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: How Many Days Away Are You?

    Here is how a career as people manager typically plays out. You are an engineer and really good at what you do. You are an expert in a technology or a specific domain. Then you become the boss. Your main responsibility isn't to be the expert anymore. It's to manage and grow experts on your team. So as...
  • Blog Post: Sometimes At Work, We Act Like Dogs

    You can only buy loyalty if you buy a dog; otherwise loyalty has to be earned. One of the best things an engineering manager can receive from their team members is loyalty. It's not something that you should ever ask of them, but they may just give it to you anyway. When you have people that are loyal...
  • 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: It Doesn't Take Muscles to Use Your Strengths

    But it does take a manager that understands how to leverage strengths. Many managers say they do this, but I'd question if they really think this way, if "leveraging peoples' strengths" is really part of their DNA. The reason I question this is because many companies have defined roles for people to...
  • 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: 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

    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: How Important is the "How"?

    Do you know the best way to succeed in your career? To stand out in the crowd? To prove your capabilities? Well sure, that’s by showing results, a ton of results! You work long hours and stay focused on getting your deliverables done. Right? Well, have you considered the possibility that showing...
  • 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: Transformers are Leaders, not Toys!

    {EAV:fb71307c644189ca} I was recently asked ‘how do you take a team mostly focused on manual testing and turn them into a team that writes solid automation?’. And as I thought about my answer, I realized this doesn't just apply to testing, but any team that is reforming can follow these...
  • 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: 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: 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: 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...
  • Blog Post: The Tale of Two Teams

    Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a land far, far away, there were two teams, umm, I mean villages. They were run by one manager, I mean one powerful king. He didn't have many rules for his villagers, just one, "do whatever it takes to ship". For his villagers, this gave them a lot of freedoms and...
  • Blog Post: Tribal Knowledge and Engineering Don't Mix

    In many engineering teams, having tribal knowledge is normal and accepted. This is when information about a product, process, or technology owned by the team is described verbally from person to person, release after release, without writing it down. Or if it is written down, only a select group of people...
  • Blog Post: Speak up to succeed

    Speaking up in meetings seems like such an easy and somewhat insignificant task. But in fact, many people do not say a word while in meetings and never think about the ramifications of this. No matter what profession you are in within the software industry, you will find that career growth into the higher...
  • Blog Post: Don't Be Seduced by the Dark Side

    I was watching a TV show recently (no, it wasn't Star Wars) where a lead character on the show had a ton of integrity and everyone counted on her good judgment. Then within a few episodes, she got corrupted by others and her need to cover-up information continued to grow. This is taking her down a path...
  • Blog Post: No Crystal Ball Required

    One of the most challenge skills to master is long-term planning. This skill is needed for many different tasks at work, especially around project planning, budget planning, and (at a personal level) your career planning. Long-term planning is needed in order to get the most out of these exercises. In...
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