Finally after 2 years of preparation, I am officially some kind of manager in my current company. And I want to share a bit of my first impression so far:
I have pretty much been nothing but just a developer ever since my first job. Sure there are some cases where I try to play with Sketch when there was no designers; and sure there are some cases where I take over some topics when the topic owner was on an extended break or something. But nothing series has happened so far.
And then when I got hired by my current company, somehow I got hired as an senior dev, which immediately opens the door to a lot of management opportunites/responsibilities, and after a couple of trial runs (intentional or unintentional 😅), plus some team change in recent months, it is finally time for me to officially become a team lead.
So what's new
Nothing change over night when my title got change, but that is mostly because I have been gradually taken up more and more responsibilities already in the past months. But generally speaking, that means
- Way less time coding 🧑💻
- Way more meetings 🗣️
Nowadays, I'd be lucky to be able to spend couple of hours to focus on a coding task. And so I mostly only do tickets that I know are small and take little to no time, such as some simple configuration changes.
And what's my first impression/early review so far?
SO 👏 MANY 👏 MEETINGS 👏 SO 👏 LITTLE 👏 TIME
Just to be clear: this is not necessaily a complain/rant on what I am working on at the moment, nor representative for the place that I work in. This is just my personal impression
Ok with that out of the way, let's jump into my experience: I already know that there will be million meetings, and in a lot of ways, I already have been participating in a lot of meetings for ongoing projects anyway. But being a team lead definitely takes it to yet another level, since you are now also responsible for pretty much all the (potential) future projects coming up. And just like almost every other companies I have worked on before: the apps team was build years after the web team, and we have a lot less people while the bosses are requesting/expecting the apps team to have the same output. That's life I guess 🤷🤷🤷
I can see why managers typically likes to go back to office, but I still don't think it's a good idea
It is now almost year 3 of the pandamic, and most people are already adjusted to working remotely already, and I am certainly one of them as well. Hell I even wrote a blog post about it. And after taking up a lot more of the daily tasks of a manager, I started to see some of the pain points of managing people remotely. You have probably experienced situations such as
- Don't know what to talk about and ended up talking about the weather for 15 minutes
- 10s awkward silence that feels like forever
- Awkward thumbs up and/or finger-gun
- Clearly no one is paying attention to what's happening on screen
- "Let's give you 10 minutes back" or other equally cringy way to end meetings
And it can certainly make being a manager a less enjoyable experience, not gonna lie. And in a lot of ways, working in-person can eliminate a lot of these situations, but is it actually a good idea? Cause the more I think about it, the more I feel like these are just signs for either deeper issues, or that is just the way it should be in a remote world. For example
- If 6 people sit together and have nothing to talk about but weather, maybe that's because there is a lack of a healthy and relaxing team atmosphere, and you should look into that immediately.
- If people are often silent after asking "any questions" or "any feedbacks", is it because you have already lock them in a 2hr meeting and run through every possible questions, or is it because the 2hr meeting makes no one wants to continue?
- Awkward thumbs up is actually not a bad thing and I stand by that 👍😬👍
It is not exactly easy to tell your brain to ignore all the awkwardness and silence, but as a manager, I feel like it's my job to help the team achieve more than the sum of their parts, and if that need to exclude me to achieve that, I will step aside no questions asked.
I really need to get used to making decisions on behalf of the team really quickly
Obviously not gonna go into details of what decisions have been made/needs to be made, but generally speaking, you will probably be asked to help decide what project your team will work on, or what is the timeline for certain things. And as long as you have a reasonable amount of domain knowledge, you will have to get used to providing those answers and making decisions for said answers.
The biggest reason behind this idea is that as a manager, I want to have my team members to be able to focus on what they are good at, which in most case is coding. And while it's extremely useful to loop someone in to help see if there is any red flags for upcoming projects, it can also be extremely distracting to the team. So you will need to find a balance where you can comfortably say "I decided this based on what I know, but keep in mind that once the devs got the time to look at it in details, my decision could become completely invalid". Maybe you can get each team member to chim in with 5% of their energy; or you can loop in the one member that you are trying to promote to manager to take on these additional responsibilities. No matter which way you do it, you will need to be able to make decisions and owned up to it.
Give your team members proper credits
One of the "perks" of being a manager is to got to attend a lot more meetings, often with other higher-level employees in the company, which means you are now entering the very coorporate world of communication. And especially for the highest level of employees, this is probably the only chance for them to meet with people who is still "technically" a developer, and I have definitely received a fair share of "Thank you so much Louis for making ___ happened". And this is the part where all the stereotypical bad manager stories comes in, where the boss only take credit but never the blame.
Well, don't do that 😂 It's very easy to say "In fact, I am merely delegating", or "And I want to specially shout out to ___ from our team as they are the one that actually make this happened". It takes literally 2 seconds, gives the higher up more insights of who is in your team, and this is particular important in a remote world. If the assumption from this video is correct:
Not being seen = you might as well just stop working. And as a team lead, which I feels like a big part of my job is to make sure my team get the growth they want/need/deserve/all of the above, this also means that you should make sure the people who are responsible for (or at least have influences on) promotion/salary raise knows about what your team has actually managed to achieve.
Not much will change for me in the near future (at least not that I know of). And I will keep (trying) to make my team's life easier and more enjoyable, while trying to not piss off too many bosses of other teams along the way 🤞 And if something went wrong, you will probably fine out first on Twitter 😅
And speaking job, obviously we are hiring. Currently our team has a couple of Android positions opened, and if all goes to plan we might have more on both platforms coming up. So stay tune! 👀