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Bryan Cantrill

VP Engineering, Joyent


  • Track: Scaling Organizations
    Leadership Without Management: Scaling Organizations by Scaling Engineers

    While it is well known that the best software engineers are an order of magnitude more productive than merely average engineers, there seems to be surprisingly little attention given as to how to build an engineering organization that consists solely of these top performers.

    This presentation will juxtapose two experiences: 14 years at Sun Microsystems—where famously capable engineers were saddled with comically mediocre middle management—followed by three years building a team at a startup and trying to not make those same mistakes. Across these two very different organizations, trends emerge: superlative engineers have startling similar motivations (and demotivations); they do indeed have the power to transform and scale one's business; that there are concrete steps that a company can take to find, hire and grow them—and that hiring (and motivating!) scalable engineers remains the most viable path for growing organizations to scale their engineering endeavors.

Bryan Cantrill Bryan Cantrill is the VP of Engineering at Joyent, where he oversees worldwide development of the SmartOS and SmartDataCenter platforms. Prior to joining Joyent, Bryan served as a Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems, where he spent over a decade working on system software, from the guts of the kernel to client-code on the browser and much in between. In particular, he co-designed and implemented DTrace, a facility for dynamic instrumentation of production systems that won the Wall Street Journal's top Technology Innovation Award in 2006 and the USENIX Software Tools User Group Award in 2008. Bryan also co-founded the Fishworks group at Sun, where he designed and implemented the DTrace-based analytics facility for the Sun Storage 7000 series of appliances.


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