If there is one common thread among all successful leaders, it is that they are all constant learners. Continuously expanding your understanding of the world and the industry you are in is the key to staying competitive.
Where are successful technology leaders getting their ideas and inspirations from? Find out which sources of learning helped these tech leaders grow their careers and companies.
Kevin Ruthen, CTO Fora Financial
Podcast episode: Impactful Technology Leadership
Are there any books, podcasts or content that you could recommend for prospective tech leaders?
I’d really recommend a book called Start With Why by Simon Sinek that’s had a real influence on my leadership approach. So this book really describes the why is about describing the mission or goal of business, and a key takeaway from the book is that most employers motivate their employees to take action by offering incentives. However, good leaders are really about inspiring workers to take action, to go the extra mile without the need to be prompted because they know what they’re working towards. They know the company’s why, and therefore understand their own why, leading them ultimately to feel excited to do their best work as part of the team. One of the things I make sure to do is, look at what the company’s mission and vision is and what it’s why is about, and come up with a related and aligned specific mission and ambition for the technology team, as well as core principles in alignment with the culture. This really provides a core foundation and understanding and common relational bond with the team.
Hugh O’Brien, CTO at Thrive Global
Podcast episode: Employee Well-Being
Would you be able to share recommendations for any books, podcasts or other sources of knowledge or learning that helped you in your career?
There’s so many actually. I like to look at the earlier books. So, the books that have stood the test of time in terms of computing, I think are the ones to look at. I think there’s a trend right now and it makes sense, but it’s worrying to just focus on the immediate existential reality of computing, like Learn Node in 24 Hours, or How to Get Your First Website… I’m very much in favor of getting the fundamentals right.
What I’ve seen personally is people who have a good understanding of the fundamentals can adapt to changing computing environments very quickly because they’re building on a framework that is scientific and has 30-40 years of engineering culture behind it. A great example is the recent rise in popularity of server side rendering – it took me a little while to understand until I realized that, from my perspective, it was the same thing as PHP back in the day. There’s a great book; it’s called Introduction to Computer Science by Alan Perlis, a famous computer scientist.
I will say one takeaway, and there’s an amazing video by the Turing award winner, Alan Kay. It’s available on YouTube and the video is called Doing with Images Makes Symbols where he spends about 45 minutes giving a brief history of computing and shows you essentially why everything that was new in the 80s was actually already 20 years old and shows you stuff in that video that you thought was new this year and was actually 50 years old, including, for instance, types and objects in 1967. So, I highly recommend watching that video, it was great.
Stephanie Sheehan, VP of Engineering at Keelvar
Podcast episode: Women In Tech & Technology Leadership
Stephanie, are there any podcasts, books, journals or other resources that you use to learn, that you can recommend?
Oh gosh, so many. I just had a look on my shelf, and I was taken back to when I started in management, and I completely nerded out on systems thinking and I read all of the books and one of the top ones that I would recommend is The Goal by Goldratt and Cox and then also Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows. These are two books that I just consumed and loved, because obviously you’re managing a system, and you’re starting to learn how work flows through from one end of the pipe to the other and what the bottlenecks are. Actually, one of our consultants said to me once, I think it was to do with performance management; ‘don’t look at the individual as the problem but understand, what is the system that you’ve put in place that’s caused this problem?’ So, that completely blew my mind and set me down a world of learning systems and system thinking. Other than that, I love obviously Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow and looking at Lean Enterprise for metrics.
In podcasts, some of the ones that I am looking at now are ‘It’s a Bike Shed’, ‘Hidden Brain’, ‘Unlocking Brain’, and ‘Masters of Scale’ is also a good one. Business Wars, Rework, Diary of CEO; there’s so many really great podcasts.
Then, in terms of culture, I really love the book, Turn The Ship Around, going back to servant leadership. It’s by Captain L. David Marquet, who is a US Navy captain and it’s a story about how he turned around the least performing submarine in the US Navy. They used that traditional kind of top-down management structure that was the norm in the US Navy at the time and he actually transformed that to be the number one performing submarine in the Navy through servant leadership. It’s a story about how he did that and how you manage that, which is actually really worth the read. So yeah, we could go on. There’s so much, and we’re so lucky.
Nina Mannheimer, Co-founder at Klim
Podcast episode: Sustainability at the Core of Business
We all need to continually improve and enhance our knowledge base and become more capable as professionals and it’s not always easy to carve out time for that. Do you read a lot, do you listen to podcasts and are you able to make some recommendations?
Yes, definitely. So I think we learn all the time. The big advantage of doing something that is challenging is that we learn all the time, even when we’re not noticing. […]
I would say that for listeners who are trying to get a little bit into that regenerative space and understand it better, Kiss The Ground is a great place to start. It’s actually an organization that also works on scaling regenerative agriculture, and they created that Netflix movie that made a lot of people aware and it’s a great place to start. […]
And when it comes to the climate space,… a great place to start is the publications by Project Drawdown. They are really great because it’s such an analytical but such a proactive perspective. They’re literally telling you what you can do to fight the climate crisis.
Paddy Finn, CEO at Viotas
Podcast episode: Optimizing Energy Systems with Software
Building and scaling a company is a complicated undertaking. Are there any books, podcasts or other sources of content that you find particularly inspiring that helped you learn and grow your business?
I don’t have any particular recommendations in that regard as I read data sheets. Yes, I’m that much of a nerd, so I often pick up data sheets for electronic devices, I read them like an article and I thoroughly enjoy that.
I think for me what’s been key to supporting my journey to date has been networking. It’s been the network that I’ve built up, particularly of people who are at various stages of developing their own businesses. People who are at an early stage, people who are in the growth phase, people who have been there, done that and have the aptitude. So I think, really and truly, the biggest influence on my journey has actually been the interaction with peers and people who are delivering businesses with purpose; people who’ve had a few hard knocks so that they can share their experience. When you’re setting up a business, regardless of what stage, it can be a lonely environment, so you have to build up that peer network of people that you can actually really converse with and problem solve together.
You can find what sources other tech leaders are using at the end of each Story of Software podcast episode, on any platform of your choice.