Office Hours: I'm VP of Engineering for Core at Shopify. I'm Delaney Manders.Featured

ElphaStaff's profile thumbnail
Thanks so much for joining us @Delaney!Elphas โ€“ please ask @Delaney your questions before Friday, September 24th. @Delaney may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพโž•
yumitaguchi's profile thumbnail
Hi @Delaney - thanks for this opportunity!My name is Yumi Taguchi, I am an Account Manager in Sales at Facebook. I see you have a plethora of experience in being a leader. Have you always wanted to lead? Was it a natural progression? Would love to learn more about your journey. As I figure out my 5-10 year plan, I have been wondering if / when I should strive for leadership positions. I feel I have imposter syndrome often muddying my thoughts. Also - what is one technical skill that you think every employee should have a bit of going into the next decade to be successful in the eComm world? Thanks in advance!
Delaney's profile thumbnail
Hi Yumi!The first few times I led others I was put into the position, and definitely experienced a strong imposter syndrome - then again, it could have been legitimate, because I _was_ new to it. I grew much more as a leader in organizations I built myself, wherein I found people to do jobs which needed doing and supported them as best I could. When I stepped into leadership roles in established companies after that I brought the same perspective and approach. I find it helpful to think of management or leadership as a function like any other - we're all in this together, our collective impact is what matters, and I have a role to do which needs to be done to help us succeed (just like everyone else). The "weight" of leadership often comes from one's own deference to authority, an assumption that we listen to managers because they are special or more important. At best, managers and leaders have experience that others don't; but there's no special sparkle or hidden power which makes you a leader, only your willingness and ability to do that job. I suggest finding a manager you respect and spending a little time observing them in their role and asking them about their job. When you understand their job in all its obligations and mundanity and you think you could do those things - you're ready to step up to it. Regarding technical skills, IMO everyone should have:* Enough HTML/CSS to tweak a template or build a landing page, and* Enough SQL to generate a simple sales report.
simonabali's profile thumbnail
Hi @Delaney, thanks for sharing with us.My question targets trends you see around in e-commerce. What technical aspects have a heightened importance lately for e-commerce brands or marketplaces? And going broader, what are some growth block you think need to get fixed for e-commerce brands and ecosystem to mature?Thanks!
Delaney's profile thumbnail
Hi Simona!Regarding technical trends in eCommerce, I think something we're seeing recently is the commodification of the basics and the importance of serving a niche or exploiting a distinguishing strategy. Very similar to adtech in the mid 2010's or gaming in the 2000's. Putting and managing a catalog online, selling through multiple channels, doing basic SEO, search & social marketing, collecting funds, mailing packages, and processing post-purchase are now table stakes - the merchants which succeed will be ones who do something different to capture attention or interest. I would expect to see a proliferation of value generation, like alignment with social causes ("10% of every sale goes to reforestation in Peru"), unique packaging or unboxing, commerce as identity (similar to NPR tote bags of the past), community-based or collective commerce, unique or on-demand merchandise, etc. And commerce is large enough that in each of these areas there will be multiple winners and a unicorn or two. Basically, I believe the next step in eCommerce is to stop being a replacement for bricks & mortar, and start being a special and exciting new thing which could not have been built on yesterday's foundation. I'm totally here for it!
simonabali's profile thumbnail
Thanks a lot for the reply @Delaney. Very interesting - I love the concept of commerce as identity, which basically speaks to the trend we have seen across, for people to belong and join movements/ communities etc.I believe you are right on the 'basics' - there is probably still space for a few unicorns in e-commerce enablement, but the tools at hand are already pretty good to allow e-commerce entrepreneurs to tick the boxes that give them 'permission' to play.Exciting times, looking forward to see what comes out of Shopify!
bethbader's profile thumbnail
Hi Delaney!As a Director of Engineering at a small but quickly growing organization, I'm trying to figure out what skills to hone and ways to demonstrate that I could be a VP of Engineering. Do you have any recommendations on skills to develop for this role change or ways to demonstrate those skills to a non technical leadership team?Thanks so much for any tips!
Delaney's profile thumbnail
Hi Beth!Titles are poorly defined - VP at a small organization could translate to Dev Manager at a large one. But there's no magic to this - if your promotion would be gated on someone else, I suggest asking them directly how _they_ define VP, and then finding ways to add value and grow in those directions. In a general sense I see Director as a role which serves an entire development process/team/area, and VP as a role which expands beyond that. Sometimes that means a Director who also interfaces frequently with sales, sometimes that means getting into operations or finance; the specifics depend on your situation and business.
joclark's profile thumbnail
@Delaney thx for doing OH. 1. If you ever leave and want to be a founder in a Startup DM me! (sorry but had to) 2. How do you figure out things you personally don't know when managing a tech team? As a non-tech Founder I worry I won't know what my CTO is doing/ how to keep oversight. Tysm
Delaney's profile thumbnail
The advice I give to non-technical co-founders when choosing their founding developers (or technical cofounders) is this:Good engineers make things simpler and more understandable, poor engineers make things complex. If you are working with an engineer you should ask them what they're up to _because you're interested_, and they should be happy to show you and eager to teach _because they love technology_. Ultimately most software is just a codification of business rules and composition of design primitives, and the process of thinking things through to reconstruct them in code is a great way to refine ideas and evaluate experiences. So if you manage a tech team, set aside a little time to learn from them and help them puzzle through their work - you only need to be more helpful than a [rubber duck](, and you may find it inspires you on the business side at the same time!
rekemofungawing's profile thumbnail
Hi @Delaney! As a leader in technology, what are your top five considerations before making a move to pursue your next role?
Delaney's profile thumbnail
This is a hard question - my priorities have been personal, and I wouldn't expect others to share them. Early in my career I made most of my employment choices based on the LGBT-friendliness of the company. It's hard to believe how far things have progressed on this front in the twenty years since, but in the late 90's and early 2000's at the peak of marriage equality cultural mania this made a big personal difference in my comfort and effectiveness at work. I ended up drifting into entrepreneurship more to avoid bias and discomfort than to get rich or change the world. It's a different time now for most, but if there's a recommendation I can share from this experience it's that one should chart one's career for oneself, and nobody else. You're the one who has to spend 8+hrs/day doing it, you should appreciate every minute.
tanmayisai's profile thumbnail
Thank you for doing this @Delaney ! How did you switch from engineering to GM? Would love to hear the transition story!
Delaney's profile thumbnail
Hi Tanmayi!In my case it was a bit anticlimactic - I went from VP of Engineering of a product-centric org (the core Store Management platform) to GM of an all-Engineering org (Production Engineering, Dev Tooling, shared components, etc). It was a GM role because the whole org rolled up to me, which brought a lot of administrative overhead, but my day-to-day remained focused on engineering challenges at scale.The organization's growth in this time is a better story than my own: We had just shifted to the cloud and had to quickly relearn how to deliver our promised scale, speed, and stability with with BFCM (Black Friday/Cyber Monday) approaching. In retrospect much of the work was obvious, but I feel like a lot of luck was involved in choosing the right priorities in very limited time and we had great support from our friends at GCP. We nailed it that year (and every year since), and our platform strength has gone from being a perceived weakness to a point of pride. It was a great few years, I miss that role. :)
karengshih's profile thumbnail
Thanks so much, @Delaney!Similar question - how did you prepare for your transition from program manager to director of Technology/Software Development? What were the key pieces that set you up for success?
Delaney's profile thumbnail
My time as a PM was a little odd - I applied to Microsoft as an SDE, and was pivoted to PM after getting the job (but before starting). In retrospect I probably "looked like a PM". It was a relatively technical role for PM; I did a lot of design and published a lot of sample code. It really wasn't my passion though, so when I returned to writing code and working with developers it was a relief and an easy transition.
brianarani's profile thumbnail
Hi Delaney,Thanks so much joining Elpha for Office Hours! I'm a big fan of Shopify and what it allows merchants and small businesses to do. I was wondering whether there were any plans to have a consumer-facing side to allow consumers to more easily discover Shopify companies and brands? I know you guys did this a bit with Black-owned and Asian-owned businesses - are there any ideas or plans around broader discovery?
Delaney's profile thumbnail
Hi Brianarani!This comes up a lot, did you know Shopify once provided a cross-shop product search once upon a time on our homepage? I think it was close to 10 years ago, but it was an early lesson that doing this fairly is incredibly difficult, especially now that we have two million(-ish) merchants who we want to support equally and billions of products to filter on. I can't share any upcoming product announcements here of course, but I will say that we have a fast-growing internal search and discovery organization which is hiring search and relevancy engineers. :)