Interviews, Software Engineers & Developers

Balancing the Grind With Marcus Wermuth, Engineering Manager at Buffer

November 7, 2019

Marcus Wermuth is the Engineering Manager at social media management software company Buffer, where he is helping to build the mobile team and strategy.

This conversation is brought to you by HelloFresh, delivering delicious ingredients and simple recipes straight to your doorstep each week. Save 40% off your first HelloFresh box with Balance The Grind.

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

Yes totally. I come from a very technical background, and was a freelancer developing iOS and Android Applications for 5-6 years. I‘ve worked with different teams and small startups and mostly worked remotely – that means never sitting in the same office or place my clients or colleagues worked in.

Then over 4 years ago I started at Buffer as an iOS engineer. I was quite a fan of Buffer, their transparency, their culture and of course their fully distributed setup.

After roughly 1 1/2 years I fell into the roll of becoming the manager of the Mobile Team. And since then have been learning more and building more skills around management and leadership and what that means in a remote company.

As the Engineering Manager I do 1:1‘s, help build the strategy for the team and build the best and most effective team I can.

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

I wake up after at least 8 hours of sleep, normally that is around 7am but it depends when I go to sleep. I am very intentionally about this (read Why we Sleep – it changed my life).

Next thing is taking a shower and walking my dog. While I walk my dog I normally listen to an audiobook, mostly fiction, as I prefer to read non-fiction as I can take notes much easier.

After around 20 mins we are back home and it’s coffee time. I am a big coffee nerd so that time is very important, I usually brew a V60 in the morning, and the grinding sound and smell has become sort of a morning ritual.

At around 8am I have my oatmeal with coffee and start the day by catching up on things, Twitter, LinkedIn, email and other articles I wanted to check out. Until 12:30pm I have mostly heads down time, as most of team is in North America.

I answer requests, emails and document any new thoughts. After lunch with my wife at home, I spend the time either reading or doing something for my own personal brand: writing an article, working on my website, preparing a talk or similar things.

My afternoons from 3pm to 6:30pm are mostly filled with various calls, either one-to-ones with my team or other project and team meetings. After I am done with my last call, if my wife didn’t walk the dog yet, I use that to get out of the house again and catch some fresh air.

Once dinner is done, and it is a normal weekday we spend most of that time reading some kind of book. We just recently canceled Netflix and Amazon Prime to use more time together or read.

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

Great question – yes all the time. Buffer is a fully remote company, we don‘t have an office and have people in a lot of different countries and cities – from Australia to the west coast of the USA. As most of my professional work life has been spend working remotely, I can‘t see myself work in any other way.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

Be honest to oneself. Over committing is something that we tend to fall it pretty easily, especially if we like our job and care for it. I learned it the hard way, that having to many things going on at the same time is just not possible and in the long run will wear you out. Saying no to things is a skill and we all can learn it. For me it’s the secret to a great work life.

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

Something I am thinking about a lot. On one hand I am not sure if there is something as a clear line between work and life. Both things influence the other and that makes it difficult to understand or see the line in between them.

In my opinion if you do like your job it becomes even harder to see or cope with as you start to think about your passion or work also in the life part. For me work-life balance means that I have a flexible schedule to be around my family, to travel with them and to allow us to focus on life when we need to.

It also means that I do work on something that I enjoy and that I am passionate about.

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

I am not sure you could call them habits, but I think two things come to mind here. One is that I discovered writing for me. I’ve never been a fan of writing – I hated it in school – but lately I’ve been really enjoying writing more. It has helped to share more of my thoughts online and maybe even help others.

The other one is about self reflection, something I learned by becoming a manager and being very interested in psychology (my wife is a psychologist, so I am biased).

It allowed me to really look back on things and my behavior in situations where I wanted to change or improve it. I can really recommend to learn more about it, and figure out how you work – it has been super helpful.

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

That is difficult for me to answer, because there are a lot of books that I read and enjoyed! In terms of management and work I would say the following are pretty great:

  1. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  2. Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker
  3. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown
  4. Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
  5. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I always have a notebook in front of me. Normally I am a very technical person but for writing, and notes nothing beats a fountain pen and paper. It’s not so much about journaling but more so about having a place where you can park your thoughts or take a quick note.

It has become quite essential for me when preparing for meetings, or scribbling down a short reminder. All of that gets processed later into my long term note storage or my to-do app.

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

In today’s world of virtual collaboration, whether that is in a distributed team or not, we mostly chat online, or talk to avatars in video calls. I hope that we don’t forget there are humans behind those avatars and that we should care about building better relationships.

It is a topic I am very passionate about and hope to write more in the future. Feel free to reach out to me if you want to know more or just talk.

If you found the above conversation helpful and inspiring, be sure to check out Balance the Grind’s guide to achieving a healthy work-life balance.

You Might Also Like