Managing: Do You Have What It Takes?

People can be difficult to work with.  They all have different personalities you have to account for, different likes, dislikes, and abilities.  Those of us who are assigned the task of keeping track of all this in a team and making sure they do their jobs are called managers. I have major respect for those of us who can do it well.  It takes a lot of work and communication skills.  One of the problems a manager may run into though is that they may be managerially gifted, but maybe not so gifted in the actual thing they are managing.  This can cause a lot of frustration on the part of those they are managing.  This is why a lot of people have started to try and make the employees who are super good at what they do the managers.  Some of the benefits of this is that they would know exactly what to expect of their workers because they were once a worker themselves. One of the problems is that these people are likely geeks.  Some of you may ask yourselves, “Well what’s the problem with that?” I’ll tell you.  Geeks, while they typically are greatly gifted in at least one of many different areas, are mostly not gifted in leadership or social skills.  A quote commonly attributed to Bill Gates but actually originally typed out by Charles J. Sykes in his book Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write or Add is, “Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.” This is very true in today’s world where most of society is run by nerds. 

For those of us who are put into a situation like this where we have to lead geeks, there aren’t many resources. After a lot of googling, I discovered a few things that could help.  This talk by Patrick Kua at a GOTO conference in 2012 is a really great way to familiarize yourself with the way a manager should work in the development world. One of the things he mentions is keeping the respect of your employees.  He talks about spending at least 30% of your time working with them in the “battlefield”.  This helped them to keep their respect for you and listen to your opinions. 

Another resource I found was a podcast called “a geek leader”.  The one I listened to was an interview with Scoot Drake, author of The Programmer Hiring Playbook: A Crash Course in Interviewing and Hiring for Your Real-World Needs. He was a geek who was put into a leadership role early in his career and has a lot of tips on how to work with nerds. He talks a lot about hiring people but there are a lot of good tips to be found in here.  Scott Drake is a Vice President at a medical education company and has a lot of experience being the leader and working with projects in many different scenarios and levels.

I am a geek who will likely have to lead people eventually.  I am a computer information systems major with a managerial focus. I really hope that resources like these and our text book can help me to work with my fellow geeks and really understand how to lead them.  It will likely be difficult as I am not typically the type of person to lead.  I enjoy being an introvert and working on my own. I don’t have a lot of experience but I hope to start understanding how I can lead effectively.