7 secrets every developer should know before getting into a manager or lead role

by on May 24, 2013

7 secrets every developer should know before getting into a manager or lead role

This guest post is contributed by Pramod Paranjape, who till recently ran a diverse delivery team of IT engineers and managers. He writes articles for new managers at ConverSight.com. He actively contributes on Quora on topics like team management and IT outsourcing. He releases slide decks based on real life management case studies on slideshare.

Pramod Paranjape At some point of time in your career, you have to decide if you want to continue on a technical path or to take up a management role.

Imagine that you have taken up a management role; how would your life look like?

The foundations remain the same for both technical and management tracks. Here is what will not change:

  1. Sound technical background: Many successful project managers have been excellent technical developers earlier in their careers. Strong technical skills go a long way in identifying technology risks in projects. If you have a sound foundation of technical skills, you have equal chances of taking up either of these career paths.
  2. Using software engineering techniques in daily life: Delivering good code in a timely manner requires understanding of standard coding practices, defect management system, version control system and timesheet systems. It may sound obvious, but using the basic software engineering techniques ensures predictable delivery. Whatever path you choose, make sure you have an in-depth knowledge of software engineering techniques.

What will change when you get into manager or lead role?

7 secrets nobody told you:

  1. A developer has to focus on his/her own tasks. When you become a manager, you will need to get the tasks done by the team members. You will need to allocate work to your team members based on their abilities. You will have to identify strengths and weaknesses of each team member. You will also give due consideration to their aspirations.
    As a manager, you will need to allocate tasks according to team members’ strengths to maximize output.
  2. While completing the assigned work, a team member may be stuck. A manager listens to him/her and analyses the situation. The team member may have adopted an unconventional approach to complete the task. This approach may be vastly different from the approach you would have taken.
    In a manager’s role, you will need to analyse from the team member’s perspective.
  3. A manager plans the work based on an overall strategy of solving a problem. Based on the strategy, he/she sets priorities. Prioritizing is deciding what is important over what is less important.
    A manager decides the strategy to obtain a solution because a developer focuses on completing the work assigned to him/her. Be ready to take the bigger picture into account in a manager’s role.
  4. Team members may need protection from conflicting power centers within the organization. Managers who can provide ‘air cover’ get their team’s respect.
    A manager defends his/her team members, so that they can focus on their work. This is a critical leadership trait to succeed as a manager.
  5. Team members like to work with a manager from whom they can learn. A conscious effort to share knowledge motivates the team.
    As a manager, you will have to share your knowledge and let the team learn from you.
  6. A manager conducts meetings to communicate various messages. He/She writes to different stakeholders to communicate the task status. Speaking and writing may seem basic skills, but using these skills effectively is very important for a manager.
    You have to hone your communication skills to become an effective manager.
  7. A manager does not develop code or test it. In some cases, a manager may take up some part of a team member’s work. Ultimately, a manager’s success depends on his team members completing their work. Highly motivated and happy team members complete their work in time.
    You will need to motivate team members to complete their assigned work.

To summarize the seven secrets

To be an effective manager, you must:

  1. Allocate work based on the abilities of a team member.
  2. Analyse issues from a team member’s perspective.
  3. Be ready to take the bigger picture into account in a manager’s role.
  4. Defend your team as your team’s leader.
  5. Let the team learn from you.
  6. Communicate with stakeholders effectively.
  7. Motivate the team to get the best out of them.

Feel free to ask questions and give feedback in the comments section of this post. Thanks!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex P. May 24, 2013 at 3:14 pm

I’m not sure these are secrets.

You have a way too drastic distinction between the roles “manager” and “developer”. It seems what you’re talking about is the situation of a developer in a leading position and her code monkeys. That’s not necessarily leading.

Reply

Azara May 25, 2013 at 11:32 am

@Alex P. review the article again. You missed the context.

Reply

Pramod Paranjape May 25, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Alex,

Switching from developer role to manager role is a big mindset change. On many occasions, a developer gets into a lead position because s/he performed well as a developer. However, the skills required for manager/lead role are different from software development skills.

This article helps developers to get a sense of what is coming, when they get into manager/lead role.

- Pramod

Reply

RP May 29, 2013 at 11:41 am

No offense meant. I may not agree to all the secrets!! above mentioned. Project manager has to focus on project deliverable, schedule, budget, timelines, allocations and assignments. For God’s sake, project manager is not a baby sitter. Developer is in his own rights, a manager, he has to manage his work. I respectfully disagree with the secret “manager standing up for team when it is critical”. This is desirable trait for any human being standing up for his group (we have been seeing since ages). What matters is standing up for right. Again it is not just meant for manager. One last point, the article portrays developer as the one who will not possess those secrets! Treat everything as just a ROLE. Management skill requires its own technical knowledge!!. It depends what kind of manager one is ..

Reply

Pramod Paranjape May 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm

RP,

Good observations! This article is about creating awareness amongst developers/engineers about the changes the way they would see things when they become managers/leads.

In our industry, there is a huge emphasis on training the new managers on acquiring project management skills like planning, budgeting etc. However, soft elements are equally important to manage teams. Many good technical people successful as engineers fail to perform when they get into manager/lead positions, because they ignore softer aspects.

Standing up for a good cause is natural instinct for any human being; however team members would expect the lead/manager to take that up on their behalf, in the forums where team members may not be present.

Reply

RP May 29, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Pramod, I agree to the point that soft skills are the need of the hour. However, my view is to start the process before manager. Soft skills should be imparted at the developer level (even during the engineering graduation, earlier the better) ,once the good things are imbibed, he can lead/manage anywhere. Is this article specific to Software service industry in India or applicable in general. I feel, its specific to Indian scenario…

Reply

Pramod Paranjape May 29, 2013 at 2:06 pm

RP,

This article is for developers and engineers to give developers a sneak peek into the future manager/lead role.

Though this article is drawn from experience in IT service industry in India, a number of people from different geographies found it relevant.

Visit http://www.slideshare.net/pramodparanjape12/seven-secrets-every-developer-should-know-before-getting-into-manager-or-lead-role to view a slide deck based on this article.

Reply

Ananth Chelladurai May 31, 2013 at 1:13 am

Nice article. I agree with all the points, but a little hesitant to agree on secrets “that nobody told you”. ;-)

Reply

Pramod Paranjape May 31, 2013 at 5:56 am

Disagreement is an indication of broader interest in the topic. Thanks for your comment!

Reply

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