My experience as a GitLab Hero in Developer Director Shadow Program

As a GitLab Hero, I was thrilled to hear about the company’s Developer Director Shadow Program. This was probably the first time that Wayne got permission to allow people outside GitLab to participate in the program who meet the criteria, where one can shadow Wayne for a week or so and see how a day in a life of an Engineering Director goes at GitLab. I knew that it would be a unique opportunity to work closely with a Director of Engineering at GitLab and learn about their role in the organization.

How I applied for the Program

I saw Wayne’s post about the program now being open for underrepresented groups, GitLab open-source community contributors, and those who are between jobs. I immediately opened the link to learn more about the program.

I contacted Wayne and expressed my interest in shadowing him for a week. We scheduled a call to discuss the program, and he asked me about my motivation to participate in the program and what I hoped to gain from it. During the call, Wayne asked me if I would be able to attend his meetings, which were generally held between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM in Atlanta (UTC-4), where he was based. I assured him that I was more than willing to attend meetings at odd hours since I was based in India (UTC+5.5) and would do anything to make the most of this opportunity, and he was happy to accept me to shadow him for that week.

As a non-GitLab participant, I had to sign a Non-disclosure agreement to ensure the company’s confidentiality. Wayne also asked me to generate a merge request to add myself to the shadow’s page. After completing the required formalities, I was ready to start my shadowing week.

Start of the Program

Before the shadowing week began, Wayne and I scheduled a meeting to discuss my goals and expectations for the program. We talked about my areas of interest and expertise, and he provided me with guidance on what I should be focusing on during the shadow week. This meeting was a great way to set clear expectations for the program and to ensure that I was prepared for the experience. We also decided to start my shadowing week from November 14, 2022. Wayne also shared his weekly schedule with me, including his meetings with team members, other engineering leaders, and his 1:1 meetings. He also shared a Google Doc with me to take notes during our sessions, which was extremely helpful in keeping track of my observations and feedback.

The shadowing week started with Wayne adding me to the GitLab Developer Director Shadow Program Slack channel, where he shared the merge requests, issues, and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) he was currently working on and asked for my opinion. I was able to provide my feedback and offer suggestions, which was an excellent way to learn more about the day-to-day operations at GitLab.

Throughout the shadowing week, Wayne included me in most of his meetings, including his 1:1s with team members. This allowed me to observe how he led the team and made decisions. Wayne always encouraged me to ask questions and provided valuable feedback on my observations.

At the end of the shadowing week, Wayne and I had a final Zoom call to discuss my experience and any feedback he had for me. We discussed my observations, what I learned, and how I could apply my newfound knowledge to my own work. Wayne also provided me with valuable feedback on my performance during the shadowing week, highlighting areas where I excelled and areas where I could improve.

Some highlights from the program

  • One of the highlights of the program was meeting and interacting with the GitLab team members. Wayne introduced me to his team members in every meeting, which was a great way to meet new people who work on GitLab full-time. I was able to share my experiences with the GitLab contribution journey and the GitLab Heroes Program with them, and they were interested in learning more about it.
  • Wayne was an excellent mentor and teacher, and I learned a lot from him during the shadowing week. I got to see how he led his team, made decisions, and tackled challenging problems.
  • Being included in meetings: I was worried I might feel left out or disconnected from the team. But Wayne made a special effort to include me in meetings and discussions, and he encouraged me to ask questions and provide feedback. It was a great way to feel included and engaged with the team.
  • Seeing the inner workings of GitLab: As an open-source contributor, I had some understanding of how GitLab worked. But during the shadowing week, I got to see the inner workings of the company, how teams collaborate, and how the company operates at scale.


Overall, my experience in the Developer Director Shadow Program was incredibly valuable as both a college student and a GitLab Hero. It is a unique opportunity for individuals to learn about the inner workings of an Engineering Director’s role and how they manage their teams to achieve the company’s objectives. As a GitLab Hero, I was able to experience this program firsthand and it was an incredible learning experience.