The middles: The managers who somehow ended up there.

P. Kim Bui
3 min readJan 11, 2017

Since the end of 2016, thoughts on leadership have been rolling around my head. I was lucky enough to be part of the inaugural class of Poynter-NABJ’s Leadership Academy for Diversity in Digital Media, alongside some amazing people, in December, around the time I was really starting to feel the crunch from freelancing while considering my options. Several of us were “in transition” as we kindly called ourselves (read: laid off or forced to leave a job).

As part of that, and other discussions, I got feedback on who people saw me as, what my strengths were, etc. This is what I’ve decided to do with that because I have a feeling others have heard this.

  • You’ve made so many risks with your career intentionally
  • You’re a sounding board who needs to suffer fewer fools
  • You lead, now you just need to learn the day-to-day of managing
  • There’s a large group of of you in leadership roles already, but need support

We’re “the Middles.”

The group of people who came up during turbulent times (in our industry, in our nation). A time of innovation, technology and a lot of indecision from the people above us.

We decided to create “horizontal loyalty” and mentor ourselves because there was no one who had done this before. There were no benchmarks, no people who had done this before. We were it, because of luck or talent, it doesn’t matter, but we ended up there.

We made the best of it, secretly filled with anxiety and imposter syndrome, we forged ahead and survived.

Somehow, we get to leadership positions. We might have job-hopped our way there, gotten promoted into it, stumbled into a small company that grew and we grew up with it — however it happened, we’re here. We think. In private conversations with other “middles” we all admit we have no idea what the fuck we are doing. There is no template for this place. These companies, these jobs, these challenges, they didn’t exist before.

You could say the same about other groups, but the world is also moving faster. Failure has become cool, so we fail fast, in public, with blog posts, because branding matters.

For my part, I’m just now reconciling with being part of this group and understanding that no, it’s not likely I’ll have a female, minority mentor who I have weekly meetings with but small moments of mentoring that add up.

I must learn to slow down, to think things out. To let go.

I thought I was mean, and seen as tough and even rude to people under me. It turns out, people think I’m pretty nice, and radical candor should be my new thing.

Here’s the thing

Part of what I want to do for 2017 is pick fewer projects and sticking with them.

I want to do something for “The Middles.” Right now, that idea is to have a newsletter that I can share things I’ve heard and learned with other “middles” and give a place for people to give support. Job leads, tips on managing, thoughts from other middles, recommendations.

Will you subscribe?

(Also posted on Linkage+)

P. Kim Bui

Social + Reporting + Journalism for NowThisNews. Co-founder #wjchat. Is almost always freezing.