Calibrate Conference 2015

You’re a great engineer. Become a great leader.
A conference for new engineering leaders hosted by seasoned engineering leaders.

September 30, 2015 - San Francisco

If you're here to learn more about Calibrate, welcome! We suggest starting with our About Page for information about the event, and having a look at videos and decks from previous events.

Thanks for attending everyone! Videos and slides are now available.


As fast as we're growing our engineering teams, we're also creating engineering leaders and it's often learn-as-you-go. Engineering leadership has a specific set of challenges with respect to the intersection of people, technology and process, and almost no reference material or developmental community surrounding it.

Let’s change that.

We’re bringing together accomplished engineering veterans to address the unique needs of newly minted engineering leaders. We’ll share what it’s like to grow from an IC to a leader, and offer advice on what to learn in your first few years of leadership. You’ll take away tactics and frameworks for decision making you can put to work immediately.

What does good engineering leadership look like? Gain valuable insight and useful techniques to put into action.

What Happened This Year

Highlights from speakers and attendees at Calibrate 2015.

Speakers (2015)

These are the people we wish we worked for.

David Loftesness

David Loftesness

David has been a software engineer and manager at a range of tech companies (Amazon, Twitter, Xmarks, Geoworks) each with its own unique strengths and challenges. David is currently taking time to share what he's learned through talks and blog posts before diving into his next endeavor.

Marcy Swenson

Marcy Swenson

Startup Happiness, Executive Coach

Marcy is an executive coach, as well as a seasoned technology professional, and a veteran of several successful startups. As a founder at Critical Path, she built the tech team that led to IPO. Forbes named CPTH the fastest growing high tech company in the world in 1999 (3 to 3000 in 4 years). Marcy is a co-founder & executive coach at Startup Happiness, where she helps entrepreneurs with everything from basic leadership skills to deep personal growth.

Michael Lopp

Michael Lopp

Pinterest, Head of Engineering

Michael is a Silicon Valley-based engineering leader who builds both people and product at companies such as Borland, Netscape, Palantir, and Apple. While he's not worrying about staying relevant, he writes about pens, bridges, people, poker, and werewolves at the popular weblog, Rands in Repose. He currently works as the head of engineering at Pinterest in San Francisco where he’s furiously working on helping humans curate their inspiration.

Sangeeta Narayanan

Sangeeta Narayanan

Netflix, Engineering Manager

Sangeeta leads an engineering team at Netflix, with a focus on tooling and infrastructure that enables engineers to operate complex distributed systems at scale. Over the years she has held different roles at companies big and small. As a leader, she takes great interest in developing a team culture that inspires each member to realize their full potential and continuously strive for growth.

Kieran Snyder

Kieran Snyder

Textio, Co-Founder & CEO

Kieran is the Co-Founder and CEO of Textio, a machine learning company that provides text analytics on job listings, resumes, performance reviews, and other documents about people. She holds a PhD in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania and has previously held product and design leadership roles at Microsoft and Amazon. She has authored several studies on language, technology, and document bias. She participates actively in Seattle-based STEM education initiatives and women in technology advocacy groups.

Cornelia Davis

Cornelia Davis

Sr. Director Platform Engineering, Pivotal

Cornelia is Sr. Director of Platform Engineering in the Cloud Foundry team at Pivotal, where she helps customers and partners develop and execute on their cloud platform strategies. In her more than 25 years in software she’s witnessed radical transformations and has found one of the best ways to lead is to embrace and even love change. Currently, as the industry navigates toward a cloud-native approach for construction and delivery of software, she is spending most of her days helping colleagues cross that chasm so that they, in turn, can shepherd others.

Megan Anctil

Megan Anctil

Slack, Operations Engineer

Megan is an engineer on the Technical Operations team at Slack. In addition to the thrill of debugging issues and scaling out infrastructure, she loves discussing empathy and culture within companies and ways to improve them all around.

Ryan Tang

Ryan Tang

Pivotal, Engineering Manager

Ryan Tang is an engineering manager on the Cloud Foundry team at Pivotal, where he is very interested in practices that foster a happy and productive workplace for talented technologists. Throughout his career—including time at VMware, Deloitte Consulting, and two biotech start-ups—Ryan has worked in a variety of software development environments ranging from large-scale waterfall to extreme programming. By day, he develops software and runs DevOps for distributed cloud systems.

Kate Heddleston

Kate Heddleston

Kate is a software engineer from San Francisco who builds web applications using python and flask. She has a Masters in CS from Stanford and studied Human-Computer Interaction for both her undergraduate and Masters degrees. She enjoys using open source tools to build web applications and especially likes building portions of the product that interface with the user.

Sam McAfee

Sam McAfee


Sam helps entrepreneurs build and scale startup companies, find product-market fit, and improve software products and teams. He has long been an active member of the Agile, Lean Startup and Kanban communities in the Bay Area and has significant hands-on experience developing a wide variety of web-based products, leading teams of various shapes and sizes over the last fifteen years. Sam is an experienced community activist, committed to making the world a better and more livable place for all people, and is particularly interested in the intersection of open source and community organizing.

Peter Kinmond

Peter Kinmond

Sharethrough, Engineering Team Lead

Peter leads an engineering team at Sharethrough, where he made the transition from individual contributor to manager over two years ago. He created the engineering onboarding program, seeing it through several iterations as the company has grown. He's always been interested in the intersection of people and technology, having worked in the past as a teacher, recruiter and technical translator.

Sonya Green

Sonya Green

Sonya has recently joined Carbon Five to help grow their business and process. Previously, she built up GitHub's web support team (where she got the moniker Chief Empathy Officer). She enjoys helpful error messages and shockingly helpful documentation. She nerds out on books like "How to Win Friends and Influence People", which is not as creepy as it sounds. Before joining techland, Sonya was a children's librarian, wildland firefighter, bike mechanic, signmaker, and pharmaceutical proofreader. Guess which one required the most fires be put out.

Program (2015)

Registration & Breakfast


Robert Slifka VP of Engineering, Sharethrough

Leadership. By the Numbers.

If you're a brand new leader, these are the basics. This is the blocking and tackling of leadership, the themes and activities will form the foundation of your leadership career.

Michael Lopp Head of Engineering, Pinterest

The Engineer-to-Manager Transition: Surviving Your First 90 Days

The first few months as an engineering manager can be confusing and frustrating. This talk presents a 90-day framework that can help structure this time and prepare you for success in your new role.

David Loftesness


Agile Management

Managers in fast-paced technology companies deal with constantly changing environments - from hyper-growth to employee turnover. As a result, managers need to be agile enough to respond to anything that comes their way. This talk is about how to manage teams more effectively by adopting some of the principles used in agile software development.

Kate Heddleston

Growing Your Career When Everything You've Ever Learned Before No Longer Works

Congratulations! You are an excellent engineer. This is probably a large part of why you are now managing other engineers. As you've made the switch from being a unit of one to leading work for several others, you've probably been told to forget (almost) everything that got you to this point. It's good advice, but what do you do instead? This talk gives you practical, actionable strategies to support this stage of your career and the careers of the people you lead.

Kieran Snyder Co-Founder & CEO, Textio

Unconference Intro & Lunch

The Unconference Lunch is an opportunity for our attendees to shape the agenda. What could others help you with? What have you recently levelled up in that might help others? We'll be soliciting topics up to and on the day of the conference for us to dig in to, together.



Up to Speed: The Importance of Proper Onboarding

Bringing new engineers online as quickly and efficiently as possible is one of your most important jobs as a leader. Too often this gets left to chance or to a "sink-or-swim" philosophy. This talk outlines why it's important to create and refine an engineering onboarding program and how to design one from scratch.

Peter Kinmond Engineering Team Lead, Sharethrough

Crunch Time: The Death of Creativity

Extrinsic motivators like crunch time worked a hundred years ago in the era of low-tech factories. In the knowledge economy today, the high pressure of crunch time efforts often backfires. Using three case studies, Ryan explores the effect of crunch time, analyzing the positive and negative effects of management pressure.

Ryan Tang Engineering Manager, Pivotal

Building and Maintaining Your Feedback Muscle

Most of us are well aware of the importance of providing and encouraging effective feedback, especially for those in leadership positions. Despite that, it is rare to find an organization where employees are fully satisfied with the quantity and quality of the feedback they are receiving. This talk will cover strategic approaches to overcoming this disconnect and building a culture that values feedback.

Sangeeta Narayanan Engineering Manager, Netflix


Life After Diversity Goals

Want to improve diversity but aren’t sure what that means or how to do it? Have you been given diversity goals but no advice on how to hit them? We’ll talk about finding diverse talent as well as skills you can use as a manager to retain and advance those engineers once they are part of your organization.

Megan Anctil Operations Engineer, Slack

Paying Down Cultural Debt

You can't always break things, and you can't always refactor. Technical debt is something to control as you scale. As a manager you're now making decisions that affect your company's cultural debt as you scale. We'll talk about how to identify culture, examples of cultural debt, how to hire with culture in mind (without creating a homogeneous feedback loop), and how to pay down debt as you go.

Sonya Green

On Management and Leadership

While the terms “leader” and “manager” are often used interchangeably, there are important distinctions. It is not a matter of one versus the other, but rather, how they complement one another that is most important. In this talk we consider what defines leadership and management, and through a series of concrete examples, and study outcomes of blending the two. Participants will come away with tactics for upping their leadership skills and achieving better results for their teams and organizations.

Cornelia Davis Sr. Director Platform Engineering, Cloud Foundry


Three Best Practices to Grow Your Happiness as a Manager

One of the biggest challenges going from IC to manager is how to re-recreate the sense of "a day well spent" that you used to get by writing code. In this talk, I share three best practices that will help you feel a deeper sense of purpose and accomplishment as a new leader.

Marcy Swenson Executive Coach, Startup Happiness

Happy Hour

Venue (2015)

Calibrate 2015 was held on September 30 in San Francisco, at the Terra Gallery

Terra Gallery, 511 Harrison St., San Francisco

Our Sponsor (2015)

Pivotal is a partner for enterprises and startups that want to build the new future. We offer a modern approach to technology that organizations need to thrive in a new era of business innovation. Our solutions intersect cloud, big data and agile software development, creating a framework that increases data leverage, accelerates application delivery, and decreases costs, while providing enterprises the speed and scale they need to compete.

Pivotal Labs® is the software development consultancy unit of Pivotal, committed to transforming how the world builds software. For more than 25 years, Pivotal Labs has pioneered agile software development, bridging the gap between technical and cultural transformation. By combining lean startup principles, user centered design, and data science to our agile development process, we have helped the world’s most recognized enterprises and startups learn and adopt the methods required to deliver reliable, scalable software products and incredible digital experiences, while transforming their organizations in the process.