Calibrate Conference 2017

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

September 29, 2017 - San Francisco

Thanks for attending everyone! We'll update folks in #calibrate on the Rands Leadership Slack and at @calibratesf as slides and videos become available.

Why Calibrate?

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 engineer 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.

Who Attends?

Calibrate is aimed at practicing engineering managers, responsible for the people on their team. New people managers will get the most out of this day. As you decide if this conference is for you, know that this event includes people from varying experience levels:

  • most attendees are new to management
  • some people haven’t yet started their first management role yet
  • a few are managing ... without the title
  • and a small group are veterans (including our speakers)

These are the people you will be meeting, networking with, eating lunch with, talking about hard problems with.

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


It was invaluable for someone with my odd background and path to software engineering to connect with people from such diverse and impactful companies as you had in attendance.

Robert Edwards

Still processing @CalibrateSF - definitely the most densely beautiful conference I’ve been to. Thanks to the organizers for your hard work!

Andrew Bredow

The talks were amazing, but lunch might have been my favorite part. As an aspiring manager, talking to several people at different stages in their career and different fields was really interesting.

Adam Coulter

At Calibrate I learned that management is not a set of commits. It’s different for everyone and really, really hard. But the speakers at Calibrate made me even more excited about being an engineering manager. I made invaluable connections to other people in my shoes, and got something tangible out of every single talk.

Sonja Broach

This was my first year at Calibrate and, with all the lessons, questions, and friends it left me with, it won't be my last! So glad I went.

Jordan Degner

Spending a day with thoughtful and inspiring leaders is just what the doctor ordered. Calibrate SF is exactly that place. Whether you've been leading teams for decades or just getting started, you'll most definitely learn something new, I certainly did.

Bruno Miranda


These are the people we wish we worked for.

Michael Lopp

Michael Lopp

Slack, VP 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 VP of Engineering at Slack in San Francisco.

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.

Nick Caldwell

Nick Caldwell

Reddit, VP of Engineering

Nick is responsible for building and operating the 4th most visited site in the US. Prior to joining Reddit, he held various positions in engineering leadership at Microsoft across a 15 year career. He holds a degree in computer science and electrical engineering from MIT, an MBA from U.C. Berkeley Haas, and holds 10 patents related to natural language processing. Nick is an active participant in /dev/color: a non-profit whose mission is to maximize the impact of Black software engineers, and founder of Color Code: a scholarship fund dedicated to future leaders of color in technology fields.

Katie Womersly

Katie Womersly

Buffer, Director of Engineering

Katie is Director of Engineering at Buffer, a globally distributed team with no offices, and an O’Reilly author. At Buffer, she leads the engineering team and is focused on crafting productive, effective teams - delivering a world class software product. She previously worked as a software engineer before moving into leadership. Her writing has appeared in The Next Web, Inc Magazine and Fast Company.

Mekka Okereke

Mekka Okereke

Google, Engineering Director

Mekka currently serves as an Engineering Director Google Play, one of the largest digital marketplaces on earth. Mekka is passionate about building diverse and inclusive teams. His organization is one of the most inclusive engineering teams at Google and comprised of 10% black, 10% Latinx, half of the managers are women, and 30% of the software engineers are women. He is a frequent speaker, consultant, non-profit board member and mentor sharing his expertise with leaders on inclusivity in the workplace, diversity in tech, and successful team building.

Kathryn Koehler

Kathryn Koehler

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Director of Engineering

In another reality, Kathryn designs race cars for a living. In this one, she's the Director of Engineering an for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Meta project, leveraging the power of ML to democratize scientific research. In her 20-plus year career, Kathryn has scaled and led engineering teams in ways that allow her inner process wonk to thrive. But she still finds the time to mentor new managers, bike, run, play soccer, embarrass her kids, and even sleep once in a while. Kathryn was formerly Sr. Director of Applications Engineering at Evernote and holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford.

Chris Winn

Chris Winn

Creative Market, CTO

As CTO, Chris leads Creative Market's largest team, which includes product engineering, Web Ops, and Search & Discovery. Chris serves on Creative Market's board of directors and executive team, spends time mentoring and speaks about management, technology and growing companies.

Tia Caldwell

Tia Caldwell

Slack, Senior Engineering Manager

Tia Caldwell is a Senior Engineering Manager on Slack’s Monetization. In the past 12 years, she’s led engineering teams at Netflix’s and managed a multitude of Microsoft products. Most recently, she’s serves as an active participant in /dev/color: a non-profit whose mission is to maximize the impact of Black software engineers, and is co-founder of Color Code: a scholarship fund dedicated to future leaders of color in technology fields. Tia studied computer science at Xavier University of Louisiana and spent her undergraduate years doing research for the Missile Defense Agency.

Christian McCarrick

Christian McCarrick

Auth0, VP of Engineering

Christian McCarrick is the VP of Engineering for Auth0 where he manages a globally distributed team. He is dedicated to improving the craft of software engineering leadership. He volunteers his time to mentor through the Everwise and Plato networks and teaches engineering workshops for new engineering managers. He also hosts a popular podcast called SimpleLeadership where he interviews top technology leaders in order to help other managers grow and be successful.

Poornima Vijayashanker

Poornima Vijayashanker

Femgineer, Founder

For more than a decade, Poornima Vijayashanker has led and coached engineering and product teams through processes related to people and product; from idea to shipping product to successfully exiting. She is currently the founder of Femgineer, an education company dedicated to helping techies level up in their careers and build products and companies. Previously she was a lecturer at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering, and the founding engineer at Poornima holds degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science from Duke University.

Hasan Korre

Hasan Korre

Amazon Lab126, Software Manager

Hasan's current focus is next-generation products at Lab126. He leads efforts in microcontrollers, sensors, embedded algorithms, and diagnostics on the Platform Software team. Prior to joining Amazon, Hasan was an early employee in a number of startups in the Bay Area including Skycatch (drones), Mayfield Robotics (home robotics), and Drive.AI (autonomous cars), with his work often crossing the boundaries between software, electrical engineering and physics. He is passionate about bringing new technologies to market and mentoring early-career engineers.

Nidhi Gupta

Nidhi Gupta

Hired, Senior Vice President of Technology

Nidhi is SVP of Technology at Hired, a marketplace that matches tech talent with the world’s most innovative companies. She leads the company’s global engineering, developer operations and product teams. Nidhi is a skilled engineer and product executive who is passionate about building and growing thriving product and engineering organizations that deliver world-class products at scale. Prior to Hired, Nidhi was Senior Vice President of Product and Engineering at Tophatter and Upwork. Previously, she was instrumental in leading mobiTV and Ning through hyper-growth and expansion.


Our speakers are putting together terrific, custom content for the day.

As it evolves, the program will be updated (all time slots are tentative).

Registration & Breakfast


Sonya Green and Rob Slifka Program Director and Founder, Calibrate

The New Manager Death Spiral

In this talk, Lopp walks us through a story where a new manager successfully performs every single common mistake in their new role. The New Manager Death Spiral is a cautionary tale full of good advice.

Michael Lopp Slack, VP of Engineering

The Art of the Pre-Meeting

Engineering managers leverage meetings heavily—to coordinate and motivate their team, to gather issues, to provide status updates to leadership, to pitch new ideas on architecture, process, or approaches for solving customer needs. Behind the scenes, there’s a secret weapon to ensure a successful outcome of any kind of meeting. It’s called the pre-meeting, and in this session you'll discover why it's so useful and learn a framework to apply before your next meeting.

Karen Catlin Advocate for Women in Tech, Former VP of Engineering, Adobe


The Inclusive Leader: Tips for Developing Diverse Teams

"Managing people is hard. Managing people who aren’t like you is harder. As we push to build more diverse teams, how do we ensure everyone can succeed equally? Exceptional leaders use empathy to develop relationships with their teammates, don’t shy away from conversations that feel risky, and use a variety of tactics to bring out the best in their colleagues.

This talk will cover challenging situations using scenarios from both sides of the manager/direct report relationship, applicable to anyone who’s tasked with developing the careers of their teammates. You’ll leave with specific tips on how to ensure everyone gets the opportunity and support they need to perform."

Jill Wetzler Lyft, Director of Engineering

Climbing the Mountain of Leadership Productivity

Whether you are transitioning into a leadership position as a new manager, new to a company, or changing roles, here is a guide with some practical steps to help you plan how to be productive and effective in your first 90 days.

Jared Jordan Evernote, Sr. Engineering Manager

Lunch - Planning for October

One of the challenges of leadership is in developing connections with other leaders to both teach and learn from. Our challenge to you is to make one connection today. Meet one person to follow up with in October. What could they help you with? What have you recently levelled up in that might help them? Pro-tip: Not the person you came with :)

You! Brilliant Engineering Manager @ Calibrate


Engineering Management Anti-Patterns

Engineering management uses a totally different skill set from being an individual contributor or technical leader. All too often, engineers are promoted into management with little training, and left to learn from their mistakes. But no more! Now you can learn from someone else’s mistakes! Learn the anti-patterns to watch out for as you tackle this new challenge

Rod Begbie Dropbox, Engineering Manager

Tripling Down without Losing Control: Rapidly Scaling the Engineering Team at Reddit

As of 2017, Reddit has 300 million monthly visitors, ranking #4 most visited web-site in US and #8 in the world. This kind of tremendous traffic takes some serious engineering efforts that have had to scale with the site's growing popularity. Nick will discuss his engineering team's approach to agile development as they scaled from 40 to 120 engineers. He will walk you through their engineering work flow, use of tools like JIRA and Tableau, discuss meeting rhythms, an and cover the must-have cultural elements of a successful team that work at every point of scale.

Nick Caldwell Reddit, VP of Engineering

Navigating Difficult Conversations

High performing engineers are rewarded with opportunities to become managers. Initially many new managers rely more on their technical chops - it's what they're used to, however, it’s the people skills that are essential now. In this talk Shivani will talk about the array of difficult conversations a new manager will encounter, and what she’s learned so that others may fare better.

Shivani Sharma Slack, Senior Engineering Manager


Daydream Believer

The term "B players" is used to describe engineers who are barely meeting the bar and not meeting their potential. Here's a secret: there are no B players -- only people working at a B level. Michael talks about how to identify people who could use a boost, how to find what dreams they have, and use that to help them reach their dream potential.

Michael Ruggiero Twilio, Sr. Engineering Manager

Winning at Growth Conversations

As a manager, you'll be approached repeatedly by direct reports, asking about promotions, raises, and title changes. Many managers respond with fear, anger, or dread, because they're not sure what to do. In this talk, I'll give you frameworks and tools to better navigate these conversations, and to turn them into opportunities for learning, growth, and connection.

Marcy Swenson Startup Happiness, Executive Coach

Happy Hour


Calibrate will be held on Friday, September 29, 2017 in San Francisco, at the Terra Gallery

Terra Gallery, 511 Harrison St., San Francisco

Request Invite

Thank you for your interest! Calibrate 2017 is now sold out.

Updates and information can be found in #calibrate on the Rands Leadership Slack and at @calibratesf on Twitter.

We’ll share videos and speaker decks about a month or so after the event, available on the Sharethrough YouTube channel and respectively.