I recall a recent dialog on one of the e-mail lists upon which I lurk, where people were hotly contesting the allegation that the manager needs to be able to do the job of the people who report to him/her in order to be a good manager. To substantiate this claim, the author cited a very well-known company, and stated that it was this practice that caused their high-quality output. This caused quite a bit of discussion, and obviously some tension on the list. The statement also turned out to be false…but I digress.
As I have been reflecting on that conversation, and thinking about some of the challenges facing me at my job today, I came to this rather startling realization: I don’t consider myself the smartest person in the room – regardless of who I am in the room with. I am sure that if any of the developers or architects that I used to work with were to hear me say this, they would double over in laughter, as I used to be one of worst of the quintessential prima-dona developers that I have known in my career.
Somewhere along the way, I realized that I can learn something from just about everyone I meet. This was an epiphany to me. As I learn more about my job, it is becoming clear to me that my role is less about technology, and more about relationships. For an old developer like myself, this is a strange realization.
So, I have finally crossed the line. I used to think of myself as a technical guru who also had some management skills. Somewhere along the line I became a good manager who also happens to have some technical skills.
While some may see this as my “Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader” story, this is really not such a bad thing. I actually enjoy managing people more than developing code – something which I never thought would happen to me. As I have been talking with several different people recently about some of my management philosophies, it has become clear to me that I am not your typical developer-turned-manager. Determining whether that is a good thing or not will be left as an exercise for the reader.