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Engineering Leadership READMEs

It’s been said many times over, the best way to get familiar with a code base or project is to take a look at the README file, the first public piece of documentation. This often let’s you know more than just what the prerequisites are for the project, but also what the goals and intentions are for working with a certain technology.

What if a company had a README you could take a look at while trying to see if this was a great place to work?

As a group of engineers and tech-minded individuals working on Torch’s leadership and mentoring software, we decided to do just that: write the READMEs we wished we could have had when we were looking to make changes in our careers. The concept of the manager README has been making the rounds for a while. I first noticed the phenomenon a few years back on Hacker News. Later, Torch co-founder Keegan Walden posted about managers coming with a set of instructions in an effort to bring the concept to a less technical audience. This influenced our tech team to revisit their README files with the idea of making it easier to see what to expect when working on/with our teams and make it part of our organizational norms.

How we do READMEs

My latest README is actually in it’s 4th iteration. In light of the changing work dynamic brought upon by the COVID pandemic and related shift to remote-first work, I found that my file was a bit out of touch with the realities of 2021. I want to have folks coming into the technology organization knowing what to expect from me and from the company as they began their Torch journey. Much of the content is purely pragmatic, but two themes that run through my file are very intentional – nerdiness and vulnerability. I’m an engineer and programmer at heart, even though little of my Torch-time is spent doing those things. I think it’s important for technologists coming into our organization to know this about me. I am empathetic to the engineering experience and will approach leadership in a way that is well informed by it. As for vulnerability, I’m a fan of giving and being on the receiving end of transparency, which is crucial in building trust. I guide other leaders to use the tone and the themes that best represent themselves and their goals, and to read a lot of other manager READMEs outside Torch to see what resonates with them. 

Our Director of DevOps, Nate Fanaro recently published a README on Github, making for a familiar experience for developers and DevOps engineers, while Nicholas Yager, Director of Data and Analytics added his README to his personal blog. All this to open up and help current employees and future candidates understand how things at Torch run under the hood. Another recent addition is from Jeffrey Woldan, who leads one of our product engineering pods.

READMEs open the door to understanding how something works and help you to understand how you would like to start your involvement. If we expand that idea beyond code repos and projects, we can get better idea of what we want to be a part of in all aspects.

I hope that you enjoyed this peek into the styles of leadership that some of our technology leaders bring to the mix.  If you’d like to learn more about Torch after reading our READMEs, or if you’d like to learn more about how to join the team, head over to our engineering careers page.