. I thought of him because he was always interested in reading professional development books that we talked about as much as he enjoyed continuing to develop his own technical chops.

Of course, Julien and I had worked together at eNovance and Red Hat so I’m sure he was keen to see what Michael and I had written in I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge just out of curiosity, but he was also keen to understand if this book could genuinely push his leadership skills further.

Despite his unsureness, and his own priorities, the book looked like a quick enough read and his curiosity to learn what was in it tipped him over the edge.

Immediately the book challenged the way he thought about how he interacted with other people, but the book was written in a way that reminded him of The Phoenix Project, which he really enjoyed reading, and gave him the confidence to keep going.  Reading Sandrine’s story pointed out many situations he witnessed or encountered directly in the past. He became inquisitive about how she would handle the situation. 

At the end of each chapter is a summary of what we learn from the story and Julien found this section particularly helpful to pull out and internalize the key points he was learning. The real test, where the rubber meets the road so to speak, was being able to choose an experiment to validate his findings for himself. It was only then that he knew this book could help develop his skills because he’d actually be able to prove it to himself by doing the experiments.

Julien told me that he did have one regret about the book though.

It left him wanting more.

But in true developer style, he found a solution to that problem. He’s going to re-read it because he feels that, “it is an excellent publication if you are ready to rewire your brain to take charge of your development rather than enduring your work.”

Julien would be happy to connect with you if you share common interests and are entrepreneurial minded. Right now, that would cover working on Python performance, building a SaaS startup, or cooking. 🙂

You can reach him through email at or on Twitter @juldanjou.

The top three posts on his personal site are:

  1. Sending Emails in Python — Tutorial with Code Examples
  2. The definitive guide on how to use static, class or abstract methods in Python
  3. Profiling Python using cProfile: a concrete case

Julien has also written two books:

To learn Julien’s three tips for how software engineers can become more successful, listen to the podcast I recorded with him (33m06s).