Interviews / Software Engineers & Developers

Balancing the Grind with Bradley Shawyer, Head of Engineering at Linktree

Bradley Shawyer is the Head of Engineering at Linktree, a Melbourne-based start-up helping brands and creators connect audiences to all of their content with one link.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I started my career in computer programming while studying Sonic Arts at university. There, I toyed around with visual programming tools like Pure Data and Max MSP and eventually progressed into platforms like Open Frameworks and SuperCollider. 

After graduating, I started developing websites and ticketing applications for friends in the music industry and found my way through a few consulting and agency roles before joining Bolster, the digital agency which Linktree sprung out of, and eventually transitioned to my role as Head of Engineering at Linktree today.

It’s been an incredible journey. On my first day at Linktree, we had approximately 28,000 users and the site would go down multiple times a day. Fast forward four years… our team has grown 40x and we have more than 14 million global users.

My role as Head of Engineering revolves around technical strategy and how that can continue to enable growth at Linktree, both in the product and for our teams. I work closely with engineers and managers to build appropriate pathways so that  regardless of role or seniority, everyone is empowered to do the best work of their career.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

With Linktree scaling at a rapid pace, our engineering team looks to grow  from 40 to 150 folks over the next year. A key focus for me each day is setting up strong social and technical foundations so everybody can do the best work of their careers  no matter where they are based. 

My day-to-day is largely composed of meetings, sharing any valuable context and insight with different teams, making sure everyone has a voice and the tools to do their best work, and chatting through any blockers or challenges that need addressing. 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Time and location-based flexibility are core to Linktree’s workplace culture, so changing up where and when I work is a normal part of my routine.

Last year for example, I was lucky to escape Melbourne prior to lockdown and spent some time travelling through South Australia, Kangaroo Island and the Northern Territory, working in lush locations while tethering from my phone. I have a vague recollection of joining  a company all hands from the top of Hollow Mountain in Gariwerd (The Grampians, VIC).

This approach to flexibility is hardwired within our developer culture as well. Beyond simply the freedom to organise work around our lifestyles, practices like pair programming and water-cooler hangouts ensure that each developer at Linktree is able to collaborate and create innovative solutions to problems together, without having to be in the same room.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work-life balance is about building systems and processes that ensure work is flexible enough to complement not just our lifestyles, but also our personalities and the different peaks and dips of energy we experience each day. 

Leaning on asynchronous communication where relevant and being mindful of chat literacy is a simple way for us to work towards this.

By shifting away from rapidfire DMs on tools like Slack, and being more conscious and intentional with the context we provide when communicating digitally, we can be more respectful of people’s availability and how they choose to schedule their time.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I’m constantly experimenting with new routines and habits, but there’s a few that come to top-of-mind.

We’ve recently introduced the idea of walk and talk 1:1s at Linktree, as opposed to the implicit video-call in this remote world (sometimes these are required). I’m very lucky to live near some great nature reserves and being able to get outside and talk with my team can be extremely rewarding and rejuvenating.

I’ve also finally accepted the age-old knowledge that sleep is actually actually great, and have been pretty ruthless about getting enough of the good stuff. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown really resonated with me. It explores minimalism, both in life and work. It really made me think about how I’m using my time, and if it’s really working towards the highest possible contribution for the things that really matter. 

I’m about a third of the way through Systems Leadership which is a wonderful book by Catherine G. Burke, Ian Macdonald, and Karl Stewart. The title and cover might scare you off, but they’ve written a very humane and holistic approach for working within the most beautifully complex system, people, as a leader.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Roam Research is my note-taking tool and second brain. It’s bi-directional linking enables me to think whilst writing and vice versa. I’ve made some really profound connections regarding people and the work we’re doing thanks to the way it organises information. 

I start and end my days with meditation. Headspace is my app of choice.

Finally, Alfred is a MacOS app I use to boost my own efficiency using the computer. I’ve created custom shortcuts and workflows that have cumulatively given me a lot of time back to work on the things that matter more. 

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?  

Will Larson, formerly the Head of Engineering at Stripe and currently the CTO of Calm, is someone who has taught me a wealth of information throughout my journey at Linktree. I’ve learned so much from his books about software engineering and management, I’m sure there would be plenty more gold to glean from him in regards to work-life too. 

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Balance is about enabling every pillar in our lives to have a voice. It’s about ensuring that we are not over-indexing on one thing and diminishing the other aspects of our life and self as a result.

It can feel easy to over-index on work, especially when working in a hyper-growth startup, but it’s important to remember that in order to bring our best selves to work, cultivating a balanced and whole self is critical to achieving that.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.