The Colorful and Gray World of Engineering Management

Embark with me on my journey through the colorful situations & challenges and the (gray) ambiguity of management in the software industry.

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  • Blog Post: Don't Show Me Your Ugly Duck Feet!

    Picture this, it's a nice warm summer day and you are relaxing next to a lake. There is no breeze in the air so the surface of the water is very still and you see a duck. It floats by, calm and quiet, with just a small V-shaped ripple in the water behind it. You admire its graceful nature. Doesn't it...
  • Blog Post: Are You Aware That You Lack Awareness?

    Recently I took a very interesting training class. As part of that class, we had to sit still in the room for 8 minutes with our eyes closed and become aware of sensations in our body. How hard can that be right? Yep, it was easy. I was hungry, maybe a bit tired, and eventually fairly bored with this...
  • Blog Post: Superheroes Don't Work at Corporations

    This message is for the workaholics out there, and not for those of you who barely want to get your work done, who aren’t interested in doing more than just what is asked at work, or who have a balanced lifestyle so that you are seeing many years of success within your career. This blog won’t...
  • Blog Post: Good News!

    Today I was recognized on another website that focuses specifically on Engineering Management. I'm happy to be listed as one of the top 25 Engineering Management blogs of 2012. Check it out here: www.engineering-management.net/top-engineering-management-blogs-2012 . I really enjoy writing my blog entries...
  • Blog Post: Fixing What's Not Broken

    Many engineering teams look at change as a bad thing, something that will disrupt their work. And granted, changing for the wrong reasons, or making changes for the right reasons but too many of them too quickly, can be disruptive and affect productivity. But you should also be careful about being too...
  • Blog Post: The toughest question you can ask, isn't tough enough

    One skill all engineers need to have in order to ship high quality software is the ability to ask hard questions. No matter if you are a developer, a tester, or a project manager, you need to look at each situation, line of code, architecture/design, or user scenario and determine if you and your project...
  • Blog Post: Integrity With a Dose of Confidence Part2

    My last blog was about how to act as a person with integrity, how to make sure you are thinking in terms of doing the right things for the right reasons no matter hard difficult that may be to do. Sometimes the easiest route is not the right route. As you continue to become a person of integrity, there...
  • Blog Post: Integrity With a Dose of Confidence

    Ok, I’ll say it because I know others have thought it, but I’m not sure anyone has ever admitted it. Having integrity in your role at work can be tough, very tough! Especially if you are really ambitious. First, let’s make sure we are talking about the same thing here. What I mean by...
  • Blog Post: What are your intentions?

    When it comes to determining someone's intentions, it's fairly easy to do after a few drinks and a walk back to your apartment with someone you just met at the bar. But let's not go there. :-) Knowing someone's intentions becomes much more difficult in a work setting. What if the scope of your work got...
  • Blog Post: Being Social with Me, Myself, and I

    It all started with a training class I took. We spent three days learning about better manager skills. On the last day, we had to send a letter to ourselves and put it in a self-addressed envelope. We could write about anything but we were supposed to mostly focus on what skills we wanted to practice...
  • Blog Post: I Scream, You Scream, We're All Testing!

    Scream testing is an interesting concept, not so much applied to finding defects, but instead to clean up your processes. In the engineering world, we have a habit of creating a lot of things, yet have a very difficult time retiring things, whether those things are projects, hardware, automated test...
  • Blog Post: It Takes a Village to Blow Your Nose

    I heard this saying recently and although I chuckled, I also understood it more than I wish I did. What does this statement mean to you? Does your team behave like this? Maybe this represents the managers of a team, ones who micro-manage. Or a team that needs to ask permission to get things done due...
  • Blog Post: Vision Without Action is a Daydream, Action Without Vision is a Nightmare

    Does your team have a vision? If it doesn’t, it should. I heard this saying once that really sums it up, “vision without action is a daydream, action without vision is a nightmare”. In my experience, most teams are taking action yet the team vision is non-existent. Now I wouldn’t...
  • Blog Post: Training Your Manager

    We recently did a realignment on my team due to a change of priority of projects. This was a good experience as we moved projects between QA leads so that our workload was more evenly balanced. And then we moved people around from projects that were getting less funding to those that were becoming more...
  • Blog Post: That Team Is Struggling - Great!

    Ok, you are thinking that I'm crazy. If the team is struggling, why would you want to be on it? Or lead it? Do you really want to set yourself up to deal with all the problems that need fixed? And what if they aren't fixable? Doesn't a well-established, smooth-functioning team sound like one where it...
  • Blog Post: The Observer of Perception

    Sometimes as a manager, I not only want to coach people on how to get things done at work, I'd love to be able to help them change the way they think. Early in my career, an engineering coworker used to say that it's all about "behavior modification" but I truly never understood what he meant at the...
  • Blog Post: 17 on 17

    On October 17th, I celebrate my 17th anniversary at Microsoft. If someone told me on my first day at work that I would be here for 17 years, I wouldn't have believed them. Besides marriage and family, there's not a lot else that has consistently been in my life for that long. I have new hobbies, live...
  • Blog Post: Over-functioning is Not Job Security

    You would think that under-functioning teams are bad, functioning teams are just right, and over-functioning teams are perfect. But in reality, team members who over-function can cause the team dynamic to change in a way that may not be the desired outcome. At Microsoft, we hire people who are driven...
  • Blog Post: Your boss sucks, so what should you do?

    I was recently asked about the ramifications of giving feedback about your boss. See, at Microsoft, we've become much more serious about gathering feedback and now make peer feedback part of the review process. And we continue to gather manager feedback as always. But giving feedback can be tricky and...
  • Blog Post: Present it well and they'll ask for more!

    Whether you are a manager or an engineer, everyone needs to have some competency in presenting their ideas. Presentation skills are critical in influencing others, articulating complex ideas, and addressing large groups of people. Even if you spend your days confined to your office writing code or finding...
  • Blog Post: Build It and They Will Come!...Really?

    The concept of "build it and they will come" may be a good approach for pyramids and baseball fields , but not for engineering projects. Good engineers are creative and come up with plenty of ideas about features for products and tools for better engineering practices. But what they do with these ideas...
  • Blog Post: Don't Pay the High Tax!

    There are typically two types of individuals at work, ones that are independent and ones that are not. Sound fairly simple? Sure, but what exactly are they dependent on? Their managers. There are many good, valid reasons that cause someone to be more dependent at work such as being in a new role, learning...
  • Blog Post: What would you do?

    Here's an interesting question I ask people just to see how many different and creative answers I get (especially in interviews). Let's say you are on a project with a fixed budget and a fixed due date. Assuming a waterfall software development methodology, let's say that at the point you start getting...
  • Blog Post: No Surprises!

    This is what I aim for in my teams - no surprises. That means my team members do their best to not surprise me and I also aim to not surprise them. Surprises are great when it comes to birthdays at home with family and friends. But in corporate life, there's just no room for surprises. Even something...
  • Blog Post: Play Some Interference

    Managers need to play interference in order for their engineers to stay focused and show results . Someone who is good at this will know when to give their team information and when to shelf the information for later or sometimes not at all. But it's not just about filtering information. When issues...
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