Being Glue talk



  • Author: No Idea Blog
  • Full Title: Being Glue talk
  • Document Note: Glue work refers to the less glamorous, less-promotable work that is necessary to make a team successful. It can include onboarding new people and making them productive faster, improving processes to make customers happy, and filling the gap between a project that succeeds and one that fails. It often requires technical leadership skills and can be career-limiting if left unconscious.
  • URL: glue


  • Managed deliberately, glue work demonstrates and builds strong technical leadership skills. Left unconscious, it can be career limiting. It can push people into less technical roles and even out of the industry. (View Highlight)
  • Like noticing when other people in the team are blocked and helping them out. Or reviewing design documents and noticing what’s being handwaved or what’s inconsistent. Or onboarding the new people and making them productive faster. Or improving processes to make customers happy. (View Highlight)
  • doing glue work too early can be career limiting, or even push people out of the industry. It’s ironic. We lose good engineers because they happen to also be good at other skills we need. (View Highlight)
  • want to be clear that I’m not saying 100% of your work needs to be promotable work. It’s good to build auxiliary skills and expand your horizons, and it’s important for everyone to do their fair share of taking out the garbage. But a large percentage of your work should be the thing you’re evaluated on. (View Highlight)
  • Non-promotable work is one of those “one person’s trash is another’s treasure” things. Like, if an engineer organises an offsite, that’s non-promotable work, but a people manager can maybe claim it’s part of their job to do team-building. If an event coordinator does it, it’s probably their core job. (View Highlight)
  • I advise people to choose deliberately. Choose a role that you’ll feel successful and happy and proud to say you do, and that will teach you skills you want. Do a job you’re excited by. You will learn to get good at it by doing it. I feel like we don’t admit it often enough enough that most of the time, we won’t do a job well on day one. The vast majority of our learning happens on the job. (View Highlight)
  • junior. Taking a step away from a more technical role closes doors. It’s not fair, but our industry biases are set up so that you really need to have a solid engineering resume before you take a non-engineering role (View Highlight)
  • industry. I’ve seen some look back at engineer jobs and discover that they also can’t get hired at the level of developer they used to be, even if it was quite recent. As if the skills they had have evaporated. (View Highlight)
  • If you’re ever tempted to tell someone they’re not technical enough, well, first of all just don’t. But be really specific about what you need them to know. (View Highlight)
  • People expect a lead to do a ton of glue. (View Highlight)
  • A job title saves time and energy that we don’t need to spend putting our credentials on the table (View Highlight)
  • If you’re a senior person, please, show the junior people in your organisation that you’re learning and how you’re doing it. Be public about what you’re learning. (View Highlight)
  • So make it clear that it’s okay — and normal — to learn at work, during work hours. (View Highlight)
  • Managers: If your job ladder doesn’t require that your senior people have glue work skills, think about how you’re expecting that work to get done. (View Highlight)