Business School for Engineers at RailsConf 2021

  • January 19, 2022
  • Ethan Fertsch
  • 2 min read

The former Director of Engineering at The Gnar, Kevin Murphy, spoke at RailsConf 2021. The talk, which is cleverly described to the audience as an "accelerated MBA program for software engineers", is titled "Engineering MBA: Be the Boss of Your Own Work". The presentation touches on several business concepts and explains not only how different strategies are employed by management teams, but also, how engineers can apply the concepts in their work.


I. Leadership

The opening section of the talk discusses Situational Leadership and the four different styles of leadership the theory proposes:

1. Directing
2. Coaching
3. Supporting
4. Delegating

For managers, the key to choosing the _right_ strategy involves evaluating the unique needs of the individuals on the team, and of the team itself. Not a manager or a team lead? Well, chances are you interact with one or more of them! Understanding these leadership styles can help you to better advocate for your needs and for the needs of the team.

II. Competitive Advantage

This section provides information about Competitive Advantage and three generic strategies used by organizations to gain market share:

1. Cost
2. Differentiation
3. Focus

These strategies, along with an organization's core competencies can be applied to decisions about whether or not a feature should be built in-house or outsourced. If the decision is made to outsource a feature, the economic impact should be considered, i.e should a paid third-party service be engaged or can we use a free library/integration?

III. Process Management

The final section of the talk covers Business Process Management and the five stages of process management.

1. Design
2. Model
3. Execute
4. Monitor
5. Optimize

So how does this apply to engineers? It is helpful to think about this in terms of maximizing efficiency. In general, we are probably all process managers even if we aren't fully cognizant of it. Some smaller examples include using git aliases or plug-ins for your text editor. On a larger scale, these stages apply directly to automation and feature delivery.

Looking for extra credit?

Check out Kevin's full talk on Youtube.