I would like to briefly share with you my personal story as a developer. Bare with me and you’ll also get some of the articles that have helped me take my personal growth to the next level! You can of course just scroll past my intro to just get the good stuff, I won’t take offense!
I’ve known I wanted to be a developer since my early teens. It has always been my goal and apart from a brief tangent as a shoe salesman, it is frankly the only profession I have known. So for 15 years, until 2019, I had been focused on honing my skills as a developer, and a few years in started to focus those efforts around WordPress and the programming languages it entails.
So what happened in 2019?
I was given an opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone as a developer and take on the role of Technical Director at Angry Creative. I knew I wanted to grow into being an engineering manager/ technical director/ CTO or some other similar role but hadn’t planned on it so soon!
I’ve got many philosophies, mantras, or words of wisdom that I try to live by, and one of them is that you learn the most when you take on challenges you are not sure how to overcome.
Or maybe more eloquently and grandly put by John F. Kennedy:
> Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.
This was definitely one of those moments for me. But I accepted and I am very grateful to those that believe in me.
This has however started me on an entirely new path of professional learning for the first time in my adult life!
Suddenly I am part of a management team. I’m expected to make decisions that impact the whole business and especially the development team. This role is also new in the company so it is not just learning what the role is, but also learning to define the role. All the while I am still a senior developer and an active member of projects because I am not ready to give up the developer in me any time soon!
It has been a lot, to say the least.
I am learning every day. From my peers, from trial and error, & of course from the vast knowledge of articles posted online by awesome people around the globe.
So here are a few of them that I’ve found helpful in my journey. Hopefully, they can be helpful to you too if you’re in my position… or maybe just inspire you to dare to achieve greatly.
Sarah Drasner is at the time of writing a Director of Engineering at Google. But even before then she’s written loads of very helpful and honest articles about engineering leadership.
She is actually working on a book that you can subscribe to news about and get a free chapter from too. I look forward to reading that when it comes out!
She has written an article for CSS-tricks.com about the mistakes she’s made as an engineering manager. I like this approach in an article because its literally lessons learned!
For me that means I can read about them before making the same mistakes myself. That’s not to say I won’t ever make them, but if I can at least be aware of when I do I will hopefully be able to correct myself and learn from it much faster.
Leaddev is frankly a treasure trove of useful articles for anyone in a leadership role within a tech company!
I read articles from their site all the time and it’s high on my wishlist to get to go to one of their larger conferences.
So I had a hard time picking out just one article for this list. If you want to improve yourself in this area I really can’t overstate how much good information you can find from browsing their archives of articles. I am cheating just a little bit here because the article I’m linking you to is actually kind of a collection piece for more reading with lots of links in it.
It is on the topic of communication. If you happened to catch my talk on Code Reviews at WCEU 2022 you might remember that I spoke about communication as playing a big part in a healthy team. This becomes very apparent when you transition to any kind of management position. Communication is, simply put, key.
Here’s an article showing you different frameworks for improving communication using frameworks.
Here’s another person’s take on lessons learned as a manager. What I like about Pravesh’s article is that he’s tackling some of the challenges that I’ve found myself specifically going from being a developer to a management position.
Some things get kind of hard wired into you as a developer. You are generally very solution focused. You want to provide the answer to problems. But as a manager you have to try and think a bit differently. Try to facilitate an environment where others come up with the answers and mentor people to grow into great developers without spoon feeding them the answers. This can be a challenge for someone who’s been the de facto problem solver for many years!
I remember back in my first years of being a developer I would be so excited and proud every time I solved a problem with my code. As the years go by and you gain more knowledge and experience that feeling diminishes. You get more confident that you will solve it, and therefore the joy of actually doing so isn’t as great.
But becoming a mentor and watching my peers solve the problem gives me back some of that excitement!
In addition I like that Pravesh also addresses the fact that at the end of the day it is a job. You’re of no help to anyone if you tire yourself out.
Finally, if I am allowed, I would like to endorse not an article but a book.
I’ve read a lot on so-called “servant leadership” and similar topics. There’s a clear distinction between a “Boss” and a “Leader”. A Boss puts blame where a Leader looks for a fix. A Boss says “I” where a Leader says “We” etc.
There are plenty of these comparisons, some more obvious than others.
I know that I want to be a leader, not a boss. This book by Simon Sinek shows real world examples of what makes a great leader. It is not by chance that his book made the New York Times Bestseller list and I highly recommend reading it!