Who says that just because you are a geek you would be good as a manager? Just because you know how to program, you could manage programmers?
Here are some cartoons of geeks being managers for your contemplation today:
For some reason we believe that just because we are amazing programmers, that we could efficiently lead a whole team of programmers and then be able to also work with suits. Chapter 4 of our book is dedicated to this topic and has some great insight on it.
The first part of the chapter discusses how people that have never been managers before really just aren’t going to understand how to do it well for a while. It’s one of those things you really can’t be good at until you have practiced it and done it a lot. So maybe it’s better to start managing things before a huge management career opens. You could start a lemonade stand and hire employees, or some similar venture to get experience with dealing with people that are under you. You have to learn how to make them happy, because without food and money, a lot of people get very unhappy.
The second piece of our chapter talks about how just because you might be a fantastic programmer, that doesn’t inherently mean that you’ll also be a fantastic manager of programmers. There are many other factors to being a good manager besides your knowledge. In fact, we hear many examples from Deloy on how many people who aren’t the best programmers in their companies who get the management job not because of their technical skills, but because of their far superior skills in communicating.
The third piece of our chapter discusses how new managers are never going to be ready for the transition. You have not been a manager before, so you are obviously not going to be the best manager until you’ve gained a lot of experience. Our author, Paul Glen seems to keep stressing this point a lot throughout this chapter. It’s going to take you time to become good. A lot of geeks aren’t good with patience and expect themselves to be able to fix problems or figure things out immediately.
The fourth piece of our chapter talks about how new managers really aren’t going to get much help or support during their transition. People just expect to be able to look up to a manager and have answers. They also expect anyone who has gotten into a management position to know it all, and don’t allow for grace of anyone who is still trying to learn the ropes.
The fifth piece of our chapter discusses four primary things that new managers should learn. The first of which is “Letting go of doing”: when you become a manager, you can no longer do everything that you used to be able to do. You can no longer work on all of the difficult bugs that keep you up in the middle of the night. Your job now, is to lead the team of people that fix the bugs, and the programmers. Not to do their work. The second is “Knowing what managers do”: which may seem kind of obvious, but it’s not a no-brainer to everyone. It’s something you have to focus on, and be intentional on learning what exactly you need to be doing as a manager now, that you didn’t have to do before as a programmer. The third is “Measuring managerial success”: When you step into a role as management, you can no longer just be measured on your own success, you are plunged into a world where you are not measured by your own success, you are measured by the combined success of your whole team together, as one. And finally, the fourth is “Crossing boundaries”: You can no longer stick in your own comfort zone for who you talk to, and how. You need to be open to how other people talk (such as suits) in different departments, which you might not have had to do before, because your manager did it for you.
And finally, I will conclude with a great picture of our professor, Deloy.