The most important job of a development manager
I had a hard week on the job, managing developers. I had one person that walked out and leave a note, without telling anyone that he was quitting. I had another person that decided to quit without talking to me about any of his issues. The third person got managed out. The problem is that they coincided in the same week and it was a lot to handle.
Managing developers is not an easy task. The very nature of the job means that they have specialized knowledge. As a result, they get identified with wanting to feel above the norm everywhere.
The problem there is with all the experience that I have, I have seen a lot. 22 years of coding, 18 years of professional, and 12 years of corporate experience is a lot. I have people that were 5 years old when I started coding questioning my decisions.
However, with all my annoyances around my role, there’s nothing else I would do instead.
As a dev manager, I deliver useful solutions to the customer. I also help to nurture and grow my team for their benefit and the benefit of the organization. To know that I helped someone to further their career while meeting a (company) goal is a great feeling.
As such, I decided to put together a few notes on what it means to me to be a dev manager and what matters.
Outcome first (purpose)
The first thing that matters is the mission. What are are we here to do? Why are we gathered here today?
The purpose of bringing developers together should stay at the front of a manager’s mind. You should know what you’re trying to lead your team to do.
The problem is that upper management doesn’t always know enough to communicate this either. At least, not in a way that they can state. Your first job then, as a dev manager is to make sure you clarify the mission. Your second job is to align it with the team.
Align the business goals
All businesses are on a mission to make money. It’s not about making cool apps or working with the latest tech. They are there to make money.
Knowing how the business makes money and the things that they have to do to get there is crucial.
The reason for knowing the goals of the business is to align the efforts of your team. No matter how big or small, you want the steps that your team is taking to lead towards the organization. After all, that is how your people get paid.
That said, you can’t only put the business first, or you’ll miss out on your most important job.
Taking care of your people
A development manager has many responsibilities, but his people is the most important.
Protect your team
Keeping the interest of your people at the core of everything takes you far. I keep the business in my head as I said before, but I keep my people in my heart.
I know, I shouldn’t take it so personally, but when you spend as much time with people, how could you not.
I care about the people on my team, and my responsibility is to take care of them first. After all, I know that if I take care of them and align them with the company goals, then everyone wins.
Grow your people
Growing your people is a selfish thing for me to do.
Yes, the people could leave and take the skills to new companies. However, here’s the thing: it’s the right thing to do, and it gives you a stronger organization.
Stronger teams ship better products, faster. Also, that the name of the job.
Lead by focus
The final thing and this is not in order, is to keep your team focused on the primary goal. Mature teams can focus on the current goals but sometimes could lose the big picture.
As a dev manager, you keep the big picture in mind. You also synchronize the individual efforts to get the best result out of the whole. It’s your job to align the group objectives, the business objectives, and the daily grind.
The being a dev manager is hard. You’re the man in the middle. Your job is to answer to upper management, and you answer to your team. Moreover, when things go wrong, it’s your fault.
However, if life has wired you for this, to be the person that brings the results to life, then you have to do it.
Also, you have to do it well. So even in the challenging weeks, when deadlines slip, and people quit, you still do the job.
You focus on the outcome, you align your team with the business goals, and you take care of your team. After all, that’s the job. Being a middleman is secondary. The primary goal is to help your team to ship products for the company.
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