10: Skills for a career in tech leadership

If a junior developer is looking at the fork in a technology career path of software engineering or management, what kinds of skills do they need for the leadership side?

Notes
  • Don is working on a communications tool for Construction Specialties & Design
  • Randy was recently hired as a Fractional CTO for a startup
  • A question in an external discussion was posed: Why are there so few good managers in technology?
  • Enova, a financial firm based out of Chicago, has created clear engineering and leadership paths for their technology team
  • Empathy is a clear requirement for good leadership
  • "Constantly put yourself in other people's shoes. If you can think about someone else or their situation removed from yourself, that's what you're aiming for."
  • Empathy for both the people working under you and those other people above your, or clients, is all important.
  • Understanding stakeholders is another big step to move up the ladder
  • Understand their motivations and their needs. Different judgement metrics are put upon different roles and your ability to help your manager meet those metrics can move you up the ladder.
  • Be able to shape-shift depending on various situations.
  • Junior developers are not privvy to meetings where other stakeholders are involved. How does someone shut out of the meetings get in front of different stakeholders?
  • Start with whom you are connected to, to your close manager. Eventually, more responsibility will come your way.
  • It's a little about hustle, as well. Find out what your best traits are and work doubly hard at those skills for the team.
  • Get out of the office and meet the different stakeholders that you don't have access to at your current job.
  • Go to meetups that don't necessarily include the same exact people as yourself.
  • Meet startup founders, executives, managers, designers, etc that you'll need to work with down the road.
  • Teaching people that are greener than yourself at a particular skill will open up your experience with people that you'll need to manage or teach in the future.
  • Get to know users, the problems they face, the tech they use, which are closer to the client or userbase of other products or firms.
  • Most people at meetups are also introverts. You can be as quiet as you want until you get comfortable.
  • Understanding yourself, your anxieties, how your energy with other people work, how other people respond to you.
  • Knowing where you fit on the extrovert, introvert spectrum is very helpful for knowing how you can work better with other people.
  • Staying calm in a frantic situation can sometimes be perceived as "not caring" rather than "I'm taking care of this problem"
  • Mark Richt was at the University of Georgia for fifteen years and was frequently criticized for his lack of reaction during game losses.
  • Technical leaders move up the ladder faster because they have excellent people working for them. It's not only a product of managing people well, but bring
  • Outsourcing the hiring process to Human Resources or recruiters is the first point of failure
  • Recruiting is the lifeblood of your team's talent and productivity
  • It is upon every person moving up the ladder to understand the hiring process and take ownership of adding better people to their teams.
  • Understand what it costs to get good people
  • Talk to recruiters about how they go about their jobs
  • Understand how your company brings people into interviews
  • Finding good people will set the tone of productivity for your teams and it's imperative for you to own the process of doing that
  • Getting to understand the variety of other personalities out there helps learn about the variety of folks you need to manage
  • Two other areas for another episode: Project management for developers and project management for managers
  • Training and teaching are extremely important for a management role where the labor market is tight. Growing a team and teaching green to great is important for technical leadership roles.
Recommendations
  • Don recommends a blog post on Medium by Paul Robinson, The Problems of the CTO Role, which talks about the CTO job, how people got into the job and the ways in which it is broken
  • Randy recommends the SimpleNote app and service
Closing

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