Interview with Michael Lopp, VP of Engineering @slackhq

Published on Dec 28, 2017

2 min read

image for Interview with Michael Lopp, VP of Engineering @slackhq

Location: Los Gatos, CA
Current Role: VP of Engineering @slackhq

What’s your background and how did you get into management?

I’ve been working in the Silicon Valley my entire life. In order, I worked at Borland, Symantec, Netscape, Icarian, Apple, Palantir, Pinterest, and now at Slack.

I got into management at Netscape. Tony asked me to lead a team and I said “Yes” not knowing what he was asking.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

Scaling culture.

What is your approach to hiring?

I will narrow this down to the fact that I am always hiring. Whether I have open head count or not, I will have coffee with just about anyone because your ability to hire is a function of the size of your network.

What’s your advice for managers who are just starting out?

Find a mentor that doesn’t work where you work. Talk with them once a week with three topics you’ve prepared from the prior week.

Whats your work day like and how do you manage your time, emails, etc.?

What’s email?

I wake up, drinking a bit of coffee, and then spend a solid hour scrubbing the day which means prepping for meetings, answer longer messages in Slack, and do a bit of writing. I try to write ~500 words a day.

Ok, day has begun. I’m likely 60% in meetings which sounds horrific except that I made sure that every meeting I was in that morning was going to be valuable otherwise I will decline it along with a justification. The other 40% is transit time, usually at least one hour of time to build something… anything.

End of day. Same process as the morning. Scrub everything. Prep for the next day.

What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?

Saying “no”.

Share an internet resource or tool that you can’t live without.

If you could recommend one book to managers, what would it be and why?

Can I pick two? Ok, good.

  1. Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War. This is not a book about way, but about decision making. Bring a highlighter.
  2. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. This a book about writing. Good leaders are good writers, so… read about writing then write… and write.

Where can we go to learn more about you? (LinkedIn, Twitter, GitHub, etc.)

Read Managing Humans. It will tell you a lot about what I believe.

This series asks engineering managers to share their experiences with the intent of helping other engineering managers learn and improve. Have someone you want to see featured or questions you think we should ask? Contact me.

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