Being a manager in a tech company

There have been thousands of books written on this topic, but oddly enough I don’t think very many managers read them. I have been lucky enough to avoid poor management for the most part. The companies that I have worked for have all been associated with the same person and he has promoted a style of management that is rare in the tech industry.

What follows is a brief summary of some of the key points that I believe define the ideal management style.

As a manager you work for your people, not the other way around. It is your responsibility to make sure that they are having fun. There was a period in the 80’s when there were not enough technically trained people to fill the jobs available but that is no longer the case so be selective when you hire. Hire people who enjoy what they do and make sure you create an environment where they have fun doing it. I have seen a decline in the “fun” factor post-bubble but the benefits of a fun work place have not changed.

Being a manager does not mean that you stop working. I find that the day goes faster and my blood pressure is lower when I take time to write some code. If you allow yourself to embrace management to the point where you walk away from your education, you run the risk of getting older with no marketable skills. You worked hard to learn a skill that society values, why would you give that up?

A good manager leads through example. You should be able to do the things your employees do. Those things should be fun and if you are having fun, your employees will too.

Having fun and taking time to maintain your skills does not mean you get to ignore the fact that you are now fiscally responsible for your team. Make sure that your team delivers value and if possible measure that value. Promote your team up the management chain highlighting your contribution and noting that you pay attention to costs and return on money spent. Ideally every team should be a profit center it’s all about how you present the data.

Being a manager does not mean you have all the answers. If you are asked a question and you don’t know the answer say “I don’t know”. People will not think less of you for not knowing the answer, people will think less of you if you guess or make something up. Saying “I don’t know” does not get you off the hook. You have to followup or research the answer. It is not acceptable to have to say “I don’t know” if you are asked the same question a second time.

Managers are like every other employee in that they have to take time to learn. Everything is in motion and change is constant. In a tech company, technology is the foundation on which we build. Stay current by reading books, on-line articles, watching you-tube, talking to others, etc.

The last point that I want to touch on is perhaps the most sensitive.  You don’t always have a choice with this one but “Avoid responsibility without authority”. Responsibility without authority will lead to you not having fun, which will lead to your employees not having fun, and that generally does not end well.

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