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The Pragmatic Engineer in 2022
The articles you enjoyed most this year, my personal favorites, and a recap of a busy year in tech news.
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The launch issue of The Pragmatic Engineer was published in the fall of 2021, meaning 2022 has been the first, full calendar year of the newsletter: thank you for being a reader! This year saw an incredible 100 issues published – and this one is number 101. You received them in your inbox every Tuesday and on most Thursdays – and occasionally, a bonus article on Wednesdays, too.
All together, these newsletters add up to about 5-7 books’ worth of information; more than half a million words (550,000 to be more exact.) For comparison, the average length of a nonfiction book is 80,000 - 110,000 words.
Today’s issue points to a selection of articles on trending topics which you may want to read again, or discover for the first time. We’ll cover:
Most popular articles, and my personal picks. 11 articles I personally recommend, which stand out in what’s been a busy year.
The Scoops of the year. This year, I kept my ear to the ground and brought you tech insiders’ takes and analysis in The Scoop, a news series based on a wealth of conversations with software engineers and engineering managers, who were sources in these reports. A recap of the events and trends we covered during 2022 – some of them long before major media outlets began paying attention.
Reading and listening for the holidays. Book and podcast recommendations.
Resources and templates for engineering managers and software engineers. This exclusive library of resources and templates kept growing this year. A summary of the new additions.
All Pragmatic Engineer articles. A browsable version of every single article published during 2022, focused on career growth and education, plus every older article since the start of the publication.
1. Most popular articles, and my personal picks
No less than 100 articles were published this year. Here’s the five most popular during 2022:
Inside the longest Atlassian outage of all time. Hundreds of companies had no access to JIRA for two weeks, and Atlassian dropped the ball on communicating with them. My reporting seemed to trigger a response by the company, whose CTO acknowledged the problems and pledged to do better. The episode contained plenty of lessons for any tech company on how to respond when serious outages occur.
The State of Frontend in 2022. Analysis of ‘The State of Frontend’ survey, that drew 3,700 responses. Which engineering practices and technologies are gaining momentum?
Real-World Engineering Challenges #7: Choosing Technologies. Selecting frameworks, languages and architecture approaches at Trello, Birdie, MetalBear and Motive.
Shipping to Production. Approaches for shipping code to production reliably, every time.
The Tech Boom is Over (The Scoop #11.) Layoffs, rescinded offers, hiring freezes, hiring slowdowns and a realistic look at the market. This article from May captured the onset of one of this year’s biggest, most consequential, trends.
My personal picks from this year are these six articles:
Migrations done well. Migration is an under-appreciated area in software engineering, yet it is a surprisingly common challenge at fast-growing companies. Invest in learning how to do them well – you’ll be thankful later. Related to this is the article, Real-World Engineering Challenges issue on Migrations.
Inside Facebook’s Engineering Culture. This two-part series is the lengthiest and most in-depth issue to date about how a Big Tech company works, from the perspective of software engineers and engineering managers. It’s a deep dive into the company’s vocabulary, hiring approach, career ladders and engineering processes, with advice on how to succeed at Meta. A notable mention also for Inside Amazon’s engineering culture.
Profit centers vs cost centers at tech companies. The difference between them, why they matter for your career growth, and how to determine which one you work in.
Healthy oncall practices and Oncall compensation. Being oncall is a practice many software engineers are all too familiar with, as it’s very common both at Big Tech and startups. This article digs into how smaller companies are innovating more healthy oncall practices than most of Big Tech – and they also tend to compensate oncall better than the tech giants, too.
Measuring software engineering productivity and how Uber is doing it and how LinkedIn does it. This year, we’ve covered how to measure the productivity of software engineers – and how not to do it. I suspect this is a topic we’ll hear more about in 2023, if budgets get even tighter at some companies.
2. The Scoops of the year
The Scoop launched as a regular series in 2022. Most Thursdays, I bring you interesting events, trends and patterns I detect, based on conversations with software engineers and engineering managers. Many scoops come from people proactively contacting me and I treat these sources as confidential and anonymous by default.
The Scoop is my way of “keeping my ear on the ground” and sharing with you what’s going on inside tech businesses, as it happens. This means The Scoop reported some potentially industry-wide shifts in their very early stages, during 2022.
For the second year in a row, the mainstream media regularly confirmed what I observed and reported, months after it was covered in The Scoop. For example, at the end of October, I gathered enough evidence to make the call that a Big Tech hiring slowdown was starting, which has had industry-wide implications, including new grads having a harder time getting a foothold in the industry, especially Big Tech. The New York Times confirmed this observation six weeks later, reporting that Computer science students face a shrinking Big Tech Market.
During 2022, I covered the following trends in The Scoop:
A chilling and boiling hiring market in February. This was a strange month, when much of the market was very hot, but layoffs had already begun at companies like Peloton and Hopin. I was unsure what to make of this blend of contrasting forces.
The start of the Great Reshuffle? By March, unease was spreading in Big Tech about the size and composition of compensation packages, and I expected more people to switch jobs. Back then, it was still an employee’s market, as private companies like Cruise were introducing programs to buy secondary shares.
Fast unexpectedly goes bankrupt. In an exclusive in early April, I brought you details about what happened inside the company which had raised $100M just a year earlier. But the business failed to raise its next round of funding. At the time, Fast looked like it could be an isolated case. But it turned out to be a canary in the coalmine: VC funding was drying up, fast.
A tech market slowdown looking likely. In late April I was wondering if late-stage companies like Stripe, Klarna and Databricks were overvalued. Sure enough, by the end of 2022, all have cut their former valuations, and Databricks did so recently. I wrote that I expected layoffs to conserve cash; sadly, this prediction came true.
The tech boom is over in May. A stream of hiring freezes or layoffs started at places like Meta, Wayfair, Redfin and Bolt. Later, all these companies did layoffs and rescinded offers.
The crypto bust in June. Coinbase, Gemini, Crypto.com, BlockFi, Bitso and BitMex announced layoffs and it seemed like a golden age for Crypto was rapidly ending. Looking back, it certainly was.
The start of a tech winter? in July. Most of Big Tech froze hiring and Apple joined this group.
Return to the office at Apple in September. Apple became the first major Big Tech to mandate that employees return to the office for 3 days per week, and it seems it suffered no major attrition as a result. Perhaps because by this time, the Big Tech hiring market was cool enough. By December, I saw enough signs to state that we’re seeing an RTO wave, across the industry, especially at larger companies.
Meta’s historic growth challenge in October. A month before Meta announced its historic first layoffs, I analyzed why the company faced a bigger growth challenge than ever before. Talking with engineering managers and directors, most were hopeful Meta would avoid layoffs, but everyone was clear the decision rested with Zuck. In November, Meta let go 13% of staff.
Cruel changes at Twitter early November. As the market was cooling across Big Tech, Elon Musk bought Twitter. Almost overnight, the then richest man in the world turned the workplace into a theater of cruelty; the most toxic environment in Big Tech, especially for software engineers. Week after week, Musk enforced unnecessarily cruel methods like firing people then calling them back the next day, giving employees 24 hours to return to the office, and firing a software engineer in public on Twitter who had corrected him, then mocking those who’d just lost their jobs. Even now, when most tech workers are off for two weeks, Twitter employees are expected to work through the holidays.
Companies still hiring and “The Good Scoop,” mid-November. To counterbalance the volume of negative news this year, I started to seek out positive stories, the ones that rarely get told. This is how I came to cover a Staff+ peer group success story at MongoDB, the Product roadmap for GitPod and the success story of Monta, an EV charging software management startup.
These 12 trends articles are just a selection of the 40 issues of The Scoop published this year. Browse them all here.
Thank you for all the tips you’ve sent in! If you hear something that’s relevant to software engineers and engineering managers, please send me a message. You can use various channels, including Signal. All messages are confidential. Also: I love getting the ‘good scoop!’
3. Reading and listening for the holidays
If you’re looking for books to read during the holidays, check out Pragmatic Engineer’s Holiday tech and business book recommendations. I’ve added a few new titles to this list.
During 2022, I went on two podcasts and addressed one conference. These were:
Lenny’s Podcast. Lenny Rachitsky is a former product manager at Airbnb who writes the #1 business newsletter on Substack and started a podcast on product management. During a podcast episode, we ended up discussing how I write The Pragmatic Engineer and I compared notes with Lenny.
4. Resources and templates for engineering managers and software engineers
One perk which full subscribers to the Pragmatic Engineer get is access to a wealth of resources for engineering managers and software engineers. These are valuable documents, templates and checklists related to hiring, onboarding, and career progression. This year, I added plenty of new ones:
Oncall compensation data.
Preparing for layoffs: a checklist.
End-of-year reflections: a guide.
Writing goals & accountability template.
Uber’s engineering metrics dashboard.
A migration checklist to plan and validate migrations.
Software engineer interview process: an overview.
Scorecard template for the coding interview.
Debrief summary: an example document to prepare ahead of debriefs.
These are additional to the existing documentation set on the engineering manager interview process.
Preparing for promotions: a checklist.
Work Log for recording your activities.
Self-review for performance reviews. An example.
Numbers in self-reviews for software engineers. Inspiration you can use.
5. All Pragmatic Engineer articles
With close to 150 articles published, it’s becoming tricky to keep track of them all. To make browsing this collection easier, I’ve collated every single article published in 2022, as well as earlier ones.
See all articles here:
Or browse all The Pragmatic Engineer articles:
Wrapping up the year
Thank you for being a reader during 2022: I greatly appreciate your support. Without it, the Pragmatic Engineer could not exist in the way it does.
This year, the newsletter kept growing. In what was a somewhat unexpected development, the major news outlet Bloomberg noticed this newsletter, and recently published a profile of The Pragmatic Engineer and me.
Looking ahead to 2023, my main goal is to ensure you get interesting, relevant and actionable details and insights about software engineering, engineering management, career development, Big Tech, startups – and everything in between.
I continue to keep my ear to the ground, to report on the hottest topics in software engineering. Looking ahead, expect more articles on topics like security engineering, disciplines like developer advocacy, and technologies like machine learning. I’m also planning to delve into cases of engineering teams operating in “pragmatic” ways.
As budgets shrink across tech, I’m also looking to widen the scope of these newsletters by covering how “non-high growth” startups do more with less, in addition to covering Big Tech and high-growth startups, as usual.
What are the emerging trends and topics in software engineering or engineering management which you’d like to hear more about? Share your suggestions.
This is the final edition of the Pragmatic Engineer in 2022. The publication is going on a winter break, in line with the recently published vacation policy. Enjoy the rest of the year and I’ll see you next on Tuesday, 3 January, 2023!
See last year’s year in review here: The Pragmatic Engineer in 2021.