One of the things I most appreciate about my work is the chance to invest in other people. This manifests in a variety of ways, but helping folks to do their best work in a sane and enjoyable environment is a large part of that. I strive to be a servant leader, am a big fan of SMART goals, and read Michael Lopp regularly.
I also find that Technical Managers tend to work best with technical teams when they themselves continue to do some technical work. Thus, even when managing full-time, I still embed myself on project teams or, when circumstances don’t allow, keep development side projects going.
Here are a few of the things I’ve done as a manager that I’m particularly glad to have been able to implement:
- Internship Program: while managing in Mutual Mobile’s iOS department, initiated and organized a summer internship program for college students. This program later expanded to other departments, for which I acted as a coordinator and consultant as well.
- Ambassadorship: I’ve spoken at several conferences, engaged with local development communities, represented my companies at University career fairs, and launched and ran the VR Beyond Gaming meetup, which was an important part of helping Mutual Mobile to become a recognized name in XR development in Austin and beyond.
- Managing Difficult Transitions: At one point at Mutual Mobile, we lost the other Associate Director serving alongside me, leaving me with 30 direct reports. I was able to take care of that team with a high degree of employee happiness for about half a year until we were able to get our manager/employee ratio back to something more sustainable. (This was, however, one time when I put aside my technical work, as the management definitely needed all of my attention.)
- Agile Implementation: at Texas State University, I led my team in its transition from a waterfall model to Agile, first using Extreme Programming, and then later a modified SCRUM model. (Pair Programming was not embraced enthusiastically by my team of introverts, so SCRUM seemed a better fit.)
- 20% Time: following Google’s lead, I implemented a 20% time policy on my team at Texas State. Team members could use this time to explore technologies and pursue projects that they thought would be valuable, on the sole condition that they share their work with the rest of the team. Fruits of this initiative ultimately included the University’s Mobile App, an event calendaring system, and a transition from the original crotchety and unpopular CMS software to a Magnolia-based implementation that eventually became home to several hundred websites across the University.