The Engineering Leadership Podcast · Episode 84

Engineering Execution is a Strategic Weapon

with Bill Coughran & Melody Meckfessel

May 17, 2022
In this episode, Bill Coughran (Partner @ Sequoia Capital, Former SVP Engineering @ Google) and Melody Meckfessel (Co-Founder & CEO @ Observable) discuss ways to make your engineering org a strategic advantage to your company. They cover how to leverage feature/system “simplicity,” how to implement product instrumentation, when to bring in SREs, and how to balance tech debt and refactor work.
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Bill Coughran (@BillCoughran) works as a founders' coach and partner at Sequoia Capital to help build spectacular technology-centric companies. Previously, Bill was Senior Vice President of Engineering at Google with oversight of Chrome, YouTube, maps,, underlying infrastructure systems, and security.

"If a leader comes in and talks about, 'I did this and I did that' rather than talking about the teams that they worked with in the past... The reality is the work got done by others.

And so, I think it's critical for more senior people to recognize the importance of an overall team. And part of their job is to help mentor and develop people on the team.

- Bill Coughran  


Melody (@mmeckf) is the CEO / Co-founder of Observable, where she is building the future of data collaboration. She is passionate about helping humans thrive through collaboration, inclusion, and insights. Before Observable, she was a VP of Engineering at Google, leading systems with a team of 1,000+ where she created the DevOps practice for Google Cloud.

Melody was responsible for large-scale systems delivering successful outcomes for millions of users. Melody instills passion around data innovation - improving exploration and insights from data. She is an expert in tools and systems for productive teams to thrive, and that's exactly what she is bringing to the future of data collaboration on Observable.

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  • The challenge of keeping enterprise engineers close to the end-user (3:26)
  • Product instrumentation vs product intuition (8:22)
  • Why it’s critical for eng teams to interact with customers as a company scales (11:31)
  • How long should dev teams handle site reliability before bringing in dedicated SRE (12:35)
  • What attributes Bill looks for in eng leaders (18:13)
  • Why a tolerance for failure is key to innovation (22:01)
  • Should early-stage companies deal with tech debt? (24:17)
  • The value of mentor-first engineering leaders (31:15)
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