Resetting a programmer’s expertise when promoted to a manager

    We decided to continue our discussions on how people grow and do not grow , which were raised in the previous video, and talk about promotion as managers as one of the branches of career development.

    No one loves irreversible solutions. Press the button and send, rush in and tell everyone, ask something, after which you have to either get married or leave for another city - all these are unpleasant moments, due to your uncertainty: “What if something goes wrong”.

    And what if something goes wrong

    If we are talking about career issues, changing positions, moving from a zone where you know everything and know how to a zone where, for objective reasons, it won’t work out, many of us put off such a decision in every way and put it on until later.

    What to do if the programmer wants to become a manager and is afraid to lose / zero his technological expertise, and we will understand. With examples, algorithms and conclusions.

    Since 2004, an IT career curve has brought me to positions related to the selection of software testers and programmers. At first, these were team lead positions with the task of interviewing engineers for 5-6 projects of our office. Then the director of our office began to include me in the team that interviewed analysts and project managers. I had to deal with how interviews were generally conducted and how to clarify experience not only in technical fields, but also in managerial ones. When the first ten people hired after my interviews successfully passed the probationary period, the chief gave me the opportunity to decide whether or not to hire people in the company.

    After about six months, I came across a funny situation when people whom I interviewed and hired began to come to me with questions about salaries, growth in the company, and sometimes with offers from other companies (there was such a case). Not being their direct manager, at first I tried to brush aside these tasks, because I had enough of my work, but then I went to consult with HRs and my boss at that time of a very grown office, and I also spoke separately with managers, whose employees for some reason they came with their problems and questions not to them, but to me.

    Since people didn’t rush out of the company after our conversations, and some even received well-deserved transitions to the next positions, the project managers led by the boss agreed in unison that now, in addition to my duties as team leader, I will also support the development of the “technological resource pool” (I don’t like this terminology before gnashing of teeth, but you won’t throw words out of a song) answer. I will not say that I, the database administrator, a little programmer, tester and analyst smiled to become a resource manager. If earlier I interviewed people and took the opportunity to select the best Jedi for my team, seeing all the candidates, then at first I accepted the idea of ​​making me half a human relations manager without much joy. But once it came, I had to put it on more or less regular tracks and I’ll say

    Problems of people

    With what questions people did not start to come when the “official vest” of 120 kg of live weight appeared in the company!

    To be honest, I did not expect that the world around technical problems is so diverse. Let me explain, in my head everything is just square: I came to work - work. If something is bothering you and you haven’t done it yourself, go to the one who will ask you for this task. If you want something and don’t know where to get it (money, for example) - ask. I was taught that way. And it worked with my 10-12 previous bosses and managers.

    It turned out that life is richer and people have much more problems. And the fact that I just walked and discussed with a chef over a smoke is for many a TASK that needs to be PREPARED and braced. It’s necessary to plan it, to calculate how the conversation will go, and suddenly the boss will be out of sorts and upon my justified request “Give me money” will turn to me the cynical side of the business and will viciously answer “No” and that’s all, the collapse of all hopes, the career is ruined, the chef does not love me, the delicate mental organization of the programmer is broken forever and the fragile beautiful world is destroyed.

    It didn’t fit into my fragile mind, but if the world has such a structure in people’s mind, something needs to be done. Here, by the way, the details of people's love for me were revealed: that is why they came to talk to me, and not immediately to the authorities - I will not fire and I will not harbor evil, I’m not the boss. And I already rolled my lip - this is how awesome and cool I am that in 2 hours of the interview I leave indelible traces of kindness and cordiality in the hearts of people. Aw, nevermind there.

    Purely communication problems (“How to ask not to be sent?” Or “Why do we start such conversations?”) Often imposed that people were simply afraid. They were not even afraid of dismissal - try to frighten a modern IT employee with dismissal when work goes after you. They were afraid of the experiment of switching to managers because they were sure:while I will try and experiment there, my technological expertise and experience will become obsolete, depreciate, and I will not be able to return . And we, human people, do not like any irreversible actions and decisions. Or decisions that seem to us as such.

    It's time for night tales

    I had a “client” for a similar “career consultation” from a neighboring department: Dima, a programmer, 6 years as a senior programmer with longing in my heart towards management. Moreover, even during the interview, he clearly did not indicate his desire for managers, and when he had already wandered off and joined the team, he came to talk to me along the beaten path by his predecessors.

    The request sounded like this: well, I will move to the managers, and if it does not work? Where will I come back later? Downgrading to your own team? Firstly, in my place after leaving, most likely, we will already hire someone. And secondly, if I will be promoted to lead me from this team, then I definitely won’t return back there if it doesn’t work out with the manager. And if it doesn’t work out at all, then, as it were, you would look at all and not get fired for the project piercing. This is not a bug in production, it is already customers, terms, people, money. Brrrr, I don’t even want to think, in a word.

    And yearning, meanwhile, does not disappear. That is, a person goes to work and encodes the code, but the thought “I would be in charge” doesn’t let go, plus he feeds on his wife at home: “You’re smart and so well done, why don’t they appreciate you there, finally?” .

    The situation was a little complicated by the fact that Dima’s direct boss physically worked in another city, where he was also part of the team, and, according to Dima, he should have already had someone ready for a managerial position next to him.

    Dima and I got 3 meetings, before he clearly formulated the goal “I want to be a manager” and then we quickly wrote in a notebook (and I was taught to write in a notebook), what exactly stopped Dima from just going to the boss and this business to voice:
    1. Where to start a conversation is not clear. Meetings 1: 1 seem to be there, but so far Dima cheerfully reported all the questions of the boss that “Everything is in order” and went on to dig his bed further.
    2. What to do if the chef refuses is also unclear. To quit normal work, because we didn’t agree, I wouldn’t want to ... let's just say, I didn’t want to go to the managers so much to go into such an incomprehensible conversation with a probability of failure above zero.
    3. What to do if the chef agrees is also not clear: because it can work out with management, or maybe not.

    The steps that we came up with were the following: We

    divided the task into two: make an appointment on this topic and go talk (oddly enough, but individually it’s easier than one big task “Go to the boss and solve the problem with the position ")
    1. Waited for the boss to arrive on the next monthly business trip
    2. Dimin chef himself tried with all the key employees, to whom Dima belonged, to meet 1: 1 at least once a month during these visits
    3. They asked for this meeting to allocate an hour more time to talk about career opportunities (a separate song, as we both wrote this unfortunate letter in 2 paragraphs of the text and how I gathered with Dima’s forces to press the SEND button)
    4. I went with him to talk with the chef. It looked stupid enough, I must admit. I am big, fat, handsome, smart and Dima, the same forehead, under 190 cm tall, we are walking along the corridor of the clinic before vaccination, to a pre-scheduled meeting with his boss.

    We figured out why in this conversation I: referring to the fact that we have an idea: to recruit completely juniors for development, and now, maybe, Dima would like to raise and develop them and whether it is possible to somehow combine this so that Dima can to raise something, for example, to managers. Dimin chef quickly discarded this topic, explaining that they sell to the customer only the middle and the Sinier level of programmers. Since I had no task in convincing anyone in this idea, I also deftly agreed that, probably yes, the topic was crude and not very worked out.

    Further, Dimin’s chief directly asked if Dima would like to move into managers at all (a smart man, by the way, would not be surprised if he understood our entire “strategic plan” and calculated everything) and explained that they had a rather large project and in theory this is a possible option if Dima himself is ready in this direction to actively move his buttocks. Actively stirring Dima and doing it actively Dima agreed without even hearing what exactly would have to be done, because now a small miracle was happening before his eyes: the great and terrible Manager Dima agreed that raising Dima was actually possible.

    Having listened to Dima’s fears about “What if he doesn’t do it” , Dima’s manager thought about it like we did before, and the three of us started twirling the options.

    What solution did we come up with:

    We decided that the chief Dimin plans a business trip to the States for the next 2 months to the customer and at this time sets Dima to steer the project without a formal increase: that is, 2 months or earlier if the trip ends earlier (read “if it becomes clear that Dima is not pulls "), the boss will return and if everything is OK and 2 interim releases come out on time and without fakap, then:
    1. A small subcommand stands out for Dima: 2-3 people, maybe these will be the people for whom Dima was now a team leader
    2. This team is allocated a separate piece of the project, which will be planned and conducted entirely by Dima
    3. Dima can recruit new people into it, not only programmers, but also testers, and in the next 4-6 months a dedicated analyst, if the project is delivered to the customer within the currently agreed time frame
    4. Thus, Dima is allocated a team with the full right of hiring and dismissal, the process of planning and controlling the implementation of all tasks for the new project is transferred, and the task is to establish the process of delivery and integration of the next version of the product with the customer

    Dima came out of the meeting room with faith in humanity and was very pleased with his life. To be honest, for such moments when an adult and smart person solves a problem for himself that personally concerned him with an unsolvable one, over time I fell in love with conducting trainings and working with people.

    Pros and cons of this solution:

    1. The solution is not scalable: that is, for everyone in this team it is not applicable, but on the other hand, not everyone wants to become managers and not everyone is ready to promote these positions
    2. The solution may not work for all types of bosses and for all projects
    3. Not everywhere, the chef is ready to meet in principle (and we will somehow separately discuss what needs to be done BEFORE, how to talk with the authorities about the promotion)
    4. Not everywhere projects allow you to allocate subcommands for new managers. Perhaps this is an occasion to discuss which teams we choose in terms of building a professional career.

    1. The ability to roll back painlessly to the current state, where Dima confidently solves current problems
    2. In the case of a “rollback” due to sudden fakaps, Dima’s reputation does not suffer, which removes the main risk, what to do if Dima doesn’t pull - for all, he simply took on the task to help his boss while he was on a business trip and the responsibility was still on the current manager
    3. This is a fairly practical solution, that is, both Dima’s manager and Dima himself do not speculatively decide that Dima will pull the manager’s position, but in reality and in practice look at what and how Dima does in a new position BEFORE the real transition

    Why was all this

    What I wanted to emphasize: the scheme of transition to managers is often perceived by programmers as irrevocable, and possibly leading to a loss of technological expertise. Dividing the task into “try within the pilot project without increasing” and “transfer to managers if the pilot project shows that everything is OK,” we solve this issue: in a few months the technological expertise and experience do not have time to disappear , but try and look at yourself in the position of manager is quite possible.

    I tried this scheme with a pilot appointment without a formal change of position several times in other companies. In only one case, the scheme did not work, but this was normally accepted by both the authorities and the programmer himself, who wanted to become a manager: he realized that he was closer to developing architects and stayed working for a long time in the company.

    If you are currently working as an engineer, are thinking of moving to managers and you have similar questions, then you can start a conversation about this scheme.

    If you are currently leading a team, now you have something to think about before your Dima comes to you :)

    If everything is fine (crossed out) and you don’t want to move into managers, we hope that we entertained you with a short story from a real one of life.

    What other problems did I encounter during the time when I worked with people during the transition from engineering to managerial positions and how they were solved, I will try to tell in the following materials if the topic turns out to be interesting.

    Glory Pankratov
    Stratoplan School of Managers

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