becoming a productive developer manager

being a manager, how to feel as productive as a high-performance software developer

When I graduated in Journalism at UFSC, I didn’t feel that my production was delivering and carrying my beliefs. I just couldn’t project myself when I read or watched my work as a reporter: was it a newspaper article or a video piece.

Looking for a change, I began to code and, right now, I’m a very happy producer since that. I love to code and I’ve been coding for 3 years since the drastic professional job-pivot decision. On the first time I saw my code running and real people interacting with it, I’ve — finally — felt that my work had a part of my real self, transpiring my beliefs and identity.

See, I am really passionate for people and social relationships. I truly believe that we should work and live among people we love, respect and care. So, right after I saw my first software running, I’ve started to search for a company to work as a software developer.

Coding for two years at the same company — a startup at Florianópolis/Brazil — I began to seek new challenges and opportunities to grow inside the job. In order to promote a better environment for the developers and designers around me, I became a manager or, as we call it at Resultados Digitais, a Team Leader.

My first assigned project was the internationalization of our main product: the Marketing Automation Platform RD Station. In a short period of time (something like 3–4 months) I had the mission to prepare our software to receive translations for two other languages: English and Spanish — since our native idiom is Brazilian Portuguese.

At that time, I had a small crew to work with: two juniors fullstack developers and an intern. We tackled the challenge and were very excited to put our software abroad and successfully got all the Ruby-On-Rails-Cloud-App RD Station translated and localized — we are talking about timezones here!

Besides the great achievement, on the process to leave a full-time coding routine and became a Team Leader, I bumped on a few blocks along the way. It happened that one of those blocks was annoying me at the level that I started to questioning myself if I was doing a great job: I just felt terribly unproductive as a leader.

"How did you feel unproductive if you had 3 other people to manage and were successfully deploying continuous delivering software to production everyday?"
— someone could ask.

I can explain.

When I was a fullstack developer, my tasks used to be very clear: when I have a problem assigned to me, my mission is to solve it with the most beautiful and quality assurance code I can pump out of my fingers.

On the good days, I was capable of accomplish two or more of those tasks and I went home feeling very proud — and extremely productive. At that time, my production was easy to follow up with and I could literally watch all my SCRUM cards flowing from TO-DO to DONE columns.

On the other hand, when I became a Team Leader, a major part of my tasks were not more on SCRUM cards and I was unable to really observe — and measure — my output.

I was making daily tactic-strategic decisions, going to a lot of meaningful meetings, doing one-on-one meetings every week with each of my collaborators and yet, at the end of the day, I can’t measure how much I’ve worked and contributed to my peers.

Seeking for solutions, I’ve tried to use some of those time hacks on Google Calendar. You know, block some windows, try to divide your day in boxes of similar activities in order to create focus and discipline. As you could imagine, it wasn’t work for me.

Daily activities and tasks almost never fit on colored timeboxes

To solve this excruciating problem, I turned to an old friend

As a journalism bachelor and a design enthusiast, I’ve developed a strong and very close relationship with any sort of paper, pencils and ink-pens. Shortly, I really like to put down thoughts on paper.

You see what was coming: In order to be able to feel my productivity, I just had to bring those old passion to my day-to-day activities as a software developer leader. So then I started to put every activity I was doing — or planning to do — on paper or, more often, on neon-green post-its.

The turning point to me was really get rid of any kind of fancy tech tool (Calendar, Wunderlist, Todoist, etc) and focus on what was more important: the task itself. So, whenever a new task pops up on my mind, I write it right down on a color piece of paper and order it below my main monitor respecting the priorities of each one.

The analogic method also helps on prioritization dilemmas. When one of those super-urgent tasks appears in front of me, I just had to write it down and compare to my already queued activities and, then, elect which of those I can make a switch move considering the newborn task.

Finally, the final stage of every glowing post-it is to land softly on a white piece of paper, labeled with the current day of work.

I’ve just finished my first paper-batch month and I feel so proud of each post-it and paper annotation.

Daily, weekly or monthly, whenever I take my notes and see what I’ve been doing, I rescue that old good feeling of being productivity.

This sensation gives me the necessary boost to reinforce that I made a great decision when I’ve decided to leave behind a formal career on Journalism, start to code and, after that, to proudly lead others developers in order to deliver a high-quality and user-focused software.

Share with me your exciting experiences as a productive Jedi — or padawan — on the comments below! ❤