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: 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: 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: 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: If You Want It, Then You Aren't Ready For It

    Are you just dying to get promoted? How about seeing your individual engineering role turn into a lead role? Many people focus on that next step in their career, and with good reason. We all look for ways to grow and challenge ourselves. But many times, people hit a point in their careers where that...
  • 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: What are Testers Thankful For?

    When I think about all the issues my QA team has to deal with to ship projects, I wonder as we get closer to Thanksgiving what they are thankful for. What makes their jobs easier or fun? Two things come to mind. Testers are thankful when their developers produce quality builds. Getting a build that...
  • 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: Mistake or Trend?

    Sometimes there are almost too many things going on at work to keep it all straight. Is it fair to assume everyone on the team will get everything right? I say no. Many people you may only see at work, so sometimes it's easy to forget that they have lives outside of work. They have kids, hobbies, or...
  • Blog Post: Put on Your Game Face

    Do you have a game face and do you use it? Do you know what a game face is and how you can apply it to work? The dictionary definition is "the neutral or intense facial expression of a determined and serious sports player". Picture a losing basketball team coming out of the locker room after halftime...
  • Blog Post: Commitment Calibration

    At Microsoft, we set commitments regularly for all employees. These are basically goals and focus areas that are written down to help employees remember what to work on and to clarify how their work is being measured. Here are some guidelines on verbosity that help when I review others' commitments:...
  • Blog Post: Evaluating Your Employees

    As I mentioned in a previous entry, it's review time at Microsoft. I already gave my guidelines on how employees should write their comments. Now it's time for my guidelines on how managers should write their evaluations of their employees. Many guidelines from my previous post apply here. Being a manager...
  • Blog Post: Successful growth of a tester

    Many engineers, especially testers, ask me how they can grow their careers and how I know when they should be promoted. I've learned over the years that there are really three key focus areas that show that an engineer is growing. These are in addition to the standard skill set that all engineers need...
  • Blog Post: Guidelines for writing good individual review comments

    It's that time of year again at Microsoft where we get to write our reviews. I find it helpful as a manager to go over some guidelines with my team as a refresher on how to write good reviews. These are my opinions from what I've learned after doing reviews for the last 15 years. Some of these guidelines...
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