Being Glue — No Idea Blog


Being Glue originated as a comment on an internal Google+ post when I worked at Google. I’d used the expression “glue work” in passing, and someone asked what I meant by it. The reply became a standalone post and then an internal document.

A couple of years later, I proposed it as a talk for Write/Speak/Code NYC. I’d left Google by then and wasn’t at all sure it would resonate with folks in other companies. Apparently it did :-)

I’ve given this talk at a bunch of other places. Check out my talks page, or mail me if you want it at a meetup or company near you.

Talk Abstract:

Your job title says "software engineer", but you seem to spend most of your time in meetings. You'd like to have time to code, but nobody else is onboarding the junior engineers, updating the roadmap, talking to the users, noticing the things that got dropped, asking questions on design documents, and making sure that everyone's going roughly in the same direction. If you stop doing those things, the team won't be as successful. But now someone's suggesting that you might be happier in a less technical role. If this describes you, congratulations: you're the glue. If it's not, have you thought about who is filling this role on your team?

Every senior person in an organisation should be aware of the less glamorous - and often less-promotable - work that needs to happen to make a team successful. Managed deliberately, glue work demonstrates and builds strong technical leadership skills. Left unconscious, it can be career limiting. It can push people into less technical roles and even out of the industry.

Let's talk about how to allocate glue work deliberately, frame it usefully and make sure that everyone is choosing a career path they actually want to be on.

Slides: