It’s so hard out there for a technology manager these days…

The biggest challenge for a new technical manager is making the jump from builder to leader. Before you were responsible for making implementation decisions in the small with clear tradeoffs, now you have larger decisions surrounded by ambiguity at every turn. In addition the technology industry is evolving so rapidly that many of the things you took for granted five or ten years ago like the handoffs between teams, long deployments and the division between dev / ops are no longer applicable. Throw in people drama and team dynamics — it can be daunting.

Here are some management principles I use in my day job to keep things running (humming is probably the wrong word):

  1. Set expectations and be convicted about it. Things change all the time and everyone recognizes that you will have to ebb and flow as the business does. What shouldn’t waver is your value system, your integrity and the expectations you set with your team on how you work together and what you want to achieve together.
  2. Empower and support. You’ve hired engineers (aka some of the smartest people on the planet), stay out of their way but help them execute at a high level by recognizing systemic barriers that are beyond their ability to impact and remove those obstacles for them.
  3. Trust but verify. Ask to see the details not just as a mechanism for validation but also to positively reinforce good behavior (e.g. those on your team that are showing up and executing at a high level). The best days on my job are not product launch dates or when we cross a major milestone but our demos when I get to see our engineers showcase their work and the craftsmanship that has gone into it.
  4. Over-communicate objectively and purposefully. Helping people understand why you are making a particular decision goes a long ways towards getting buy-in on the plan. Doing it concisely and effectively with data goes that much further.
  5. Get the feedback and then do something with it. The people who I’ve seen repeatedly fail are the ones who won’t listen to the feedback. Don’t be that person.

I have been meaning to write a blog or journal of some sort over the last few years but haven’t gotten to it for one reason or another (can I blame the kids?). With 2016 around the corner, this is my start and I expect to share my thoughts on product development, building product teams, leadership in technology, my other interests like economics (!), etc. As per #5 above, send me feedback.

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