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Living by the Code

Before You Begin

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Getting to Work

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35. An Interview with Cate Huston
Written by Enrique López-Mañas

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Cate is an Engineering Director at DuckDuckGo and an Advisor at Automattic, where she led the mobile, Jetpack, and Developer Experience teams. Cate admins the New-(ish) Manager Slack and writes regularly for Quartz. You can find her on Twitter at @catehstn and at

Cate has lived and worked in the UK, Australia, Canada, China, Colombia and the United States, as Director of Mobile Engineering at Ride, an engineer at Google, an Extreme Blue intern at IBM, and a ski instructor. Cate built Show & Hide (available on iTunes), and speaks internationally on mobile development and tech culture. Her writing has been published on sites as varied as Be Leaderly, Lifehacker, The Daily Beast, The Eloquent Woman and Model View Culture. She is an advisor at Glowforge.

Connect with Cate

Twitter: @catehstn

Websites: and


You recently wrote a post on your blog Accidentally in Code, “Answer These 10 Questions to Understand if You Are a Good Manager.” What makes a person a good manager? Can a good leader be made or must it come naturally?

I definitely think good leaders are made. What we think of as “natural” leadership is often really charisma, which again, can be learned—the book The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane is a good start. The biggest things I look for in a leader are self-awareness and humility. These two characteristics open people up to admitting and learning from their own mistakes, which makes them very coachable—the effort you expend on coachable people is always multiplied. Humility means you have these conversations with the person, not their ego. It’s much more effective and much less exhausting.

How do you keep a team productive, happy and consistently delivering?

These things go together. Developers like to ship, and not shipping will create a level of angst that no amount of perks or team-building exercises will compensate for.

How do you define “a successful career”? Are there any strategic shortcuts or optimizations people can make to get there faster?

I think a successful career is one where you feel you’re operating from a place of strength in an environment where you feel valued. I think the best optimization is to be a decent human being and show up for other people. This doesn’t always pay off in the short term, but it does in the long term in the form of trust, people looking out for you, wanting to work with you, and forgiving you for your mistakes—we all make them!

Cate’s Recommendations

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