Rob Cook

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Thoughts on management


I've spent the past year-ish in a hybrid role - half developer, half manager. As I'm due to return to development full time, I thought it was a good time to reflect on what management has been like as a self professed techie.

Management is hard

Believe it or not, management is hard. It requires its own set of skills, distinct from the technical knowledge required for the role. From the outside looking in, the job can look like nothing more than telling others what to do next. Far from it, there are numerous demands on your time, and staff expecting to know what to work on next is just one of them.

Context switching

Development work requires prolonged periods of focus, and the costs of context switching are well observed. Management on the other hand can be nothing but context switching! This different style of working was hard to adjust too, and never really felt comfortable. Being able to bounce from one project's demands to another is a juggling act that requires deft skill to perform well.

Furthermore, keeping track of all the tasks on the go can be difficult. Technical work can leverage Kanban or Scrum to keep track of tasks; management requires tracking meetings, requirements discovery calls, staff issues, and a host of other things alongside the technical. Simply tracking it all can be daunting and time consuming.

Point of contact

As a developer you can often hide behind the code. Sure you may speak to customers at times, but its usually in the context of something technical. Managers quickly become a point of contact for all sorts of customers, both internal and external. You had better like people time, else the job will become trying very quickly.

On the subject of people, management is all about it. How to keep them happy, working, and on side. Simply taking care of the technical details and crossing fingers for the rest doesn't work. Regular one-to-one's with your staff are highly recommended. As is regular customer contact, and managing expectations.

Final thoughts

It's been an interesting year. Definitely stressful, but also rewarding. Seeing staff progress and develop is a plus point of the role. I'm glad I had the opportunity to take on the management side of the job, but I'm happy to be returning to a full time technical role.